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Automobile Accidents & Injuries FAQs

Alabama Automobile Accidents & Injuries Frequently Asked Questions

We hope you find these questions and answers helpful. Many questions on this topic can also be found in our general Alabama Personal Injury FAQ page. That page contains questions that apply to all types of Alabama personal injury cases, including car and truck crashes.

At the Blackwell Law Firm, we believe in education and advocacy. As lawyers, we focus all our time studying the specialty of personal injury law. We believe this focus helps us better serve our clients. We also want to provide real legal information to Alabama consumers. For longer answers, check out our website and blog. If you have more questions, give us a call. Consultations are always free and confidential.

Do I Need an Attorney After a Car Accident?

Sometimes people involved in automobile accidents don’t really need an attorney. The injuries might be minor. The issue may involve only vehicle damage. Many advertising lawyers (usually on television or billboards) claim an attorney is always needed. That is simply not true.

Yet, in cases with more significant injuries, medical care, lost wages, disability or long-term problems, an attorney may help significantly. In those situations, injured people can benefit from hiring a skilled personal injury attorney. Insurance adjusters are experienced at paying as little as possible for valid claims. If you have suffered serious injury, you need to focus on healing. A skilled and experienced trial attorney can focus on developing your case to obtain the maximum recovery possible for your injuries and damages. An experienced attorney can also help by dealing with the insurance company.

You may not know the extent of your injuries immediately after the accident. You may not know whether an attorney is needed. That’s OK. We are happy to discuss the issues with you. Consultations with the Blackwell Law Firm are free. We are happy to provide our opinion as to whether you need an attorney. We often provide advice to people involved in minimal damage accidents. If you are injured and we can help, we would also be happy to discuss our representation of you.

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What Should I Look for in an Attorney?

If you suffered a serious injury, hiring the right attorney is a very important decision. Alabama has many excellent personal injury attorneys. They are not on television, billboards or radio begging you to call. Instead, they are working hard to prepare each client’s case. The best attorneys do not beg for clients or make promises for cases. Avoid lawyers who make advertising promises for your case.

You should research your attorney options. Keep in mind you need an attorney experienced in preparing personal injury cases for trial. Insurance companies know which attorneys actually prepare their cases for trial. Insurance companies also know which attorneys quickly settle. It can make a huge difference in your case. Also look for an attorney who is caring, knowledgeable and will personally work on your case. For more information, we have published several articles on this topic at the Blackwell Law Firm blog.

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Do I Need to Call Police After a Car Accident?

Yes. Law enforcement should always be contacted. Officers will come to the scene, take information and write a report. These reports can provide valuable information.

You should be honest with law enforcement about the facts. Yet, you should not admit fault.

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Should I Seek Medical Treatment Following an Automobile Crash?

Your health should be your primary concern following a serious car crash. Due to the adrenaline and chaos of an accident scene, some injuries may not be immediately noticeable. Many car accident victims hurt worse in the hours and days after an event.

If you are hurting, you should see a doctor. It is essential to your health. Delays in seeking medical care may create long-term or permanent problems with your injuries. Delays in seeking initial medical care also make it much more difficult to prove an injury in the event of a later claim.

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Should I Call my Own Insurance Company After the Accident?

Yes. Call your insurance company as soon as possible to report the accident. Some policies have reporting requirements for certain coverages. Also, you may need to start the process of dealing with damage to your vehicle.

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What Should I Say to my Insurance Adjuster After the Accident?

Stick simply to the basics. Tell the adjuster where the accident happened, when it happened and who was involved. Do not admit fault. Do not give a recorded statement. Do not discuss your health prior to the accident.

Do not falsely believe “your” insurance company is on your side. Insurance adjusters are skilled at getting injured people to say things that harm their claim. That is why it is so important to stick just to the basics. If you are hurt, you can always defer other questions to your attorney.

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Should I Talk with the Insurance Company for the Other Driver?

You do not need to explain anything to the other person’s insurance company. If you are discussing payment for your car, stick to the basics. If the other company asks about your injuries shortly after the wreck, you can simply tell the adjuster you are hurt and will call back after completing treatment. You should not answer specific questions. You should not provide a recorded statement. You should not sign any authorizations for the other insurance company to obtain your personal records without consulting an attorney. If your injuries are significant, you should seek legal advice.

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What Steps Should I Immediately Take After a Car Accident?

After a car accident, you should immediately call the police (or make sure someone at the scene calls them). If able, gather basic information at the scene. This includes photos of the vehicles and scene. It is also important to get the names and numbers of any witnesses, if possible. If you are hurting, seek medical attention. Do not admit fault at the scene.

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Am I Responsible for my Own Medical Bills Following a Car Crash?

