A car accident. A defective product injury. A slip and fall. These all describe accidents that can require medical care and fall under the legal umbrella of personal injury law. While some injuries settle quickly with an insurance claim, others require a prolonged legal battle for an injured party to receive fair compensation for their losses.
If you suffer an injury due to someone else’s negligence, how do you know when to hire a personal injury lawyer in Alabama? Learn more below about the kinds of cases that qualify under personal injury law, how to pursue compensation for your injuries, and what a personal injury lawyer does to serve their clients.
Types of Personal Injury Lawsuits Many Attorneys Represent
Many personal injury attorneys represent a wide range of injury victims. Common case types these attorneys take include:
- Car accidents
- Commercial truck accidents
- Bus accidents
- Pedestrian accidents
- Bicycle accidents
- Motorcycle accidents
- Boating accidents
- Defective product injuries
- Premises liability cases
- Dog bites or animal attacks
- Medical malpractice
- Workplace injuries
- Wrongful death
Pursuing Compensation for Your Injuries
Alabama is an at-fault insurance claim state, meaning that you must determine the party who caused your injuries.
In some cases, to recover the full value of your damages, you must file a personal injury lawsuit against the negligent party who caused your injuries.
Non-economic damages are damages with intrinsic value that don’t have a set cost. Instead, your personal injury attorney can help you calculate a fair value for your non-economic losses. Non-economic damages can include:
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Emotional distress
- Mental anguish
- Loss of quality of life
- Loss of consortium
If the at-fault party’s actions were oppressive, fraudulent, wanton, or malicious, you may also be able to pursue punitive damages against them.
When you sue a person for negligent actions that led to your injuries, you are the plaintiff, and they are the defendant. If the court determines that the defendant acted in bad faith, with ill intent, or recklessly, it can award you punitive damages to punish the defendant for their actions.
There is an exception in Alabama for compensation in wrongful death cases. Alabama is the only state that bars recovery of economic and noneconomic damages in a wrongful death case. The estate may only recover punitive damages.
Proving Negligence in Your Personal Injury Claim
There are four legal elements of negligence that a plaintiff must prove in their personal injury claim. The four parts of proving negligence include:
- Proving the defendant owed you a duty of care
- Demonstrating that the defendant breached their duty
- Proving that you suffered damages or losses
- Demonstrating causation that the defendant’s actions led to your losses
Statute of Limitations for Personal Injury and Exceptions in Alabama
The standard statute of limitations in Alabama for a personal injury case is two years from the date of injury, meaning you have that long to file a lawsuit in court against the at-fault party. There are some exceptions to the typical statute of limitations.
In medical malpractice cases, the statute of limitations is either two years from the date of injury or six months from the date you discovered or should have discovered the injury. This time frame may be further limited as well.
Additionally, if the injured person is under the age of 19 years old (not 18 like many states) or is incompetent, the person will have two years from their 19th birthday or from the date they are declared legally competent.
If the person who injured you worked for a municipality or county in Alabama, you will need to contact the local court as soon as possible to learn when you need to file a written notice of claim against the government entity. You might only have between six months and a year to file your notice of claim.
Alabama Is a Contributory Negligence State
Alabama is one of four states that follows a contributory negligence compensation model, with the others being Maryland, North Carolina, and Virginia. Under this structure, if the defense can prove that you were even 1% at fault for the accident that caused your injuries, you may not recover any compensation.
This means that if you were speeding when another driver cut you off and slammed on their brakes, causing you to rear-end them, the court would determine what percent of fault each of you shared. In this case, the court might determine that you were 30% at fault and the driver who cut you off was 70% at fault. While in some states your total compensation would be 70% of the final award (called “comparative negligence”), you may not recover any compensation under Alabama’s contributory negligence laws.
What a Personal Injury Attorney Does
So what does a personal injury lawyer do, and how do you know when to hire a personal injury lawyer? Personal injury attorneys perform a wide variety of services for their clients.
Represents Your Interests with the Insurance Company
If you file a personal injury claim with the insurance company because your case isn’t very complex or you only had minor to moderate injuries, you can still hire an attorney to represent your claim. Insurance adjusters may look for reasons to devalue your claim. Your attorney can speak with the insurance company representatives on your behalf so you don’t misspeak or give incorrect information by accident.
Gathers Evidence for Your Claim
Your attorney will look for evidence for your case, including dash cam footage, police reports, footage from local security cameras at nearby businesses, accident scene photos, witness statements, medical records, and other support for your claim. Be aware that time is of the essence. Witnesses forget details, and evidence disappears over time.
Allows You to Focus on Recovery
You should concentrate on attending your appointments, doing your physical therapy exercises, and resting. By hiring an attorney, you can rest assured that someone is handling your claim or lawsuit so you can focus on recovery.
Calculates Fair Compensation for Your Injuries
Although economic damages you’ve already incurred may be easy enough to calculate, you could have future complications that require additional treatment and expenses. If you’re pursuing non-economic damages, how do you calculate the value of your depression or anxiety?
Your attorney has represented injury victims before, and at least a few of their clients have probably had similar cases. Your personal injury lawyer can request a medical professional’s opinion on the total cost of your injuries, past and future, to calculate your economic damages. They can then apply a multiplier based on the severity of your injuries to estimate the value of your non-economic damages.
Writes Demand Letters
If you hope to settle out of court, you will need to send a demand letter to the insurance company or defendant to demand the total value of your claim in a settlement. Do you want to write your own demand letter, or do you want an experienced attorney to do it for you?
Files Your Lawsuit and Other Court Documents
Sometimes an insurance company just doesn’t want to settle. If you need to file a lawsuit against the negligent party, your attorney will file the lawsuit and all necessary forms for your case with the court. Your attorney can also negotiate a settlement after filing the lawsuit before your claim goes to court.
Contact Jackson & Foster Law for Personal Injury Legal Representation in Mobile, AL
How do you know when to hire a personal injury lawyer? The answer is simple: as soon as you suffer an injury due to someone else’s negligence. If you need a personal injury lawyer in Mobile, AL, contact Jackson & Foster Law. Call today at 251-433-6699 to schedule a free consultation.