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Injured in an Accident? How to Know if You Should File a Personal Injury Case

Mar 29, 2024 - Personal Injury by

Car accidents, bike accidents, dog bites, slips and falls, construction accidents, and workplace accidents — these and many other accidents are daily occurrences here in Alabama. Such accidents often upend the lives of those who suffer from them. If you’re involved in a personal injury accident like this, you may lose your mobility, suffer chronic or acute pain, be unable to work, and otherwise suffer injuries that change your life. Even if your injuries are not catastrophic, you may lose some income while you recover, have aches and pains, and suffer from other compensable after-effects. Is there recourse when such accidents happen? 

The answer is, “it depends.” Read on to learn more about filing a personal injury lawsuit in Alabama.

What to Do Immediately After An Accident

As soon as an accident occurs, there are certain steps you should take. First of all, when possible (and if necessary, depending on the type of accident), call 911. If you are not injured but others are, help them to get to a safe place and render aid until emergency services personnel arrive. When you are safely able to do so, take photographs and videos of the accident scene. If possible, also gather the contact information of witnesses. Be an active observer and look around. Are there any cameras or videos on nearby buildings or parking lots that captured what happened? 

Once responding officers have completed an accident report, ask for a copy. Be sure to cooperate with the responding officers and provide them with your personal information, which may be your driver’s license and vehicle registration number (in the case of a motor vehicle accident). They may also request the name and address of each of your friends or vehicle passengers. Answer all questions that you are asked, but do not volunteer extra information. Be polite and courteous. After you’ve spoken to the officer (or certain other parties, depending on the nature of the accident), you should consider reaching out to a skilled Tuscaloosa accident lawyer who can advise you appropriately about your rights and options under the law. If a personal injury case is advisable, there are several things for you to keep in mind as you proceed.

What You Must Prove in An Alabama Personal Injury Case

As the plaintiff (i.e., the injured party) in an Alabama personal injury case, you must show four elements to prove negligence in your personal injury case. They include:

  • Duty. You must prove that the defendant had a “duty of care” or responsibility to avoid harming you.
  • Breach. You must prove that the defendant failed to maintain the duty of care owed to you. 
  • Causation. You must prove that the defendant’s failure to maintain their duty resulted in your injury.
  • Damages. You must prove that due to the defendant’s negligence, you experienced some level of actual and compensable harm.

As a side note, criminal cases require prosecutors to prove the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. This means that a jury has to conclude with 98 to 99 percent certainty that a presented fact is true. The full burden of proof in nearly any criminal case rests on the prosecutor, the person who has brought the charges.

However, most accidents will be civil cases, not criminal cases, and the burden of proof is determined by a preponderance of the evidence. This means that the information being presented as fact must be more likely than not to be true. Only 51 percent certainty is required to be considered the preponderance of evidence in civil cases.

Note that if, during a personal injury case, a defendant presents a defense that raises questions about the plaintiff’s responsibility in the accident, then the defendant bears the burden of proof as to the facts related to that defense.

When you file your lawsuit, you will need to use evidence to build a legal claim that proves that you were harmed because of the defendant’s negligence or recklessness. Even if it seems like the facts of your case are straightforward, defendants and insurance companies will try to argue that their client was not negligent to avoid paying compensation. As the plaintiff, you will need to understand how the burden of proof will apply in your personal injury lawsuit.

How To File for A Personal Injury Lawsuit in Alabama

As a general rule, you have two years to file a lawsuit if you’ve been involved in an accident in Alabama and have suffered compensable injuries. Depending on the case, however, the time may be longer or shorter. For example, if you’ve been injured by a defective product, you may only have a year to file a lawsuit. Your Tuscaloosa accident attorney will be able to advise you on your filing situation and tell you about the statute of limitations. But it’s important not to delay so you don’t miss important filing deadlines.

After you meet with your attorney, you will begin an investigation phase. Your legal team will conduct an investigation and discovery to determine all the facts related to the investigation. They will prepare evidence including photographs, eyewitness testimony, personal statements, expert reports, medical information, and more to support your story. 

The evidence needs to strongly suggest that the defendant was negligent at the time of the accident. Having enough high-quality evidence will help you convince the judge or jury to make a verdict in your favor. You will need to establish that the defendant owed you a duty of care and breached that duty. You will also need to prove that the defendant was injured due to the breach and the injuries resulted in economic and noneconomic losses.

If you successfully meet your burden of proof, you can recover compensation for medical treatment, lost wages, property damage, pain, and suffering. 

Contact a Tuscaloosa Accident Attorney If You Have Questions Related to a Personal Injury Matter

If you have more questions about accidents in Alabama and your legal rights, Cross & Smith’s legal team can help you. We will work hard to get you the compensation you deserve. To schedule a free consultation including a detailed case evaluation, contact us at  877-791-0618. We look forward to hearing from you!

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