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Getting “Bonus” Punitive Damages in an Accident Claim

Jul 31, 2020 - Personal Injury by

Experienced Injury Attorney in Tuscaloosa, AL If you have been injured in an accident, in Alabama or elsewhere, then you may be entitled to damages as compensation for the harm caused.  For example, if a defendant slams into your car from the side, then you could ostensibly sue and recover for past and future medical expenses. This category of damages — known as “compensatory” damages — is not necessarily the only one available to injured plaintiffs.  In fact, many high-value, multimillion-dollar recoveries are based on punitive damages.  Punitive damages are only infrequently awarded, but they are an important aspect to consider when bringing a case against the defendant. Let’s take a closer look. What Are Punitive Damages? Punitive damages are meant to “punish” the liable defendant for particularly egregious or malicious conduct.  Simple negligence is not enough to qualify for punitive damages — the defendant must have done something with reckless disregard for the safety of others, or even have done something with intentional malice.  For example, if a defendant crashes into you intentionally because they are angry, or drunk, the court may decide to award punitive damages in that case. Punitive damages multiply the amount of compensatory damages by up to seven times.  If you have a case worth $100,000 (i.e., medical expenses, pain and suffering, lost wages, etc.), then the punitive damages claim could be as much as $700,000, for a grand total of $800,000 recovered. Courts may exercise discretion in choosing to award punitive damages, and generally […]

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Contributory Fault Can Be a Problem in an Alabama Accident Case

Jul 17, 2020 - Personal Injury by

Experienced Injury Attorney in Tuscaloosa, AL If you’ve been injured in an accident in Alabama, then you may be entitled to significant damages as compensation, but there are a number of different ways in which the defendant can avoid liability — among the most common of these defense strategies is asserting contributory fault (i.e., claiming that the plaintiff contributed to their own injuries). This can be a difficult barrier to overcome in personal injury litigation, so let’s take a closer look at how it works. Strict Contributory Fault in Alabama Alabama is rather anti-plaintiff, and as such, is one of the few states still implementing strict contributory fault principles. What does this mean? Under strict contributory fault in Alabama, an injured plaintiff is completely prevented from recovering damages in a lawsuit if they are partially at-fault for their own injuries.  In fact, they are barred from recovery if they are found to be even one percent at-fault! For example, suppose that you are injured in a slip-and-fall accident at a store.  The court evaluates the facts and determines that you did not notice the slipping hazard when you had the opportunity to do so, and so you are ten percent at-fault for your own injuries.  Under Alabama law, you would be prevented from recovery entirely. Strict contributory fault may seem like an overwhelming barrier, but there is a way to overcome it. Severing the Causal Link If you can show that your “fault” contribution is not causally-linked to the accident, […]

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How Experts Are Used to Strengthen an Accident Claim

Jun 30, 2020 - Personal Injury by

Tuscaloosa Injury Attorney Helping You When You Need it Most If you’ve been injured in an accident in Alabama, then you may be entitled to sue and recover damages as compensation for the harm caused by the defendant. Litigating a claim is not always straightforward, however.  If the defendant is unwilling to settle very early, then you’ll likely have to bring on experts who can evaluate the facts surrounding the accident and interpret it in such a way as to provide supportive testimony.  This testimony can be a valuable tool for securing a favorable result in litigation and our Tuscaloosa injury attorney is prepared to help you get the experts needed for your specific situation. Let’s take a closer look. Using an Expert to Testify on Relevant Issues The testimony of an expert witness can strengthen your accident claim in a variety of different ways.  For example, if there is insufficient photo and video evidence of a car accident in which you’re involved, you can hire an accident reconstruction expert to investigate the facts surrounding the accident (i.e., skid marks, damage to the vehicles, etc.) and reconstruct what actually happened.  Depending on how persuasive the testimony is, and how credible the expert is, this testimony may have a significant and positive influence on the outcome of your lawsuit. A skilled Tuscaloosa injury attorney will coordinate experts, coach them on what “not” to say, and generally integrate the testimony of such experts with the overall case strategy.  This is a critical […]

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Does Workers’ Compensation Prevent Workers From Pursuing a Personal Injury Lawsuit?

