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How Is Fault Determined In An Alabama Auto Accident?

Posted on October 5, 2015

Fault for an Alabama auto accident is determined by a number of factors. At the end of the day, juries are instructed to determine fault based upon the eyewitness testimony, physical evidence and the Alabama Rules of the Road. A swearing match between the parties (“he said, she said”) is insufficient to establish fault…there must be more to rise to the level of “negligence” required by Alabama law.

1. Violation of a Rule of the Road – The surest and best way to win your case against the other driver is to prove they violated a rule of the road and that the violation was the direct cause of the accident injuries. This would include running a stop sign, failing to yield at an intersection, driving while impaired, etc. Alabama law presumes fault if a rule of the road has been violated. So, once your Birmingham car accident attorney has proven the other driver ran the red light through eye-witness testimony, that infraction supplies the fault. Your attorney must then prove that your bodily injuries were caused by the impact.

2. Reasonable Person Standard – Not every auto accident is caused by violations of Alabama’s traffic laws. In some situations, it boils down to a jury question as to whether the other motorist failed to act “reasonably” based upon the accident facts. For example, suppose a truck driver, while driving under the speed limit, hits a patch of ice on a bridge and fishtails into your vehicle. Since no traffic law was violated, your lawyer would have to prove that the trucker was going too fast for the conditions or that he knew or should have know that ice would likely be forming on the bridge.

3. Proximate Case Problems – Another issue that has to be addressed is whether the negligence of the other motorist “proximately” or directly caused the accident or injuries. Let’s assume you are rear-ended by a driver who was texting right before the accident. Assume further that you had to slam on the brakes quickly due to traffic congestion. The mere fact that the driver was texting would not result in an automatic right to recover compensation. His attorney would surely argue that the cause of the accident was your sudden and unexpected stop, not his client’s use of a cellphone.

4. Contributory Negligence – Finally, even if you prove that the other driver was negligent or violated a rule of the road, your own conduct could prevent a recovery if the jury thinks you were at fault to some degree. So, if a jury believes the Defendant was 85% at fault and you were only 15% at fault, Alabama law prevents your claim from prevailing.

5. What About the Accident Report? –  Remarkably, Alabama motor vehicle reports are inadmissible. Juries are not allowed to see them. So, the jury must base their verdict on eyewitness testimony, physical evidence, pictures of the accident scene, etc. In this regard, it is important to document everything after the accident with photos and especially, hiring a lawyer to investigate the crash and preserve the evidence.