Mitchell Lattof | November 16, 2020 | Car Accidents
Even the most cautious, safest drivers can be involved in a car accident. It only takes a small mistake or error in judgment to result in a traffic accident. In a second or two, you can cause a crash.
How can a car accident happen to someone who is a safe driver? You could reach for an object that fell into the floor and rear-end a car when you take your eyes off the road for just a second. The same thing could happen if you look down to check your speed, and you drift into the oncoming lane of traffic, causing a head-on collision.
Alabama is an At-Fault Car Accident State
What does it mean to have a car accident in an at-fault state? It means that if you are responsible for causing a motor vehicle accident, you can be personally liable for any damages caused by that accident. Fault applies in all types of car accidents, including crashes involving pedestrians, motorcycles, bicyclists, and trucks.
Damages in a car accident include both economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages are the victim’s financial losses because of the car wreck, their injuries, or their recovery. Non-economic damages are the pain and suffering you experienced because of the accident and your injuries.
Examples of damages included in a car accident claim include:
- The cost of diagnosing and treating car accident injuries, including emergency room visits, hospitalizations, surgeries, physicians’ bills, medications, and therapy
- Loss of income, including benefits, salaries, commissions, wages, bonuses, and other forms of income
- Decreases in future earnings because of disabling conditions
- The cost of personal care, help with household chores, and in-home health care
- Physical pain and suffering
- Scarring, disfigurement, permanent impairments, and disabling conditions
- Mental anguish and suffering
- Emotional distress, including psychological injuries such as depression, PTSD, and anxiety
- Loss of enjoyment of life or quality of life
If you are at fault for a car accident, the victim can file a personal injury lawsuit against you for compensation of damages. You could have a personal judgment against you. The accident victim may take further legal action to collect the debt.
Alabama Requires All Drivers to Purchase Liability Car Insurance
Alabama insurance laws require that you have minimum automobile insurance coverage. The minimum liability insurance required for Alabama drivers is:
- $25,000 in liability insurance for bodily injury to one person
- $50,000 in liability insurance for bodily injury per accident
- $25,000 in property damage insurance
In most car accident cases, the insurance company for the at-fault driver handles the car accident claim. The accident victim files a claim with your car insurance provider. The company investigates the car accident to determine fault and liability.
If the insurance company accepts liability for the car accident claim, it may negotiate a settlement with the victim. The accident victim’s attorney and the insurance claims adjuster may issue offers and counteroffers several times before agreeing to a settlement amount.
When the parties agree to a settlement amount, the insurance company and the accident victim sign a settlement agreement. The company pays the claim, and the car accident case ends.
What Happens if My Insurance Company Denies the Claim or Refuses to Negotiate the Claim?
You do not have any control over the outcome of the insurance claim. You cannot force your insurance company to settle the accident claim or pay a specific amount to the accident victim.
Your insurance company might deny an accident claim for several reasons. Common reasons an insurance company gives for denying a car accident claim include:
- The accident victim was partially at fault for the cause of the crash
- The accident did not cause the victim’s injuries
- The victim is exaggerating or fabricating their injuries
- There is a lack of evidence related to injuries and damages
- Your insurance policy does not cover the accident
Insurance companies always try to lower the value of an accident claim. Therefore, your insurance company will use all information and tools to avoid paying a higher settlement amount. If the insurance company refuses to offer a fair settlement amount, the victim may decide that there is no choice but to sue you and take the case to court.
What Happens if My Insurance Coverage Does Not Pay the Claim in Full?
As discussed above, the minimum liability coverage in Alabama is $25,000 per person. If a person sustains catastrophic injuries, such as spine injuries or brain injuries, the value of the accident claim is likely to be far more than $25,000. Even a claim involving a broken bone can have damages that exceed $25,000.
If your insurance company pays the policy limits to the accident victim, you could be personally liable for the remaining damages. You could also face a lawsuit.
You can protect yourself by purchasing higher limits of liability car insurance. High-net-worth individuals might want to purchase an umbrella insurance policy that provides additional protection against liability claims.
What Can I Do to Avoid Being Sued for a Car Accident?
In addition to purchasing higher amounts of car accident insurance, practicing safe driving behaviors is one way of avoiding car accident claims. Poor driving behaviors that are factors in many car accidents include:
- Tailgating or following too closely
- Aggressive driving
- Impaired driving
- Distracted driving
- Road rage
- Drowsy driving
Following traffic laws and practicing good driving behaviors reduce your risk of being involved in an accident.
If you are involved in a car accident, do not admit fault. Do not apologize or say you are sorry for the accident. Instead, talk with a car accident lawyer about your case.
Liability for a car accident requires proof of fault. The other driver might not have sufficient evidence to prove you caused the car crash. The accident victim could also share liability for the car crash, which bars the victim from recovering any compensation for the claim.
Allegations of contributory negligence are one of the common ways that insurance companies avoid paying car accident claims. If your lawyer can prove that the other driver shared responsibility for the car accident, the driver cannot recover any money for a personal injury claim.
Even though your insurance company might hire an attorney to represent you in a lawsuit, you might want to consult another lawyer. The lawyer chosen by your insurance company is being paid by the insurance company. You want an attorney who only has your best interest in mind defending yourself against a car accident lawsuit.
Lattof & Lattof, P.C.
156 St Anthony St
Mobile, AL 36603