Birmingham, Alabama, Auto Accident Attorneys
The Alabama Department of Transportation reports that over a five-year period, there were an average of more than 126,400 auto accidents reported in the state every year, averaging more than 37,000 annual injuries. Sadly, there are also an average of more than 888 car accident-related fatalities reported in the state on a yearly basis.
A car accident can happen in the blink of an eye, and is indiscriminate in its victims. Affecting the young and the old alike, auto accidents cause devastating injuries, changing lives forever.
If you have been involved in a serious car accident in Birmingham, Alabama or surrounding areas, our experienced auto accident attorneys at the law offices of Burge & Burge, PC are here to help you understand your options.
Top Causes of Auto Accidents in Alabama
The majority of auto accidents in Alabama are caused by the negligence, or careless and reckless actions, of drivers. As such, most car accidents are completely preventable, and would not occur but for actions such as:
- Drunk driving;
- Distracted driving;
- Drowsy driving;
- Aggressive driving –
- Failing to follow posted traffic laws.
These things can lead to accidents, such as rear-end wrecks, or rollover accidents. But drivers aren’t the only ones to blame for traffic accidents; in some cases, other factors are responsible, too. For example, a car accident may be caused by an auto defect, such as a defectively manufactured tire. Car accidents may also occur because of defects in road surfaces, hazardous driving conditions, inclement weather, or defective traffic signs and road markings.
Drowsy Driving is More Common than Most People Believe
An alarming number of motorists get behind the wheel when they are drowsy, fatigued, and too tired to be driving. According to a AAA survey, more than 40% of motorists admit to having fallen asleep at the wheel, and approximately 10% of survey respondents admit to having done this during the past year.
According to the CDC, there are certain groups that are more susceptible to drowsy driving:
- Those who have problems with snoring and/or those who get less than 6 hours of sleep every day;
- Those who have untreated sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea;
- Those who drive while under the influence of alcohol or sleep-inducing drugs (i.e., “downers);
- Those who put in long shifts, usually with a lot of overtime;
- Commercial truck drivers and others who drive for a living.
Common Causes of Rear-End Accidents
Approximately two million rear-end collisions occur in the United States each year. And according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), rear-end crashes account for roughly one-third of all vehicle accidents.
There are numerous reasons why rear-end wrecks occur, some of the most common include:
- Tailgating: Following a car too closely is one of the leading causes of rear-end crashes. When conditions are slippery or icy, the breaking distance should be longer.
- Reckless Driving: Examples include excessive speeding, pulling out in front of an oncoming car without having adequate space, weaving in and out of lanes, and failure to yield the right of way.
- Drowsy Driving: Again, some drivers are tired and fatigued because of lack of sleep, working too many hours, being on the road too long, untreated sleep apnea, and many other reasons. Drowsy driving is particularly common among commercial truck drivers, who typically put in long hours over-the-road.
- Distracted Driving: These days, it seems that people cannot stay off of their cell phones while they are behind the wheel. Despite high profile safety campaigns and increased awareness about the dangers of distracted driving, many motorists still regularly engage in this practice.
- DUI/DWI: Those who make the poor and often tragic decision to get behind the wheel after consuming alcohol or drugs put themselves and others on the road in great danger. A chemically impaired driver typically makes very bad driving decisions. Some drive recklessly, while others get tired and sleepy, and even fall asleep at the wheel.
- Worn or Defective Brakes: Some rear-end crashes happen because the trailing vehicle’s brake pads or rotors are worn to the point that the vehicle cannot slow down in time to avoid colliding with the lead vehicle.
- Road Conditions: The chances of a rear-end wreck are heightened when there are adverse road conditions. Examples may include inclement weather (e.g., rain, ice, snow, etc.), heavy traffic, road construction, and poorly maintained roads.
What Causes Rollover Accidents?
With most vehicle crashes, one or more of the drivers are usually at fault. This is not necessarily true with rollovers. Rollover accidents can be due to a number of different factors. Some of the most common include:
• Speed and Location: According to safercar.gov, excessive speeding is a factor in approximately 40% of all fatal rollover crashes. In addition, almost ¾ of all rollovers occur on rural roads where the posted speed limit is 55 miles per hour or higher. In rural areas, the roads tend to be undivided and without a barrier that could prevent a vehicle from tipping over.
• Vehicle Design: While any vehicle can be involved in a rollover under the right set of circumstances, there are certain vehicles that are more susceptible to these types of accidents. These tend to be taller and narrower vehicles with high centers of gravity. Examples include SUVs, pickup trucks, and large passenger vans. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reports that single-vehicle crashes (such as rollovers) account for 65% percent of SUV and pickup truck-related fatalities. By contrast, single-vehicle crashes account for only 45% of all other motor vehicle-related deaths.
• Negligent Driver Behavior: More than half of all fatal rollover accidents involve alcohol. And a large percentage are also attributable to various forms of driver negligence, such as speeding, inattentiveness, and distracted driving.
