Statute of Limitations for Personal Injury Claims in Alabama - Sara Williams ESQ

Statute of Limitations for Personal Injury Claims in Alabama

July 28, 2021

Injury claims are pretty standard with how frequent accidents occur. In Alabama, a person who suffers physical injuries or financial losses due to another person’s negligence can file a personal injury lawsuit. This falls under the fault-based compensation system. 

However, while the law allows an injured person to seek compensation through a civil action, there is a time limit for when the action must commence. This time limit falls under the Statutes of Limitations laws of several states in the U.S., and Alabama has one. Therefore, knowing the window to initiate a lawsuit is crucial. It ensures you do not let the fault party get away with harming you. 

Unfortunately, most litigants do not know the provisions of the Statute of Limitations or its existence. They only find out about it when they want to commence a legal claim and find that they are out of time. In this article, Sarah Williams takes an in-depth look at Alabama personal injury cases and the time period to commence a civil lawsuit. 

What Is a Personal Injury Claim? 

A personal injury is a legal term for an injury that affects one’s physical body, mind, or emotions. It is different from an injury to property, although most personal injury actions as property damages have one of its compensable economic losses. In addition, it is a type of tort lawsuit, meaning the person filing the suit must be the one who suffered harm. 

The injured person would be the plaintiff, and the person responsible would be the defendant. Therefore, a personal injury claim is a legal dispute arising from the harm a person causes another. It is the opposite of a wrongful death claim, which is the action the legal beneficiaries of an injured victim file. However, for a valid wrongful death lawsuit to exist, the deceased person must have been eligible to file a personal injury suit before their death. 

What Personal Injury Cases Does Alabama Statute of Limitations Laws Cover?

The Alabama Statute of Limitations applies to all types of civil claims. These include some of the following:

Automobile Accident

An auto accident is a broad name for bicycle accidents, car accidents, motorcycle accidents, pedestrian accidents, and truck accidents. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 38,000 people die yearly in automobile crashes, with several thousand injured. Therefore, there are bound to be many injury claims with such a high number of injuries and fatal accidents. 

Dog Bite Accident

Ohio is a strict liability state for dog bites. It means that if a dog bites you, their owner, keeper, or harborer will pay for your injuries or any property damage. You do not need to prove that the pre-mentioned persons were negligent or not. 

Defective Products (Product Liability) 

According to a 2018 report, hazardous consumer products cost Americans – economically and emotionally – about $1 trillion each year. Defective products also cover dangerous drugs, that is, medication with severe adverse side effects. 

Medical Malpractice

Medical negligence happens when a physician fails to uphold the standard of care expected in a given circumstance. A John Hopkins Research Center study named medical errors as the third leading cause of death in the United States. As a victim of medical negligence, you can file a medical malpractice lawsuit with the help of a medical malpractice attorney. 

Workplace Accidents 

Although workers’ compensation laws primarily apply to workplace accidents, injured workers can still file a personal injury suit. The law allows them to do this when their employer denies their initial claim or fails to pay them what they deserve. Knowing the computation of time is vital in cases like this, as a delay while negotiating with the employer and their insurance carrier equals denial in most cases. 

Premises Liability Cases 

Premises liability cases come up when you suffer an injury on premises where you are a legal visitor. A typical example is a slip and fall accident. However, note that the property owner must have breached the duty to keep their premises safe for you to have a property liability case.

In any of the above cases, Alabama law stipulates that you must show the fault party’s negligence, recklessness, or wanton behavior. Again, an experienced attorney can help you with proving fault.

What Is the Statute of Limitations for Alabama Personal Injury Claims? 

The Statute of Limitations that applies to your injury lawsuit is contained in Code of Alabama section 6-2-38. The law provides that injured victims must commence an action seeking redress for a civil wrong within two years. The two-year statute starts counting from the date the injury occurred. 

Unlike other U.S. states like Maryland, where the limitation period is different for medical malpractice, victims of medical errors also have two years to commence an action. If you miss the filing deadline, you will lose the legal capacity to get compensation. Should you go ahead to file the lawsuit, the defendant’s counsel will raise a preliminary objection.  

The objection would be on the ground that the two-year period already elapsed, and therefore, the court cannot hear your case. All these are why injury victims must seek the counsel of a personal injury lawyer as soon as they suffer an accident. An attorney is fully aware of the legal timeline and will ensure you comply.

