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What Does Contributory Negligence Mean in Alabama Personal Injury Cases?

What Does Contributory Negligence Mean in Alabama Personal Injury Cases?

Contributory negligence in Alabama means that plaintiffs found responsible for an accident could be barred from recovering compensation.

Decades ago, two parties in Alabama were driving in opposite directions. According to Casetext.com, a case law site, the driver of one car made a left turn at an intersection in front of the approaching car. According to court documents, the other car swerved to avoid the vehicle and struck a telephone pole, causing damage to his own vehicle. The second driver brought a lawsuit against the first, alleging that the other driver caused the accident.

One important outcome to the case is that the appeals court upheld that contributory negligence is an affirmative defense in personal injury cases. In this case, the defendant waived his right to cite the possibility of the plaintiff’s negligence. Knowing what that refers to is key for anyone going into a lawsuit.

Comparative vs. Contributory negligence

There are several different types of negligence laws that a state may follow. According to FindLaw, most states have adopted a comparative negligence law. This would take the plaintiff’s own responsibility for an accident into account when determining how much money he or she may be able to recover. In these states, a plaintiff who is found partially responsible for a personal injury accident is not automatically barred from recovery.

In Alabama, courts abide by the contributory negligence model. This assumes that plaintiffs will act as a reasonable person and not put themselves at risk of an injury. If a defendant can prove that a plaintiff has at least some level of responsibility in an accident, it will prevent the plaintiff from collecting any money.

Overcoming the negligence law

Alabama is one of just a handful of states that still follow a pure contributory negligence model, FindLaw states. This puts a large burden on people who have suffered a personal injury incident such as a car accident. Further, this illustrates the importance of building a strong case with compelling evidence and facts.

The first step in filing a successful personal injury case in Alabama is to do so within the statute of limitations. For most matters, that timeframe is two years. Failing to file a claim by that deadline could result in a case dismissal.

The next step is to provide as much evidence as possible that the defendant is responsible for the damages. This could include compiling the following:

  • Building a timeline of events
  • Bringing in experts to testify, such as other doctors in a medical malpractice lawsuit
  • Recreating the scene of an accident
  • Supplying pictures of the actual scene
  • Using eyewitness testimony

The pure contributory negligence law can be frustrating for people in need of compensation to cover the cost of their losses. Anyone who has concerns about this issue should consult with a personal injury attorney in Alabama.