May 29, 2020 - Personal Injury by

Work With an Experienced Tuscaloosa Injury Attorney In Alabama — and throughout the country — a large percentage of employees are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits if they are injured while on the job.  Workers’ compensation benefits pay out irrespective of the employer’s fault.  As such, they are an excellent tool for securing compensation to cover losses — but they are somewhat incomplete. For example, workers’ compensation benefits do not pay out for pain and suffering damages.  In some cases, this can mean that you are sacrificing hundreds of thousands of dollars in potential compensation. Where possible, it’s worth contact an Tuscaloosa injury attorney to explore the option of bringing a lawsuit against those who were responsible, as this will give the injured plaintiff access to a more comprehensive set of damages. Let’s dive in. Workers’ Compensation and Personal Injury in Alabama In Alabama, as in other states, workers who are eligible to receive workers’ compensation are prohibited from bringing a lawsuit against their employer in a civil suit (based around the same injuries).  If you slip-and-fall on a wet floor while at work, for example, then you would not be entitled to sue your employer for damages (assuming that workers’ compensation benefits covered the injury). This prohibition can put quite a damper on injured plaintiffs who feel wronged and are interested in seeking more complete justice in the civil courts — but all is not lost!  There may be litigation options. Who Can You Sue? Injured workers are encouraged […]

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What is the Discovery Rule in Alabama?

Feb 28, 2020 - Personal Injury by

Tuscaloosa Injury Attorney Helping You When You Need it Most In Alabama — as in other jurisdictions — personal injury claims are subject to a statute of limitations period.  The statute of limitations sets a “deadline” by which the claim must be brought.  If the limitations deadline passes, then the claim cannot be pursued in an Alabama court of law (absent various exceptions). If you have suffered injuries caused by another’s negligence or intentional misconduct, then you may have an actionable claim for damages — but bringing a claim isn’t always as straightforward as one might think.  In many cases, an injury might be suffered where the plaintiff doesn’t realize (at first) that they are entitled to pursue a lawsuit.  They might not know that their injuries were caused by someone else. For example, if your car spins out of control and slams a tree, you might think it was your own mistake that caused the accident.  Further investigation could reveal that the steering wheel was faulty, however, thus giving rise to a claim against the auto manufacturer. The discovery rule works by extending the applicable statute of limitations period.  It suspends the running of the limitations period until the date that the defendant discovers that they have suffered a legally actionable injury. Let’s take a closer look at the rule and its inner workings. Basics of Alabama’s Discovery Rule The basic statute of limitations in Alabama for personal injury claims is two years from the date of injury.  This […]

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Sidewalk Trip and Fall Lawsuits: A Look at the De Minimis Rule

Jan 31, 2020 - Personal Injury by

If you have tripped and injured yourself while walking on a sidewalk in Alabama, the law may entitle you to bring a claim against the landowner for damages.  It’s worth noting, however, that such claims may be difficult to prove, as certain defenses, such as the application of the de minimis rule, can prevent a lawsuit entirely. Still it is not impossible to succeed, particularly when you have the help of a skilled Tuscaloosa trip and fall attorney. Understanding these barriers to recovery is necessary for an effective lawsuit.  Let’s take a closer look. What is the De Minimis Rule? The de minimis rule works to prevent a lawsuit against a public and private defendant in which some central aspect of the case does not meet some minimum level of significant necessary to justify the action.  For example, if you cut your finger in a bike accident, that might be considered an “injury” in technical terms, but the severity of the injury is so minimal that a court is unlikely to deem the claim actionable.  De minimis is therefore best conceptualized as a barrier to an actionable claim. The De Minimis Rule and Sidewalks In Alabama and other jurisdictions, the de minimis rule applies to sidewalks, and more specifically, to trip and fall cases involving said sidewalks.  Though the relevant landowners (i.e., municipalities, private landowners, etc.) have a responsibility to maintain sidewalks in a reasonably safe condition, the law does not impose a duty to keep sidewalks in a perfect […]

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Potential Defendants in an Alabama Car Accident Lawsuit

Dec 31, 2019 - Car Accidents by

For many first-time plaintiffs, the prospect of car accident litigation may seem quite straightforward.  In truth, however, it may the case that the defendant-driver is not the only one responsible for the injuries at issue.  The dispute could grow in complexity due to the presence of multiple liable defendants. In Alabama, this increased complexity is associated with a significant advantage: joint and several liability.  Stated in simple terms, joint and several liability allows the plaintiff to sue and recover their damages (in full) from any of the defendants, regardless of their specific level of fault. For example, suppose that you are injured in a car accident and the court finds that the defendant-driver is 50 percent at-fault, and that the city government is 50 percent at-fault (for failing to properly maintain the traffic lights).  You would be entitled to recover all 100 percent of your damages from either party, which can be extremely beneficial in situations where one or more of the defendants lack adequate insurance coverage. Plaintiffs often do not realize that there are a number of potential defendants they could hold responsible in a car accident lawsuit.  Consider the following. Drivers in Tuscaloosa and Elsewhere in Alabama Drivers are the obvious defendants in a car accident lawsuit, and for good reason.  It’s worth noting that multiple drivers could be responsible for your injuries, however.  In multi-car pileup scenarios, there could be several negligent drivers whose actions contributed substantially to the suffered harm.  Splitting liability among multiple drivers is […]

