Who Is Liable For a Distracted Driving Accident in Birmingham? - Sara Williams ESQ

Who Is Liable For a Distracted Driving Accident in Birmingham?

October 28, 2021

Driving is a daily necessity. It also requires complete focus on the road ahead and other vehicles and pedestrians. Unfortunately, every day we see motor vehicle accidents caused by distracted driving. A distracted driver is someone who engages in other activities while driving, especially using their mobile phone. If you were involved in a crash with such a distracted driver in Birmingham, I am the auto accident attorney you can trust. I will examine your case carefully and give you my honest legal opinion in simple terms which you can understand.

Before we go on exploring the issues of liability in auto accidents, let me start by saying that no one should tackle an accident insurance claim or even a personal injury lawsuit without an experienced attorney by their side. As you will read below, the way accident liability is treated in the state of Alabama makes it easy for insurance companies representing the fault party to dismiss your claim and leave you without any kind of financial compensation.

Defining Distracted Driving

How do we know that a driver responsible for the injured party’s bodily hurt and property damage was distracted? The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has already established the three factors that represent distracted driving:

  • visual distraction: taking the eyes of the road
  • manual distraction: taking the hands off the steering wheel
  •  cognitive distraction: taking the mind off driving.

In many cases, a party liable for traffic accident commits a combination of these factors, especially when they are using smart phones. Their eyes, hands and mind are focused on sending a text or browsing social media posts, making the driver completely distracted and leading to the loss of control over their vehicle.

How Serious Is the Problem of Distracted Driving?

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, distracted driving  is the cause of approximately 3,000 deaths across the US each year. Other 400,000 Americans suffer accident injuries of various degrees in distracted driving crashes.

In our state the proportion is of 50 injuries to 1 fatality which is also very high. As for the causes of distracted driving, the number one is texting and driving. Drivers who use smart phones to send emails, text or chat messages are 23 more likely to cause serious, even fatal car accidents, than drivers who are completely focused on the road.

How the Contributory Negligence Principle May Affect Your Case

In personal injury law, there are three guiding principles which determine who has the right to file for compensation and how much money they should receive:

  • comparative negligence: the party who is less than 50% at fault can sue for compensation, but the payout amount is reduced by their proportion of fault
  • pure comparative negligence: any party may seek compensation, irrespective of their degree of responsibility, but their payout is reduced by their proportion of fault
  • contributory negligence: any proportion of fault, even 1%, will bar a person from seeking compensation.

As you can imagine, the last option is the toughest for accident victims. Unfortunately, Alabama is one of the 5 US states that applies the contributory negligence law. It was established by the 1982 Jackson vs. Waller case, heard in the Court of Civil Appeals of Alabama, with the court affirming that “the plaintiffs should not be entitled to recover because of Waller’s contributory negligence”.

What exactly does this ruling means for personal injury claims? Basically, insurance adjusters can latch onto any word you said and any insignificant circumstance to claim that you were partly at fault for the car accident. It does not matter that it is a very small, almost negligible proportion of fault. Without skilled legal representation, your accident insurance claim will be denied, and you will be left with serious injuries, property damage and in debt due to high medical bills.

How a Personal Injury Attorney Proves Distracted Driving

In the context of Alabama laws, determining a fault party beyond any doubt and with 100% responsibility for the accident is crucial. Moreover, it is the plaintiff’s responsibility (the burden of proof) to present the evidence that indicates that:

  • the defendant owed them a duty of care
  • they breached their duty by causing the accident
  • the accident was the direct cause of the plaintiff’s injuries and property damage
  • the plaintiff suffered financial losses as a result of the accident.

These are the four cornerstones of personal injury law. And you have to bring convincing evidence that point to the fault party’s liability for your economic damages in proportion of 100 percent.

This is next to impossible for the average person, still recovering from severe or even catastrophic injuries. You may have to spend months in hospital and undergo surgeries before you are in any fit state to file a claim, collect evidence and negotiate your compensation with an experienced insurance adjuster, whose job is to get as many claims dismissed as possible.

