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.
Alabama Reckless Driving Laws
Alabama Code § 32-5A-190 defines reckless driving as driving:
- “Carelessly and heedlessly in willful or wanton disregard for the rights or safety of persons or property,” or
- “Without due caution and circumspection and at a speed or in a manner so as to endanger or be likely to endanger any person or property.”
Reckless driving means driving carelessly and with willful and wanton disregard for the rules of the road and the safety of others. Those who drive this way put everyone on the road in greater danger, increasing the likelihood of serious accidents. This is why the state of Alabama considers reckless driving a serious offense, one in which you can receive jail time even if you are a first-time offender.
This is a misdemeanor offense which can result in five to 90 days of jail time for a first offense, and 10 days to six months of jail time for a second or subsequent offense. A conviction also carries heavy fines, demerit points on your driving record, higher insurance rates, and loss of driving privileges.
Acts of Aggressive Driving are Negligent
Some acts of aggressive driving are prohibited under Alabama statute, others are merely unsafe, but all are negligent.
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.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provide some additional statistics that show the disturbing number of accidents that drowsy driving plays a role in:
- Drowsy driving is responsible for more than 70,000 motor vehicle collisions each year;
- Approximately 40,000 injuries result from drowsy driving accidents each year;
- At least 800 annual traffic-related fatalities each are the result of drowsy driving, but the CDC says that these are likely to be very conservative estimates, and that the real number could be more like 6,000.
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 the trailing vehicle is tailgating the lead vehicle, it becomes a dangerous situation, because they may not be able to slow down in time to avoid a collision if adverse conditions arise. Under normal conditions, motorists should allow at least a car length distance between them and the vehicle in front of them. When conditions are slippery or icy, the breaking distance should be longer.
- Reckless Driving: Tailgating is one possible example of reckless driving, other 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. When someone is driving recklessly, they are typically in a state of mind where they have wanton and willful disregard for the rules of the road and the safety of themselves and others.
- Drowsy Driving: 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. When a motorist is drowsy and in danger of falling asleep at the wheel, their reaction times are much slower, and they sometimes do not see the car in front of them until after they crash into it. 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. Texting while driving and other electronic activity while behind the wheel is an especially dangerous form of distracted driving, because it distracts the motorist in three ways; visually, manually, and cognitively.
- 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. A related problem may be that the pads, rotors, or another part of the breaking system was defective. If the accident occurs because of a faulty breaking system, the vehicle part manufacturer, supplier, or distributor may be one of the responsible parties.
- 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.
How to Prevent Distracted Driving
We all need to do our part to put an end to the senseless accidents that result from distracted driving. Since this problem is particularly bad among teens, parents need to take proactive steps to educate their kids about the dangers of this type of behavior before they receive their driving permits. Parents also need to lead by example and refrain from texting while driving themselves.
Technology helped get us into this mess, but it is also helping to lead the way toward safer roadways. There are now numerous free apps that are available to help motorists avoid the temptation to use their smart phones while driving. Both teens and adult drivers should take advantage of this technology in order to reduce the number of distracted driving accidents on our nation’s 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.
After being involved in a car crash, you may feel as if you’ve downed a few too many cups of coffee, which is a sign that these natural chemicals in your body are in a heightened state. Once they subside, there is a good chance that you will begin to feel the pain and soreness that is associated with many rear-end collision accidents.
Liability for Car Accidents in Birmingham
Liability for a car accident is based on negligence, and because Alabama is a tort liability state for car accidents, negligent drivers (or other parties) are responsible for paying for accidents that they cause. The parties who are most often held liable for car accidents are drivers, but car manufacturers, government entities or municipalities, and other third parties may be to blame in some cases, too.
In order to hold the at-fault driver/negligent party liable for your damages after a crash, you will need to prove that the accident would not have occurred but for their actions. In order to do this, you will need to collect credible and convincing evidence, including:
- Photographs of damages and the accident scene;
- Proof of skid marks, violation of traffic laws, etc.;
- Witnesses’ testimonies;
- Data provided by accident reconstruction and other forensic experts; and
- Police reports.
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 law 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. Acting quickly to file your car accident lawsuit isn’t just important for ensuring that you get paid as quickly as possible, though; if you wait too long to file a lawsuit for compensation, you will be barred from pursuing damages entirely. In Alabama, the statute of limitations for pursuing an auto accident lawsuit is two years from the date of the accident.
Recovering Your Maximum Compensation Amount after a Crash
At the law offices of Burge & Burge, PC, we know that the losses from a car accident are often significant. In addition to pain and suffering, as well as disability and immobility, you may have also incurred thousands of dollars’ worth of medical expenses, and may be unable to return to work, resulting in lost wages. We know that these economic losses can create questions about how you will continue living and afford your basic costs associated with every day life.
Our experienced Birmingham auto accident lawyers want to make sure that you get every penny you deserve after a crash. We help you build a case that not only proves liability, but also is designed to help you recover your maximum compensation for the full value of your economic and noneconomic losses.
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.
If you were in a car accident with an uninsured or underinsured motorist, you may be worried that you have no recourse to recover compensation. But be assured: you do have rights. You may be able to receive compensation from your own auto insurance policy.
At Burge & Burge, PC, we represent people who were in collisions with uninsured or underinsured motorists. Our experienced car accident lawyers understand auto insurance policies and will work to find the maximum compensation you are entitled to receive. Please call our office at to schedule an appointment with our Birmingham uninsured motorist accident attorneys. Your consultation is free.
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.
All car accidents have the potential to cause serious injuries or wrongful death. You may need compensation for lost income, medical costs, monthly bills, pain and suffering, or long-term treatment. We will pursue all available options to maximize your compensation. For a free consultation with an Alabama underinsured motorist attorney, please call or contact us online.
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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