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5 Roadway Hazards That Can Contribute to a Car Accident

Nov 29, 2019 - Car Accidents by

Car accidents — in Alabama and elsewhere — can be caused by a variety of factors, from negligent drivers to roadway defects.  If you’ve been seriously injured in a car accident, then securing maximum compensation for the losses you suffered will require that you comprehensively evaluate the various avenues for recovery.  In many car accident disputes, the individual or entity who controls the roadway (and adjacent property) may be significantly responsible for the harm caused. Contact a Tuscaloosa car accident attorney today to discuss your options. As you explore the prospect of car accident litigation, let’s take a brief look at five common roadway hazards that can contribute to the occurrence of a car accident.  Consider the following. Poor Visibility Poor visibility is among the most significant factors contributing to car accidents.  There are a range of situations that can create poor visibility conditions: inadequate street lighting, objects that block the field-of-view of drivers (and have not been cleared by the defendant), or even sharp distinctions on the vertical or horizontal plane that interfere with the ability of drivers to spot incoming traffic. Physical Hazards Physical road hazards, such as construction barriers that have been misplaced, or large potholes, can create a significant risk of harm for drivers on the roadway.  If a driver suddenly tracks their tires across a pothole, that tire-road contact can cause damage to one’s drivetrain and suspension systems and may even penetrate the tires.  In extreme scenarios, a pothole can cause the driver to lose […]

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Does the Existence of a Warning Sign Affect My Slip and Fall Claim?

Oct 31, 2019 - Personal Injury by

Experienced Injury Attorney in Tuscaloosa, AL If you’ve been injured in a slip and fall accident on another’s property, then you may be entitled to significant compensation under Alabama law.  In Alabama, premises liability law gives injured persons the right to sue and recover damages in cases where they have been unreasonably exposed to a property hazard, and subsequently harmed. In some instances, however, the property owner may have installed a warning sign that alerted you (and other entrants) as to the hazard at-issue.  How does that influence your ability to bring a successful action for damages? Property Owner Liability Property owners have a duty to maintain a reasonable safe premises for entrants.  If they fail to do so (either by failing to inspect the property to identify dangerous conditions, or by failing to correct those dangerous conditions once discovered), then they can be held liable. It’s worth noting that property owners are given other options under Alabama law.  Rather than correct the dangerous condition, they can put up a sign warning premises entrants of the dangerous condition.  That way, premises entrants have an opportunity to avoid the risky area, or to exercise additional caution when traversing the property. Shifting Responsibility Through Warning Signs In premises liability disputes, obviousness is a critical issue.  If the dangerous condition (that caused the injury) was known or obvious to the plaintiff, then they cannot bring a successful action for damages.  The existence of a warning sign serves as “notice” in the sense that […]

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Personal Injury Plaintiffs Should Be Aware of the Statute of Limitations

Sep 30, 2019 - Personal Injury by

If you have been injured in an accident due to the fault of another, you may be entitled to compensation under the law.  Many plaintiffs focus on their medical care (and rightfully so, as medical care should be a priority), but do not necessarily seek legal assistance until it’s too late.  Waiting too long to consult an attorney and bring an action against the liable defendants could have a significant impact on your ability to recover damages for your claims. Let’s take a closer look. Basic Principles Throughout the United States — every jurisdiction — personal injury claims are subject to different statute of limitations deadlines.  In Alabama, for example, the statute of limitations for most personal injury claims is two years from the date of the accident. Statutes of limitations are meant to give the defendant a bit of breathing room, so that a plaintiff cannot hassle them with claims too far into the future (there is, of course, also the issue of gathering evidence when a claim is filed at a significantly later date). As the plaintiff, if you do not follow proper procedure and file your claims before the statute of limitations deadline passes, then the court will automatically dismiss the claims, leaving you without an opportunity to secure compensation through the litigation. The Discovery Rule Fortunately, even if you think you’re late in filing your claims, exceptions may apply.  The discovery rule is perhaps the most significant exception to the application of the statute of limitations […]

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"I have hired Justin Smith to handle two separate automobile accidents that I was involved in. I have worked for several different attorneys during my lifetime, and I am fully aware that most attorneys take a while to respond to phone calls or emails. Justin has always been so quick to respond to any questions or needs that I have had during each process. He is such an attentive and steadfast attorney who has always shown unparalleled professionalism."
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