Once you hire an auto accident attorney, your case is in a professional’s hands. Knowledge of the law and extensive experience in and out of court will allow the attorney to:

  • find CCTV camera footage
  • identify eyewitnesses and ask them to give a statement
  • obtain the other driver’s cell phone records indicating that they were texting and driving
  • access the police report prepared at the accident scene
  • hire accident reconstruction specialists, who can recreate the circumstances of your car crash.

What You Need to Do after an Automobile Accident

In many cases, the difference between having or not having a case depends on a simple action that you did or failed to do after the accident. Typical drivers involved in a traffic crash that does not appear to have serious consequences would walk away from the accident scene and then realize that they are injured and they want to obtain compensation from the fault driver.

At this point, the driver has already made three serious mistakes: leaving the accident scene, failing to document the crash and failing to seek medical attention in a timely manner.

Like any experienced auto accident lawyers, I can tell you that you need to protect your interests and maximize your chances of getting a fair compensation by following these simple rules:

Call 9-1-1 and Remain at the Accident Scene

Immediately after the accident, call 9-1-1 and ask for an ambulance and the police. Remain at the crash scene at least until the police arrive to investigate the auto collision and prepare the accident report. Say what happened, without speculating on who may be the negligent driver and without self-incriminating yourself. A simple statement such as “I am sorry” or “I think I made a little mistake” can invalidate your case.

Document the Crash Scene

You should not rely solely on your attorney, but make sure that you take as many photos and videos as possible at the accident scene. Focus on:

  • your injuries
  • your damaged vehicle
  • the position of the two cars on the road.

At the same time, obtain the other driver’s contact and insurance details and then report the accident to your own insurance company.

Go to the Hospital

Car accidents can result in severe injuries.  A crash victim may suffer from:

  • spine injuries
  • traumatic brain injury
  • internal injuries
  • broken bones
  • extensive soft tissue damage.

In these cases, the injured party is taken directly to the hospital. However, even if you were lucky to escape with less severe injuries, you should still accept the ambulance ride and follow the recommended medical treatment. Failure to get medical assistance may be used against you by auto insurance companies to reduce your compensatory damages by claiming that you are not as badly injured as you say.

Hire a Personal Injury Lawyer

Given the strict contributory negligence law in the state of Alabama, any motor vehicle collision victim should seek legal consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible. Moreover, before you have the chance to have your initial consultation with the lawyer, refrain from discussing your case with anybody. This includes:

  • insurance adjusters
  • friends and family
  • social media posts.

An auto accident lawyer will always seek the maximum compensation you are entitled to, but may not be able to do so if the other party can argue that you either are partly responsible for the crash or have suffered less damages than you claim.

Types of Damages You Can Claim in a Distracted Driving Accident

Personal injury law in the state of Alabama recognizes three types of damages: economic damages, non-economic damages and punitive damages.

Economic damages will cover your financial losses, such as:

  • hospital bills
  • cost to repair or replace your damaged car
  • loss of income
  • loss of future earnings
  • out of pocket expenses.

Non-economic damages are a form of compensation for the pain and suffering caused by the traffic crash. The attorney will include various elements in your accident claim, such as:

  • physical pain
  • mental anguish
  • loss of consortium
  • loss of enjoyment of life.

Finally, punitive damages are awarded at the end of a personal injury lawsuit, if you can prove that the liable party acted with gross negligence or willful intent in causing the accident. Drunk driving and aggressive driving are two examples of behaviors that may entitle you to request punitive damages.

Hire an Auto Accident Attorney with a Proven Track Record

I am Sara Williams, Esq, and I have extensive experience both in court and in out of court settlement negotiations. My mission is to ensure that you receive the fair compensation you deserve for the losses, pain and suffering caused by someone else’s negligence.

I encourage you to tell me about your case as soon as possible. Do not forget that you only have 2 years since the date of your accident (the statute of limitations for personal injury cases in Alabama) to take legal action against the negligent party. I am here to help you win your case, so contact me!

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