Top 7 Unfair Things in Alabama Personal Injury Law
Our personal injury firm has consistently battled with certain unfair rules and procedures in Alabama law that create an uneven playing field for injury victims. So, we thought we would make a top-seven list for those rules that are the most egregious and unfair to plaintiffs:
1. Alabama law prevents the jury from knowing that defendants and wrongdoers have liability insurance coverage.
Alabama courts, interpreting the Code of Alabama and the rules of evidence, have consistently ruled that evidence of insurance coverage is not admissible. This means that juries frequently speculate that a negligent Defendant does not have liability insurance, reasoning that if he did, the judge would tell them. Unfortunately, jurors then commonly either award less money or none at all out of concern that the defendant might lose their home or go broke.
2. While the jury is not allowed to know of insurance coverage for the defendant, they are told that the plaintiff has health insurance for the medical bills.
This is yet another example of Alabama legislative bias in favor of big business. Again, when the jury knows the Plaintiff has health insurance, they usually assume, wrongly, that the Defendant has no insurance coverage for the damages or they would have been informed of that by the judge and parties.
3. Alabama law allows employers to fire employees for any reason, good, bad, wrong or for no reason.
The harshness of this law means that no employee can ever rely on the stability of a job. The only exception to this rule under Alabama law is that an employee cannot be fired solely because they filed a workers compensation claim.
4. Counties and municipalities are immune from ever paying more than $100,000 to a injury victim.
This may be the worst one of all. Assume that the mayor of Birmingham, while in the scope and course of his employment with the city, runs a red light while intoxicated, and strikes a car, severely injuring or even killing the occupant. The most a judge or jury could ever make the mayor and city pay is $100,000, even if the injury victim’s medical bills are several hundred thousand dollars!
5. The state of Alabama has complete immunity from personal injury lawsuits.
This is the one that surprises people the most. No matter what an Alabama agency, employee or agent does, they have absolute sovereign immunity. This includes all Alabama agencies and related entities, such as the University of Alabama Hospital.
6. If a jury believes that an injured plaintiff is even 1% at fault for an accident, they are not entitled to a recovery.
This is the doctrine know as contributory negligence, in which a claimant must be completely free of any contributing negligence in order to make a recovery. So if you are in a car accident, traveling one mile over the speed limit and you are t-boned by someone running a stop sign, in theory you are barred from making a recovery if the jury believes your traveling one-mile over the speed limit contributed to the accident!
7. Last, but not least, in wrongful death cases, juries are not allowed to award any compensatory damages to the surviving spouse or children.
Alabama courts have interpreted the old homicide act, now called the wrongful death statute, to allow only for punitive damages to punish the Defendant. No recovery can be made for future lost wages of the deceased, mental anguish of the survivors, or anything else.
Call us today to speak with a Birmingham personal injury attorney.