Who is At Fault for a Multi-Car Accident?
Multi-vehicle collisions are sometimes called “chain reaction accidents”, because they often involve one car that collides with the vehicle in front of them, setting off a domino effect in which several other vehicles crash into the car ahead of them. This usually occurs on highways or other roads where vehicles are traveling at faster speeds.
When it is a chain reaction multi-car collision, the driver who caused the first crash in the chain is likely to be assumed responsible, because they had the best opportunity to avoid the accident in the first place. Since all of the other vehicles were hit from behind, they might not have seen it coming, so they would not have been able to do anything to prevent it.
While the driver who initiated the first crash could be the one at fault, this might not necessarily be the case. For example, if the vehicle that the driver crashed into did not have functional brake lights or taillights, then the driver might not have had proper warning that the car was slowing down. Or maybe the front driver was texting while at a stoplight and remained stopped after the light turned green and all the other vehicles were moving again.
When You Don’t Believe You’ve Been Hurt After a Crash
It’s not uncommon to walk away from even a serious crash believing that you are “fine.” Why does this happen? When you are involved in a crash, you will receive an instant boost of adrenaline and endorphins that will raise your energy levels and even mask pain.
Alabama’s Pure Contributory Negligence Law
One thing that is very important to understand when filing a car accident claim is Alabama’s pure contributory negligence law. If you are pursuing a negligence-based civil action, this law prevents you from recovering compensation from an at fault party if you are found to have contributed to your injuries in the least. In other words, if you were even one percent at fault for your crash, you are completely barred from recovering compensation. This is one of the primary reasons why hiring an experienced attorney who knows how to investigate your claim and build a case against the negligent party is so critical; if you do not prove negligence, you may be unable to recover any of the compensation that you are entitled to.
Statute of Limitations for Filing a Car Accident Lawsuit
If you are injured in a car accident, recovering compensation in a timely manner is critical to your recovery – you need financial support to get back on your feet again and pay for your economic losses. In Alabama, the statute of limitations for pursuing an auto accident lawsuit is two years from the date of the accident.
Steps to Take to Preserve Your Right to Damages
We understand that the aftermath of a crash can be overwhelming, and that knowing exactly what to do may be confusing. Taking certain steps after a crash, though, can help to preserve your right to recover the full compensation amount discussed above. To put yourself in the best position possible, we urge you to:
- File a report with the police. Accidents that result in a certain amount of property damage or any type of personal injury must be reported. Not only does reporting ensure that you are acting within the law, but it also provides documentation of your accident in support of your injury claim.
- Seek medical care. You should seek medical care immediately after a crash, both to ensure that you get the treatment that you need for optimal recovery, and to ensure documentation of your injuries and treatment. If you fail to seek treatment immediately, an insurance company may question the validity of your injuries and your claim.
- File your report with the insurance company. You need to notify the insurance company of your accident as soon as possible, providing the company with enough time to investigate the accident. Do not sign anything or give a recorded statement when speaking with an insurance adjuster. Of course it is possible that the person who hit you is an underinsured motorist, and we can help you deal with that as well.
The Importance of a Post-Accident Investigation
Whenever you file an accident injury claim with an insurance company, some type of investigation will be conducted before you receive compensation. The insurance company will investigate the claim, but since their goal is to pay out as little as possible for the actions of their insureds, it is reasonable to assume that their investigation will not be fair and objective.
Your attorney will also conduct their own post-accident investigation, but their investigation will be conducted with your best interests at heart. They will look at all of the critical facts and pieces of evidence and identify any and all factors that may have caused or contributed to the accident. They will also thoroughly review your medical reports and the extent of your injuries to more accurately calculate what your claim is worth.
Stacking Uninsured Motorist/Under Insured Motorist Policies and Additional Options
Auto insurance companies are required to offer people an uninsured/underinsured driver insurance (UM/UIM) provision and Medical Payments (Med Pay) coverage with their policy. If you have these options, we can make a claim for damages with your insurance company.
Under Alabama law, you are allowed to stack your UM/UIM policies. If you have UM/UIM coverage, you may be able to receive more compensation by making claims under each policy you have. For example, if you have three vehicles insured with UM/UIM coverage for $15,000 each, you could stack the policies and receive $45,000.
If the other driver has insufficient insurance, lapsed insurance or no insurance and you do not have UM/UIM coverage, there may still be options. Perhaps someone in the negligent driver’s family has insurance that covers him or her. We could also investigate if the owner of the vehicle negligently entrusted the vehicle to the driver and whether the owner has other assets from which you may recover damages.
Hire an Experienced Alabama Auto Accident Attorney
Do not make the mistake of trying to file a claim and pursue damages on your own. When you hire an experienced Alabama auto accident attorney, you greatly improve your chances of maximizing your settlement. At the law offices of Burge & Burge, PC, we are ready to advocate for you. Contact us today for your free consultation.
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