Uncovering Fault in Accidents

By Jon Lewis on Dec 14 in Lewis & Feldman Blog.

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A major accident in Alabama can disrupt your entire life. The core purpose of a personal injury claim is to help ensure that victims and families are able to secure justice, accountability, and the maximum financial compensation. That said, navigating a personal injury claim can be challenging. Alabama is a fault-based liability state—meaning you have to prove that the defendant is at-fault for your accident to hold them liable for your damages. At Lewis & Feldman, LLC, we help victims get justice. Within this article, our Birmingham personal injury attorney provides a comprehensive overview of the key things to know about uncovering fault for a serious accident in Alabama. 

Every Serious Accident Requires a Proactive, Thorough Investigation 

How do you uncover fault for an accident in Alabama? You need to know exactly what happened and why it happened. Every serious accident in the Birmingham area demands a proactive, thorough investigation. The process starts immediately after the incident. Investigators should gather evidence from the scene—including photographs, witness statements, available video footage, and any other information deemed relevant. You do not have to handle an investigation alone. A top Birmingham, AL, personal injury attorney will manage the investigation. 

All Potential Defendants (At-Fault Parties) Must Be Identified

Uncovering fault also requires identifying and determining all parties that may bear liability for an accident. This part of the process typically involves analyzing each party’s role and potential contribution to the accident. As an example, in motor vehicle collisions, investigators thoroughly examine the actions of drivers, including possible negligence like speeding, distracted driving, or impairment. However, responsibility may extend beyond drivers. Vehicle manufacturers, maintenance companies, or even governmental entities responsible for road design and upkeep could be liable. Every party that may bear liability must be identified. Accountability matters. 

Most Personal Injury Claims are Based on Negligence

Hurt in an accident in Alabama? Not only do you need to gather the relevant evidence and identify the parties that might bear fault, but you also need to know how to establish their liability. With limited exceptions—such as for product liability cases—fault for a personal injury claim in Alabama is based on negligence. Broadly speaking, negligence is a legal term that means the failure to exercise due care. You will need to prove the following four things in order to prove negligence: 

  • Duty: Duty of care is an element that establishes that the defendant has a legal obligation to the plaintiff. In the context of driving, for example, every motorist has a duty to operate their vehicle safely and adhere to traffic laws. Establishing the duty of care is paramount. 
  • Breach: Breach occurs when the defendant fails to fulfill their duty. In a car accident scenario, a breach could involve a driver running a red light or texting while driving. Notably, a breach of duty is not limited to actions but can also include failures to act. 
  • Causation: Causation links the breach of duty directly to the plaintiff’s injuries. It must be shown that the defendant’s actions (or inactions) were a substantial factor in causing the accident and the resulting harm. Without causation, there is no liability. 
  • Damages: The final element, damages, refers to the actual losses suffered by the plaintiff due to the accident. These can be quantifiable, such as medical expenses, lost wages, and property damage, or more subjective, like pain and suffering.

Alabama Operates Under a Plaintiff-Unfriendly Contributory Negligence System

What happens if you are partially at fault for your own accident? Unfortunately, in Alabama, you can be denied any compensation through a personal injury claim. Our state is one of the minority of U.S. jurisdictions that still uses a contributory negligence system of liability. The Legal Information Institute defines contributory negligence as a system that rules that a plaintiff who is found even slightly at fault for the accident can be barred from recovering any damages. The system places a high burden on the plaintiff to prove complete innocence in the situation leading to the injury. Consequently, defense teams often focus on demonstrating any degree of fault on the plaintiff’s part—knowing that even a minor contribution to the accident can nullify the claim

Defendants and Insurers Can Make Proving Fault Challenging

In Alabama, defendants and their insurers often employ strategies that make proving fault challenging for plaintiffs. Given the state’s strict contributory negligence rule, these parties have a strong incentive to shift even a minor portion of blame onto the plaintiff. Insurers, in particular, are skilled in deploying tactics that complicate the plaintiff’s effort to establish fault clearly and unequivocally. Every accident in Alabama should be carefully investigated by a reliable attorney. Your lawyer will gather and assemble all of the evidence that you need to uncover full, prove liability, and secure true justice and accountability. 

Proving Fault is One Step—You Also Need to Establish Your Damages

In Alabama, personal injury compensation is largely based on the actual losses (economic and/or non-economic) sustained by the victim. Even when liability has been proven with strong, compelling evidence, insurance companies still fight to try to settle cases for less. They do not want to pay out full settlements. A top-tier Birmingham, AL, personal injury lawyer can help you take action to maximize your financial recovery. You may be eligible to secure compensatory damages for: 

  • Property losses;
  • Emergency room care; 
  • Hospital bills; 
  • Other medical costs; 
  • Loss of income;
  • Loss of future earnings; 
  • Pain and suffering; 
  • Disability/disfigurement; and
  • Wrongful death. 

Contact Our Birmingham, AL, Personal Injury Lawyer for a Free Case Review

At Lewis & Feldman, LLC, our Alabama personal injury attorney is standing by, ready to put in the time and resources to help you get justice. You do not have to take on an insurance company alone. Call us at 205-896-6410 or connect with our team online for your free, no-obligation initial case review. From our Birmingham office, we take on injury and accident claims throughout the region, including in Hoover, Bessemer, Homewood, McCalla, Trussville, and Pelham. 

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