The short answer is, yes. Insurance adjusters often mislead accident victims into believing the at-fault driver’s insurance company will pay the medical bills. Yet, the liability insurance carrier for the at-fault driver will typically want you to release your claims before paying money. The liability insurer for the at-fault driver will only want to pay a one-time settlement of your claims.

If you have health insurance or health coverage, let your health coverage provider pay the bills. Your health carrier will have rights to be paid back out of any settlement. However, this will enable you to obtain needed medical care without dealing with bill collectors or liens against you. And, a good personal injury lawyer can often help you with these issues. You may also have separate coverage called medical payments coverage on your auto policy which pays specific charges.

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The Doctor’s Office Wants to Know About Payment. What Should I Tell Them?

If you have health insurance (either private health insurance or government benefits such as Medicare), the best choice is to have the physician’s office submit the bill to your health insurance just as you would for other medical care. This allows you to obtain needed health care without delay.

Instead of billing your health insurance, some doctor’s offices attempt to bill you or the automobile insurance companies. This can create confusion and hinder your ability to obtain medical care. Some doctors bill the wrong entity due to confusion. Other doctors bill the wrong entity in an effort to obtain higher payment. These issues can create tremendous problems for your claim.

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What if the Driver who Caused the Crash Does NOT Have Insurance?

Unless waived by you, your Alabama automobile policy carries what is called uninsured / underinsured motorist coverage (UIM). This coverage is very valuable and should never be waived. UIM coverage pays you the damages the other at-fault driver should have paid if he / she had insurance. UIM coverage also pays you if the other at-fault driver does not have sufficient liability coverage for all your damages.

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What if the Driver who Caused the Crash Does NOT Have Enough Insurance?

Unless waived by you, your Alabama automobile policy carries what is called uninsured / underinsured motorist coverage (UIM). This coverage pays you in the event the at-fault driver does not have liability insurance or does not have sufficient liability insurance. We believe it is very important for all Alabama drivers to possess sufficient UIM coverage in case of an injury caused by an uninsured or underinsured driver.

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What is Underinsured / Uninsured Motorist Coverage (UIM)?

Unless you signed a waiver, your automobile insurance policy carries what is typically called uninsured / underinsured motorist coverage (UIM). This is valuable coverage. We encourage people to review their policies and purchase UIM coverage beyond the minimum amount required under Alabama law.

If the at-fault driver who caused your injuries is uninsured, your UIM coverage should pay you for your injuries (within the UIM policy limits). If the at-fault driver has liability insurance but not enough insurance to cover your injuries, then your UIM coverage should pay you on top of the at-fault driver’s insurance (within the UIM policy limits).

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How Does Alabama Fault Law Work?

Alabama is a “contributory negligence” state. That means, if you are even partially at fault in causing the automobile accident, you cannot recover for your damages. Most other states follow “comparative negligence” rules which allow courts to apportion damages based on some percentage of fault.

Many liability insurance companies will wrongly deny auto accident claims, arguing you are contributorily negligent or partially at fault. If you were injured in a car crash but the liability insurance carrier denied your claim, you should discuss the facts of the collision with a skilled car accident and injury lawyer.

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Will I Harm the At-Fault Driver by Filing a Lawsuit Against Him/Her?

Generally, no. Alabama law requires drivers to possess liability insurance. Where the other driver does not possess insurance (or possesses too little for your injuries), your uninsured / underinsured coverage is also applicable. As a result, insurance typically exists for the accident. Although Alabama law requires all drivers to possess liability coverage, the issue is kept secret from the jury at trial. The lawyers in court are prohibited from mentioning the at-fault driver’s liability coverage. In truth, the at-fault driver in court is typically covered by liability insurance and is defended by an insurance company lawyer. Because that fact cannot be mentioned at trial, jurors sometimes mistakenly believe the at-fault driver is being required to pay personally for damages.

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Do Your Lawyers Handle Other Types of Cases Such as Criminal, Divorce or Real Estate Matters?
No, we do not. We understand some law firms advertise for all types of cases. We believe clients are best served by legal counsel who focus all their efforts and expertise studying a specific area of the law. We feel strongly about this issue. At the Blackwell Law Firm, our focus allows us to spend 100% of our time studying, practicing and advocating for personal injury and trial issues.

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What if the Other Driver Flees the Scene Following the Crash?

If the at-fault driver is later identified, you can pursue a negligence or recklessness claim against him or her seeking damages for your injuries. If the at-fault driver is not identified, then you can pursue claims against your UIM coverage. Your UIM coverage applies in that scenario because another driver is at-fault even though he or she cannot be identified.

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How do Insurance Companies Determine the Value of my Car (Property Damage)?

In most accidents, settling the property damage is a simple process. The measure of property damage in Alabama is the difference between the value of the property immediately before it was damaged and its value immediately after it was damaged. Several helpful sources such as the NADA and Kelly’s Blue Book exist that compile data on car values.

