Negligence Claims in Alabama
Most personal injury claims are based on the legal principle of negligence. As a word people use every day, negligence is commonly understood to mean carelessness, and being negligent may mean forgetting or failing to do something you were supposed to do. This general definition is very much like the legal definition, but in the law “negligence” means something very specific and contains several elements that must be proven in order to succeed in a claim based on negligence. Montgomery personal injury attorney Chip Nix has been working in the field of Alabama negligence law for over 40 years and has a thorough understanding of how the law operates. Below is an overview of the elements of a negligence claim in Alabama and an explanation of the all-important concept of contributory negligence in Alabama.
Elements of a Negligence Claim
There are four elements to a negligence claim, and the plaintiff is required to prove each element by a preponderance of the evidence to the satisfaction of the jury. These elements are:
- Duty – Plaintiff must show that defendant owed a duty toward the plaintiff. This may be a general duty of care owed to everybody, such as the duty in a car wreck case to drive safely and pay attention on the road that is owed by every driver to other drivers and pedestrians, or it could be a specific duty owed to a specific person, such as the duty of a doctor to treat a patient with care and competence, or the duty of a nursing home to care for its residents.
- Breach – The plaintiff must show that this duty was violated, or breached, by the defendant.
- Causation – The breach of the duty must have been the actual and legal cause of the injury. Proving legal causation, also known as proximate cause, can be complicated. For instance, if a motorist was driving much too fast and plowed into another car in an intersection, but both cars were in the intersection due to a traffic signal malfunction, is the speeding driver still responsible for the accident? Tricky questions of causation can be difficult to deal with, and require knowledgeable and experienced legal representation.
- Damages – The plaintiff must show that he or she was injured by the breach of duty, and show how he or she was damaged. Damages in a personal injury case typically include, property damage, medical expenses, lost income due to missing work or long-term disability, pain and suffering, emotional distress, etc. Thorough documentation and even expert witnesses may be required to build a strong, persuasive case for the full amount of damages.
Alabama Pure Contributory Negligence
If it is found that the plaintiff in any way contributed to the accident by his or her own negligence, then the plaintiff cannot recover any compensation in court from a defendant who was also negligent, even though the defendant may have been mostly to blame for causing the accident. This is known as pure contributory negligence. Only four states and the District of Columbia still follow this doctrine. In all other states, some form of comparative fault is used, where the plaintiff’s recovery is reduced in proportion to the percentage of negligence assigned to the plaintiff. But here in Alabama, if the plaintiff was just one percent negligent, then he or she cannot recover a dime.
This rule weighs heavily in favor of the defendants and their insurance companies, who go out of their way to convince a jury that the plaintiff was negligent or responsible in some fashion, however small. It is critical to your claim to have an experienced, aggressive attorney who will build and present a strong case proving the defendant’s negligence, and who can successfully fend off attacks from the insurance company and keep you from being considered to blame.
Get Help Today with Your Alabama Negligence Claim
If you have been injured due to another’s careless, reckless or even intentional misconduct, you may be able to recover compensation for your injuries from the responsible party. Call on Chip Nix, Attorney at Law, at 334-279-7770 for immediate assistance.