Most states in the U.S. allow people who are partially at fault for their crashes to still file personal injury claims against other at-fault parties, provided their level of fault is less than that of the people who injured them. This system is called comparative negligence.
However, Alabama is one of four states that uses a different system called contributory negligence. This is an older system that was previously used throughout the U.S., and it bars victims who are partially at fault for their crashes or injuries from getting any compensation at all—even if they are only 1% at fault!
However, fault isn’t always assigned fairly, and there are exceptions where people who are partially at fault for their accidents can still recover compensation even in contributory negligence states like Alabama.
Fault is often assigned by police at crash scenes, and it can be assigned based on their observations, crash scene evidence, and even the statements of the drivers and witnesses. But police don’t have all day to investigate crashes, and they may be in a hurry to finish their reports and clear accident scenes—especially on busy roads when those crash scenes are blocking regular traffic.
And when police officers don’t have time to properly investigate the cause, it’s not uncommon for innocent victims to be assigned partial blame for crashes that weren’t their fault. In most states, this isn’t a major issue, as a small percentage of blame or fault won’t significantly impact their financial recovery or even their ability to pursue compensation. But in Alabama, it can be devastating, as it bars victims from getting any money for their medical bills and lost wages.
Because fault is often assigned based on snap judgments or “he said, she said” statements, it’s not always rooted in facts and evidence. That’s why it’s important to have a lawyer on your side after your crash—especially if you’re considered to be at fault and you know you weren’t violating any traffic laws or driving negligently.
An experienced law firm can dig deep into the evidence and the facts of what happened to overrule misattributed fault. Dashcam footage, home and business surveillance camera footage taken from near the crash scene, intersection and traffic camera footage, and additional witness statements can all be collected to paint a clearer picture of what happened and reduce victims’ level of fault to zero.
Even when there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that a victim is partially at fault for their crash, they may still be eligible to receive compensation if the person who hit them was behaving in such a reckless manner that they were consciously disregarding the safety and rights of others.
That means that a driver who was driving slightly over the speed limit may still get compensation if the driver who hit them was speeding to such a degree that they were putting themselves and others in extreme danger.
Because this is a subjective assessment, you need a lawyer on your side to argue your case and to persuade the insurance company and/or jury that the other driver’s behavior was so reckless that you deserve compensation.
Although some crashes are one driver’s fault alone—i.e., when they fail to stop at a stop sign, drift into an adjacent lane, or follow too closely—many can have unequal fault split among both drivers. In some cases, that fault may be due to a snap judgment or a misconstrued witness statement.
At Vance Law Firm, it’s our goal to help injured drivers in Alabama get the compensation they deserve—especially when a small percentage of fault is preventing them from winning a needed settlement to cover their medical bills and lost wages. If you’re being denied compensation because of misattributed fault, our Montgomery car accident lawyers want to help. Contact us today for a free consultation.