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.

Shattered GlassCompensatory 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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Semi-trucks are necessary in today’s economy. Indeed, these large trucks carry goods back and forth across the country on the nation’s highways. Most of the time, these trucks are operating on wide roads with high speed limits. However, as truck drivers approach their destination, they are usually required to operate their fully loaded trucks on city streets that are much narrower, slower, and tighter. This can present a challenge to even experienced Alabama truck drivers.

Semi-TruckNotwithstanding the challenge, semi-truck drivers are responsible to operate their rigs in a safe and responsible manner at all times. This means on all types of roads and in all types of weather conditions. When a truck driver’s negligence results in an Alabama truck accident, anyone injured in the accident can pursue compensation for their injuries through an Alabama personal injury lawsuit.

Proving an Alabama Truck Accident Claim

In order for a plaintiff to successfully bring an Alabama truck accident case, they will need to establish that the truck driver’s negligence resulted in the accident that caused their injuries. While this sounds simple in theory, there can be many roadblocks that arise along the way.

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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.

Road HazardThis 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.

ContractThe 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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Earlier this month, a grand jury returned an indictment in a case brought against a truck driver who ran head-on into another vehicle carrying a family of five. According to a recent news report covering the case, the Alabama truck accident resulted in the driver being indicted for criminally negligent homicide.

Truck WheelsEvidently, the truck driver told police that he had swerved to avoid a dog that ran in front of his truck. However, there was no evidence that the truck driver swerved or braked immediately prior to the collision. At the time of the accident, the driver was working for a trucking company based out of Columbus. The grand jury heard evidence that the driver was not under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the collision and that speed was not a factor.

In addition to the criminal charges brought by the State of Alabama, surviving family members have filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the truck driver. The results of both cases are still pending.

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Victims of Alabama sexual abuse and child pornography are often left with lifelong symptoms, many of which may not materialize until later in life. Of course, sexual assault as well as the manufacture, distribution, and possession of child pornography are against the law. However, while the perpetrators of sexual abuse and child pornography can be held accountable for their actions through the criminal process, the focus of these prosecutions is on punishing the behavior of the perpetrator, rather than providing compensation to the victims of the abuse.

Girl in HallwayThat being said, victims of sexual abuse or child pornography are entitled to seek compensation through a civil lawsuit. These lawsuits can be brought regardless of the outcome of a criminal trial. In fact, since the standard is different in civil and criminal cases, victims may have an easier time proving a case of abuse in civil court. Additionally, the rules of discovery in a civil trial allow for plaintiffs to obtain much more information from the defendant, potentially helping the plaintiff prove their case.

Earlier this month, the United States Senate unanimously passed a bill that revamps the compensation available to victims of child pornography. According to a recent news report, the Senate Bill makes several changes to the amount and types of compensation victims of child pornography can receive from those responsible for the abuse.

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    When a child has been the victim of sexual abuse, it may trigger both the civil and criminal process.  While these processes both involve the courts and have many similarities, there are also fundamental differences, too.

    Fundamentally, a criminal case is targeted towards obtaining a guilty plea or verdict and jail time for the perpetrator; in some cases, restitution may be awarded to the victim but is usually limited to actual medical expenses or out of pocket expenses (for example, lost wages for having to take time off to testify).  Of course, in the case of most child sexual abuse victims, these remedies are woefully inadequate because the harm is generally emotional and unseen rather than physical injuries that can be neatly quantified in medical bills, and because most are not of working age yet.

    However, in a civil case, a victim can seek monetary damages to compensate him or her for past, present, and future pain and suffering and medical, psychological, and psychiatric needs.  In many states, punitive damages may also be available.  For victims of child pornography, Federal law may provide a civil remedy as well, automatically providing damages if the victim qualifies (18 U.S.C. § 2255).