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Tuscaloosa Personal Injury Lawyers Discuss Attributing Fault

Aug 31, 2017 - Personal Injury, Tuscaloosa by

In the personal injury context, plaintiffs often mistakenly and prematurely believe that their case will be straightforward.  Contrary to these initial beliefs, however, further investigation of the facts may reveal a much more complicated case that involves multiple defendants, questions of contributory fault, evidentiary issues, and more.

For example, suppose that you are rear-ended at a red light in Tuscaloosa.  The impact is serious enough to cause significant injuries.  You may initially think that the ensuing litigation will be a basic motor vehicle accident case involving a negligent defendant-driver.  As the case progresses and additional evidence comes to light, however, new legal issues may emerge on the basis of new facts.

Suppose that your airbag failed to deploy during the accident, and — as a result of this failure — your injuries were much more severe than they could have been.  If the airbag’s failure to deploy is due to a product defect (i.e., manufacturing defect or design defect), then you may be entitled to obtain compensation from both the defendant-driver and the manufacturer of the airbag.  This will necessarily complicate litigation.

The prospect of having to sue multiple parties, and on the basis of different claims, can seem rather overwhelming.  If you’ve been injured in an accident due to the fault of another, you may be entitled to recover damages, but compensation will not necessarily be easy or straightforward.

To ensure that your chance of success over the course of litigation is maximized, it’s important that you consult with an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible.  Call (205) 391-0618 to schedule a free consultation with one of the skilled Tuscaloosa personal injury lawyers here at Cross & Smith.  We look forward to speaking with you.

Contributory Negligence

Unfortunately for injury claimants, Alabama state law is incredibly strict and anti-plaintiff when it comes to relating the negligence of the plaintiff to potential damage recovery.  To put it in simple terms, Alabama plaintiffs may be barred from recovering damages if they were themselves negligent.

Confusing?

The doctrine of contributory negligence is one which allows the defendant to raise an absolute affirmative defense in response to the plaintiff’s injury claims.  Pursuant to the contributory negligence doctrine in Alabama, if the plaintiff is even partially at-fault for their injuries, they are barred from recovery — this strict prohibition on recovery for the at-fault plaintiff is known as the “pure contributory negligence rule.”

As an Alabama plaintiff, if you are partially at-fault for your own injuries, you may still have options.  Alabama law has carved out numerous exceptions to the contributory negligence rule, including an exception on the basis that the defendant engaged in gross negligence, or willful and wanton misconduct.  For example, if a defendant intentionally collides with you on the road, then — even if you were negligently speeding — you will not be barred from recovery.

Contributory negligence can be a bit difficult to understand without some context, so let’s go over a quick example.

Suppose that you are injured in a motor vehicle accident (a fairly standard personal injury negligence case).  The defendant caused a collision with you on the highway due to their negligence in failing to put on their turn signal.  You would be able to obtain compensation for your injuries on the basis of your injury claims against the defendant.  Suppose, however, that you were not wearing a seatbelt at the time of the accident, and that this negligent behavior on your part contributed significantly to your injuries.  Thanks to the pure contributory negligence rule, you would be completely barred from recovering damages under Alabama law.

Call the Tuscaloosa Personal Injury Lawyers Cross & Smith Today for a Free Consultation

Our attorney team here at Cross & Smith boasts over 25 years of experience in representing a variety of clients in personal injury, wrongful death, and other claims.  Cross & Smith has built a reputation on the basis of our commitment to our clients — we handle each case with care, and are dedicated to investigating our clients’ claims and litigating them to the fullest extent necessary to obtain favorable compensation.  With successful results totaling over $125 million in damages for our clients, Cross & Smith is the ideal firm for plaintiffs who have serious claims that demand the advocacy of the best and brightest attorneys.

To setup a free consultation with a personal injury attorney today, contact us online or call (205) 391-9557.  Our attorneys will assess your various claims and help you understand the litigation process as you move forward.

FAQs

Q: What happens if I’m injured on the job?

A: If you’re injured on the job, you may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits to pay for your medical expenses (and in some cases, wage loss).  Workers’ compensation benefits can be obtained even if your employer was not negligent in any way.  On the other hand, if a third-party was negligent — and their negligence contributed to your injuries — you may also be entitled to sue the third-party defendant for damages.

Q: What happens if there are multiple defendants?

A: Under Alabama law, the doctrine of joint and several liability applies.  As such, each individual defendant can be held liable for the entire damages amount.  If you are negotiating a settlement compromise, however, then the existence of other defendants will generally lead to appropriately reduced settlements for each party.

Q: How are damages related to fault?

A: In Alabama, as in other states, a defendant cannot be held liable for damages that do not result from their negligent, reckless, or intentional acts.  Basically, a defendant cannot be held liable for damages that are unrelated to the defendant’s acts.  For example, if a defendant punches you in the face, you will likely have a difficult time proving that the defendant owes you damages for a later, seemingly-unrelated knee problem.

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