Articles Posted in Car Accidents

After a jury has returned a verdict in favor of a plaintiff in an Alabama personal injury case, the jury will then determine the appropriate amount of compensation that the plaintiff should be awarded. This compensation is called “damages.” In Alabama, there are two types of damages awards that a plaintiff can recover:  compensatory damages and punitive damages.Compensatory damages are designed to put the plaintiff back in the place they were before they were involved in the incident. Categories of compensatory damages include medical expenses, lost wages, and compensation for any pain and suffering endured as a result of the accident. In general, there is no limit to the amount of compensatory damages that a plaintiff can recover.

Punitive damages are focused not on the suffering of the victim but on the wrongdoing of the defendant. As a result, punitive damages are designed to “punish” a defendant for especially egregious conduct. In Alabama, punitive damages are not available in all cases, and a plaintiff must establish by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant committed fraud, acted with malice, or acted with a “reckless or conscious disregard of the rights or safety of others.”

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Being an emergency responder is a dangerous job for a number of reasons. However, the leading cause of death among emergency responders has consistently been traffic-related accidents. Most often, these Alabama car accidents occur when an emergency responder is working road-side while assisting a disabled vehicle or responding to the scene of an accident when another motorist clips one of the stationary vehicles, causing a chain reaction in which anyone nearby has a high probability of being injured.This concern over the safety of emergency responders has led every state legislature – including Alabama’s – to implement a move-over law, requiring motorists to take certain precautions when approaching emergency responders on the side of the road.

The Alabama move-over law protects the following people:

  • law enforcement officers;
  • wreckers and tow-truck drivers;
  • utility workers; and
  • garbage and recycling collectors.

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Earlier this month, the state’s high court issued a written opinion in an Alabama car accident case requiring the court to determine if the jury’s verdict in favor of the plaintiff should be reversed due to the plaintiff’s failure to comply with a clause in the contract with the defendant insurance company. Ultimately, the court concluded that the defendant insurance company was in a position to object but failed to do so prior to trial. As a result, the defendant’s post-trial motion was denied.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was involved in a car accident when she was rear-ended while stopped at a non-functioning traffic light. At the time of the collision, the plaintiff’s husband was driving the car. The plaintiff filed a lawsuit against the other driver who she claimed was responsible for the accident, as well as her husband’s insurance provider under the underinsured motorist provision.

The day before trial, the plaintiff settled her claim with the other driver and that driver’s insurance company. The plaintiff let her husband’s insurance company know prior to the beginning of trial. However, that policy required advance notice of any settlement that may affect the insurance company’s liability. It was undisputed that the plaintiff did not give the defendant insurance company advance notice.

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