Even while negotiating with the fault party’s insurance carrier, they will commence the lawsuit should the negotiations fail. Note that insurance companies like to drag out the negotiations process in hopes that the Statute of Limitations runs out. If it does, they know you’ll lose the litigation option and have no choice to accept their settlement offer, which will likely be meager. So, lawyer up as soon as possible by contacting an injury law firm. 

Are There Exceptions to the Alabama Statute of Limitations? 

Like most general rules, there are exceptions to the Alabama Statute of Limitations. These exceptions can stop the “limitations clock” or pause it, thereby extending the deadline. An excellent example of these exceptions is where the fault party is a minor below 19 years or has been declared legally insane. 

In such situations, the fault party is under legal disability. As long as the disability persists, the victim’s clock will stay paused. But when the period ends, the clock starts running again, and the two-year time limit. A disability ends when a minor becomes an adult or an insane person regains their sanity. Thus, if a teenager causes an accident, you have to wait till they are 19 before taking legal action, and the time starts counting again from their birthday.

However, there’s also a caveat to the legal disability rule. If 20 years pass since the underlying accident, there will be no extension of the filing deadline. This caveat does not apply to cases where the victim is a minor, as it is normal for them to attain 19 years before the 20-year-period. But if the insanity period lasts longer than that time, then the case would be statute-barred forever. 

Another exception is where the fault party is absent from Alabama at any point after the accident and before filing the lawsuit. In such a situation, the period of absence won’t be part of the two years. It simply means that the clock will not start running until the responsible party returns to the state.

What If It’s a Wrongful Death Claim?

The Alabama Statute of Limitations provides that legal beneficiaries must commence a wrongful death action within two years. The time starts counting from the decedent’s date of death. However, you must be a legal beneficiary to have the legal standing to commence this action. 

The recognized beneficiaries under Alabama law are:

  • Surviving spouses 
  • Children
  • Parents
  • Grandparents 
  • Siblings

When Should You File a Personal Injury Claim Against a Government Agency? 

The first thing to note is that civil lawsuits against the government are never easy and quite complex. Article 1 of the Alabama Constitution provides that the “State of Alabama shall never be made a defendant in any court of law.” This law falls under the rule of sovereign immunity. Although several states have statutes that waive immunity in some specific cases, Alabama does not. 

However, despite this provision, the law allows you to file a personal injury lawsuit against government employees or agents if they acted contrary to the scope of their employment. For example, it simply means that you can sue a government-employed driver for a car accident caused by intoxication. Here, the law sees drunk driving as acting outside the scope of one’s employment. In such a case, the time limit for filing a claim is two years.

But what happens if the employee acted within the scope of their employment as a government agent? You can still file a lawsuit in such an instance, but different time limits and procedures apply. In Alabama, you must file a formal claim against a municipality within six months. The preceding is because under the tort doctrine of vicarious liability, employers are liable for the actions of their employees. 

The time for the formal claim starts counting from the accident date. Furthermore, if the claim is against a county, you have one year from the injury date. Note that the formal declaration is an administrative process that precedes filing a lawsuit. Thus, if you do not institute it properly, you might be unable to file a suit later. 

If the claim is against the federal government, the law is different. You have two years to file a formal notice of claim. If it gets denied, you have six months from the date of the denial to file a lawsuit. Find out more about this process from experienced personal injury attorneys. 

Need Help With Your Personal Injury Case? Get in Touch With Sarah Williams!

No matter how careful you are, chances are you might still get involved in an accident. This is because even if you are careful and concerned for your safety, someone else might not be. Consequently, their recklessness might cause an accident that leaves you injured physically and emotionally. 

Thankfully, Alabama law allows you to get compensation from the fault party. This compensation covers economic and non-economic damages. The two include your medical bills, emotional distress, property damage, out-of-pocket expenses, etc. If there is evidence of wanton misconduct or gross negligence, the court might award punitive damages. 

While all these sound easy, personal injury cases are never straightforward, and there’s the Statute of Limitations to consider. This is why you need to get legal representation from Sarah Williams. As a leading figure in her field, you will get excellent legal advice and representation. So, call today to schedule a free case review before time runs out. 

Contact Me

Primary Contact Form

Recent Articles

Legal Networking for Young Female Lawyers in Birmingham

Why should someone involved in delivering legal services in Birmingham seek out networking? The legal profession...
Scroll to Top