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What Constitutes Negligence in Alabama?

Feb 28, 2018 - Personal Injury, Tuscaloosa by

If you’ve been injured in an accident that was caused due to some mistake made by the defendant, then you might not be certain as to whether you have a legitimate claim through which you can sue and recover damages.  Liability does not necessarily attach to the defendant on the basis of a mistake.  Mistakes only give rise to negligence when the standard of care has been violated.  Negligence, and more generally, the concept of negligence — whether in Alabama or elsewhere — can be quite difficult for the average person (who lacks legal experience) to understand.  Fortunately, however, negligence is a straightforward concept at its core.

The conduct of the defendant in a given accident scenario is perhaps best viewed as a point along a spectrum.  On one side is a basic mistake that other reasonable people would have made in similar circumstances — such mistakes will not give rise to negligence, and will therefore not attach liability to the defendant.  On the other side of the spectrum is intentional misconduct, where the defendant specifically intended to cause harm to you.  Finally, resting somewhere in the middle is negligence.  Negligent behavior is not specifically intended.  In fact, negligent behavior can be seen as a mistake that is “unjustified” by the circumstances.

Demonstrating that the defendant’s conduct actually qualifies as “negligent” lies at the core of a successful negligence-based personal injury claim, in Alabama and elsewhere.  In order to do so, you’ll have to show that the defendant’s conduct violated the “standard of care,” given the circumstances. Contact a Tuscaloosa injury attorney today to discuss the particulars of your case.

What is the Standard of Care?

Every person has a duty to act with reasonable care towards others, given the circumstances surrounding the situation.  Failure to act with reasonable care constitutes negligence.  The outline of “reasonable care” is defined by the standard of care.  The standard of care is dynamic, and changes depending on a range of factors, however.

Suppose that you are injured in a slip-and-fall accident on the defendant’s retail premises.  In the defendant’s industry (restaurants), the standard of care for inspecting hard floors for slip-and-fall hazards, such as liquid spills, is rather high.  When your attorney investigates the facts of the case, however, he finds that the restaurant and its staff failed to perform an inspection of the floor for several hours, despite the high volume of traffic through the facility and the hard tile flooring that heightens the risk of injury from spills.

The court will then decide whether the failure to inspect the floors for spills for several hours constitutes a violation of the standard of care.  Experts will be brought in to provide testimony on what the standards of the industry are, and how that might influence the standard of care in the situation.  Other factors may influence the determination, such as the experience of the restaurant and its staff, the nature of the spill (how obvious it was), and more.

Application of Negligence Per Se

In Alabama, as in many other states, the negligence of the defendant may be imputed automatically in certain situations.  More specifically, in accordance with Alabama case law, the courts may automatically impute negligence (known as “negligence per se”) where the defendant violated some statute or ordinance that was enacted for the protection of the injured party.  For example, if the defendant violated some fire ordinance, and as a result, their building and your building were both damaged by a fire that would have otherwise not occurred had the defendant adhered to the ordinance, then you could ostensibly find that they were automatically negligent.

Importantly, a finding of negligence — even if there is negligence per se — is not a guarantee of liability.  As the plaintiff, in order for you to successfully recover damages, you must not only show that the defendant engaged in negligent conduct, but you must also show that the defendant’s negligent acts caused your injuries.

Consider the following example:

Suppose that you are injured in a motor vehicle accident.  Rather than assert negligence on the basis of the defendant’s failure to adhere to the standard of care, you attempt to assert negligence per se by showing that the defendant was operating the vehicle with an expired license at the time of the accident.  Now, while the defendant may have violated the law by operating their vehicle with an expired license, it does not necessarily follow that the defendant’s failure to renew their license led to your injuries.  You will have to connect the dots by showing that the defendant’s conduct was not reasonable, given the circumstances.

Call Cross & Smith for a Free Consultation With Experienced Tuscaloosa Injury Attorneys

Here at Cross & Smith, our attorneys have decades of experience representing Alabama injury victims in a range of litigation.  We are committed to personalized advocacy, and from the beginning of the client-engagement process, we work closely with clients to ensure that our litigation strategy is built on the specific and unique circumstances that define your case.

Though a “win” in litigation is not necessarily guaranteed, you can improve your chances by working with a team of attorneys that has a demonstrated history of success.  Here at Cross & Smith, we have secured over $125 million in settlements and verdicts on behalf of our injured clients.  We believe that our success is a natural consequence of our deep commitment to our clients, and our willingness and ability to take the case to trial (if need be).

Call (205) 391-9557 to connect with one of our Tuscaloosa injury attorneys today.  During your free initial consultation, we will evaluate your claims and determine whether litigation is a sensible path for recovery.

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