Although users of vaping products, or e-cigarettes, may believe they are safer than tobacco cigarettes, the use of vaping products carries some serious risks as well. Such risks may give rise to Alabama personal injury claims, as we have discussed in other posts.

Legal News GavelOne potential cause for concern is that both tobacco cigarettes and e-cigarettes contain nicotine. Some studies suggest nicotine could have long-term effects on children’s developing brains. Since nicotine can be addictive, it may also make children more likely to abuse other substances in the future. The amount of nicotine in vaping products depends on the product and how a person uses it.

Another risk of e-cigarette use is that it may increase the likelihood of using tobacco cigarettes. One study found that young people who used vaping products were more likely to smoke tobacco cigarettes one year later.

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In an Alabama car accident claim, a plaintiff is required to prove the damages he or she claims to have sustained in the accident. Depending on the type of case and the injuries involved, there are different types of damages a plaintiff may be able to recover. One type is compensatory damages. Compensatory damages are meant to compensate the plaintiff for the plaintiff’s injuries and other losses. Examples of compensatory damages include medical expenses, property damages, and lost income. They can also include compensation for a plaintiff’s pain and suffering and emotional distress.

Legal News GavelAnother type of damages is punitive damages, which are available only in certain claims. Punitive damages are meant to deter harmful conduct and to punish the defendant. Since the purpose of punitive damages is not to compensate the plaintiff, an award of punitive damages is largely within the discretion of the jury. However, punitive damages are only available in Alabama in wrongful death claims or in claims in which the plaintiff proves that the defendant consciously or deliberately engaged in oppression, fraud, wantonness, or malice.

Plaintiffs who are injured in an accident are entitled to compensation for their injuries, despite any preexisting conditions or unique conditions. In other words, the defendant takes the plaintiff “as is.” That means that even if a plaintiff’s injuries are more severe than the average person’s would be, the defendant is still liable for all of the plaintiff’s injuries and damages caused by the defendant’s negligence.

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Earlier this year, an Alabama bus accident claimed one man’s life and injured dozens of others. News sources at the time reported that the bus was carrying a group of high school students from Texas who were returning from Disney World. Suddenly, the bus veered out of its lane and ran off the road, down a steep ravine. The driver of the bus was killed in the collision, and several dozen students were injured.

Legal News GavelAt the time, there was no identifiable reason why the bus drifted out of its lane and into the ravine; however, the National Transportation Safety Board’s (NTSB) investigation has recently been completed and sheds additional light on the accident.

According to a recent news report, the NTSB investigation concluded that the driver of the bus was unresponsive prior to the accident. The report bases this conclusion on evidence that there was no sign that the driver tried to brake or swerve before traveling off the road. Currently, there has not been a determination as to why the driver was unresponsive. Further supporting this conclusion was the fact that there was no sign of mechanical failure.

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In some Alabama slip-and-fall cases, defendants may argue that they should not be held liable because the hazard that caused the plaintiff’s injuries was obvious. In those cases, courts look at each party’s evidence concerning whether a hazard was perceived or should have been perceived by the plaintiff.

Legal News GavelIn a recent case, a McDonald’s restaurant argued before the Alabama Supreme Court that a wet floor was an open and obvious hazard. In that case, the plaintiff slipped and fell at a McDonald’s and sued the restaurant for his injuries. The man fell after he left the restroom and was walking toward the counter. The plaintiff left the restaurant after the fall but then began experiencing pain in his back and left leg, and he went back to discuss the incident with the manager. Surveillance footage showed an employee mopping the floor in front of the counter and placing a warning sign that the floor was wet. The plaintiff stated that his fall occurred outside the surveillance footage areas and was not shown on camera.

The restaurant argued that the fall was caused by an open and obvious danger because it was obvious that the floor had just been mopped, and there was a warning sign indicating as much. However, the Court found that based on the plaintiff’s affidavit, the plaintiff did not fall on the water near the counter, but instead on a “slick spot” outside the restroom.

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As automotive safety features have increased over the past several decades, vehicles have become much safer than they used to be. And while the total number of fatal Alabama car accidents per year has dropped over the last 20 years, recently the data indicates that these numbers have begun to level off and even slightly increase.

Legal News GavelAccording to a recent news report, Alabama has the fifth-most fatal car accidents. Interestingly, the study looked not only at which states had the highest rate of fatal traffic accidents, but also at which times and on which days of the week the accidents occurred.

The crash data for Alabama indicate that Mondays and Fridays are the safest days to drive. Not surprisingly, the weekend days were among the most dangerous to be on the road. According to the study, the fewest accidents occurred during the hours of 4-10 a.m., with the greatest number of accidents occurring during the hours of 4-10 p.m. Interestingly, these times encompass the traditional hours of the morning and evening commutes.

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In a recent personal injury case before the Alabama Supreme Court, a plaintiff filed a lawsuit against a hospital after allegedly being injured by a patient while she was also a patient in a psychiatric unit at a hospital. The defendant, “Brookwood Health Services Inc.,” claimed that it was not properly served and that the suit was untimely because it was filed beyond the statute of limitations. Under the Alabama Medical Liability Act, a two-year statute of limitations applied in the case.

