Car Accidents in Alabama: How the Process Works
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Being in a car accident in any state can be devastating both physically and emotionally, not to mention what comes next – filing a claim with your insurance company. For those who are going through the process in Alabama, it’s important to know how it works there versus other states.
According to Dana Taunton, an Alabama attorney whose practice focuses on product liability and personal injury matters, Alabama follows generally what a lot of other states do. She explained, “If you are injured in an automobile accident, you more than likely will have to deal with an insurance company. If somebody is at fault in causing the accident and injury and that person has insurance, then the insurance company steps in and provides a lawyer for the potential defendant in your case.”
Alabama law differs from other states in that it requires you to prove negligence or wantonness. Taunton continued, “You basically have to prove that the defendant in the case was at fault (negligently or wantonly) in causing your accident and injury. Then, you have to prove your damages. So, if you can’t settle with them, then a jury will decide those issues.”
“The difference between Alabama and a lot of other states is that we are not a comparative fault state. Comparative fault is when a jury finds that both the plaintiff and defendant are at fault, they will proportion the percentage of fault. They may find you 20% at fault and the defendant 80% at fault and award a sum of money. So, you would only get 80% of that recovery. Alabama is not like that. Alabama is what we call a contributory negligence state. If the jury finds you even 1% at fault, you do not recover under Alabama law.”
Insurance company practices
Unfortunately, insurance company practices are the same in Alabama as in other states. Taunton told us, “For the most part, insurance companies are going to delay. They may try to offer you money right at the start – even before you know the extent of your injuries – in order to settle the case quickly and for less than it’s worth. They’ll try to get you to sign a broad release that the average person doesn’t understand. In those situations, it’s really best to go ahead and talk to a lawyer because you’re generally not going to be in a position to know all of your rights.”
“You may not even be in a position to understand, at that point, the extent of your injuries; yet you feel pressure from the insurance agent to do something quickly. However, that’s just not the case. Insurance companies generally don’t tell you all your rights because they want to settle quickly. If they realize you’re not going to settle quickly, then they want to delay the whole process. That’s where a lawyer can guide you through that process.”
Rescinding a medical release
According to Taunton, rescinding a medical release can be done. She explained how, “Typically, the only way to rescind a medical release is to have the patient or the patient’s attorney write a letter to the medical providers (and copy the insurance agent) rescinding all prior medical releases and also include a new release, consistent with HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) regulations, which contains time restrictions limiting the release of medical information to a time certain and limiting how long the release is valid.”
If you’ve been injured in an auto accident, consult with an attorney whose practice focuses in this area of the law to discuss your situation. Consultations are free, without obligation and are strictly confidential. To contact a qualified attorney, please click here.