Legal News GavelThe patient filed a complaint in the case on October 8, 2016 but named “Brookwood Baptist Health LLC” as fictitiously named defendants. The patient filed an amended complaint on June 3, 2017 naming instead “Brookwood Baptist Health Services” and requested that “Brookwood Health Services Inc.” be served.

The hospital argued that the two-year statute of limitations expired on October 10, 2016, and that the amended complaint did not “relate back” to the original filing because the patient did not satisfy the requirements of Rule 15(c)(3) of the Alabama Rules of Civil Procedure.

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Recently, an appellate court in Florida issued a written opinion in a personal injury case involving a woman who was seriously injured while volunteering at a local dog park. The case required the court to determine if the signage outside the park indicating that visitors enter at their own risk absolved the defendant dog owner of liability. Ultimately, the court concluded that the sign did not contain the necessary words “bad dog,” as outlined by statute.

Legal News GavelThe case is important for all personal injury claimants because, while Alabama employs different legal standards than those applied in this case, it shows how literal courts can be when interpreting language in a statute. Whether a court is interpreting the language of a prior court’s opinion or the text contained in a statute, this case shows just how narrowly courts may interpret language, depending on the statute and the situation, making the assistance of a dedicated Alabama personal injury attorney all the more necessary.

The Facts of the Case

Here, the plaintiff was a volunteer at a local dog park. One day, the plaintiff was at the park volunteering when the defendant arrived with her dog. At some point, the defendant’s dog was chasing another dog when it collided with the plaintiff. The plaintiff fell to the ground, breaking her leg. The plaintiff filed a personal injury case against the defendant, claiming that under the state’s strict liability statute for injuries caused by animals, the defendant was liable for her injuries. The defendant responded by arguing that the signage in front of the dog park, indicating that visitors enter at their own risk, put the plaintiff on notice of the risks involved with volunteering, and, therefore, she assumed the risk of injury.

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Determining the full extent of an accident victim’s potential recovery following an Alabama car accident is not always as simple as filing a case against the person who was behind the wheel at the time of the accident. While naming the at-fault driver is a good place to start, there may be other potentially liable parties who should be named in the lawsuit. For example, under the theory of negligent entrustment, the owner of a vehicle may be liable to an accident victim even if they were not in the car at the time of the accident.

Legal News GavelWhat Is Negligent Entrustment?

In Alabama, the owner of a vehicle may be liable for injuries resulting from an accident involving their vehicle if the victim can prove certain elements. In a 2005 case, the Alabama Supreme Court clarified that a negligent entrustment claim must establish that:  1.) the owner of the vehicle allowed another person to use their vehicle, 2.) that person was incompetent, 3.) the owner knew of the person’s incompetence, and 4.) the person’s incompetence caused the plaintiff’s injuries.

Often, several of these elements go uncontested because they are easily proven. However, the third element – proving that the owner of a vehicle knew of the driver’s incompetence – can often present Alabama victims with the biggest hurdle. A recent case issued by a federal appellate court illustrates how this element can be difficult to prove.

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Plaintiffs in Alabama and across the country have filed lawsuits after alleged e-cigarette battery explosions. Among other claims, some are alleging that e-cigarette manufacturers failed to warn users of the risk of fires and explosions.

Legal News GavelFailure to Warn Claims

In Alabama failure to warn claims, plaintiffs must show that a defendant failed to warn consumers of dangerous conditions or risks in a product. Generally, there must be an adequate warning of a product’s dangers, unless the danger is obvious. This means that not only must products have warnings of the relevant dangers, but also they must adequately disclose the risks. For example, warnings or instructions may be inadequate if the information is insufficient concerning the proper use of the product or if the warnings are ambiguous. Some recent e-cigarette explosion lawsuits have alleged that the e-cigarette manufacturers have failed to include proper labels warning consumers of the risks of battery fires.

E-Cigarette Explosion Lawsuits Increasing

According to one news source, in 2017, over 120 lawsuits were filed in which people alleged that they were injured in explosions from e-cigarette, or vape, batteries. Some individuals alleged that the e-cigarettes exploded in their mouth, while others claimed the e-cigarettes caught fire in their pockets.

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Last month, one man was killed and several others injured in an Alabama bus accident that occurred near the Alabama-Florida border. According to a local news report, the bus was transporting dozens of students and adult chaperones back to Texas after a trip to Disney World.

Legal News GavelEvidently, the accident occurred at around 5:30 in the morning, when the bus left the roadway and crossed into the grassy median. As the bus entered the median, the driver lost control of the vehicle. The median abruptly ended into a steep embankment, and the bus plunged down into a 50-foot ravine, where it was crushed on impact.

The driver of the bus was killed in the accident, and dozens of students and chaperones were stuck inside the bus for hours until emergency responders could free them. In all, more than two dozen were hospitalized as a result of the injuries they sustained in the accident. Authorities began an investigation into the bus accident but have not yet determined what caused the driver of the bus to veer off into the grassy median.

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