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Should I Give a Recorded Statement to the Insurance Company?

When you speak to the insurance company, you should always be aware that you may be recorded. Be careful with what you say. We do not recommend giving a recorded statement to the insurance company. Some adjusters are skilled at getting people to say things that harm or diminish their claims.

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Should I Sign These Authorizations / Releases Sent by the Insurance Company?

No. If you are later involved in a lawsuit with the at-fault driver (and his/her insurance carrier), they will obtain medical records regarding your injuries. However, most authorizations prepared by insurance companies during the claim process are far too broad and intrusive. They often request information far beyond what is needed to pay for your actual injuries. Additionally, we believe it is better to finish or stabilize your medical care before providing records to the insurance company. At the Blackwell Law Firm, we want our clients to focus first on recovery and healing from their injuries.

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Can I Receive Money for my Car Damage and Still Pursue a Separate Personal Injury Claim?

Yes. In many cases, you will be able to resolve your car damage claim without legal assistance. You should make sure that you do not sign anything releasing your separate personal injury claim. Although we can best help with personal injury claims, we are happy to answer questions about your property damage. If the insurance company completely denies the claim or you are not able to reach an agreement on the amount of property damage, then you can include these damages with your personal injury claim.

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Will my Car Accident Case go to Trial?

The vast majority of Alabama personal injury cases settle before trial. This includes car and truck accident cases. However, we believe claims should be fully prepared. At the Blackwell Law Firm, our philosophy is that hard work and case preparation lead both to better settlements and better trials. Insurance companies know which lawyers prepare their cases for trial and it makes a difference.

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How Long Will it Take to Resolve my Injury Claim?

The answer depends on the extent of your injuries. If your injuries are minimal, you should be able to provide documentation of your damages quickly. If your injuries are more serious, we do not advise a quick settlement. We have seen too many billboard lawyers harm their clients by reaching quick and low settlements before the full extent of the injury, treatment and disability, is complete. At the Blackwell Law Firm, we believe injured people should focus first on medical care and healing.

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What Types of Compensation can I get After a Car Accident?

If you are seriously hurt, no amount of compensation can fix the harm you have suffered. If another driver is negligent in causing the crash, you can recover what are called compensatory damages. Compensatory damages are intended to compensate you for your injuries and losses. These damages can include medical expenses, property damages, and compensation for both past and future lost income. Compensatory damages can also include compensation for pain and suffering, emotional distress, loss of quality of life, and disfigurement. In cases where the other driver acted wantonly (recklessly) by consciously or deliberately disregarding safety rules, punitive damages may also be available. These additional damages are intended to deter harmful conduct and to punish a defendant.

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Can I Recover Compensation for my Accident Injuries if I Have a Pre-Existing Condition?
Yes. Under Alabama law, you can recover damages for the aggravation of any injury or condition which may have existed at the time of the accident.

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Can I Make a Claim Against the At-Fault Driver of a Vehicle in Which I am a Passenger?

Alabama follows an unjust rule called the “Guest Passenger Statute” that prevents passengers from making claims against the driver of their vehicle in many situations. This unjust rule does have exceptions. Insurance companies routinely deny claims by passengers against a driver in the same vehicle by asserting this rule. If you are injured, do not simply accept the claim denial without consulting an experienced automobile accident lawyer.

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I was in a Car Accident While On-The-Job. What are my Rights?

If you were on the job, you may have rights to workers’ compensation benefits regardless of fault. If another driver was also at-fault (negligent) in causing the crash, you have additional rights to make claims against that driver. Those claims are typically referred to as third-party claims. If you are injured in this situation, it is important to seek an attorney who handles injury claims involving both workers’ compensation issues and auto accident issues. Because the claims overlap and impact each other, we do not recommend hiring any attorney who only handles one aspect of your claims.

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Can I Pursue a Claim if a Family Member is Killed in a Car Accident?

Alabama does allow wrongful death claims. Alabama law determines the family member who has the right to pursue the claim. If damages are recovered, those proceeds are then distributed to the heirs in accordance with Alabama law. Alabama also has unique provisions related to the specific damages recoverable in a wrongful death claim. These claims present unique legal issues. The Blackwell Law Firm website provides more information on these claims.

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What are the Rules of the Road?

The Alabama Legislature has established certain rules for safe driving. These Rules of the Road are common sense rules for safe driving. They include rules requiring drivers to maintain safe speeds, follow at safe distances, obey traffic signals, yield properly, pass other vehicles safely and watch for pedestrians. At the Blackwell Law Firm, we frequently use the Alabama Rules of the Road in preparing our automobile accident and injury cases for trial.

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What are the Most Common Causes of Alabama Auto Accidents?

At the Blackwell Law Firm, we prefer to speak of car crashes instead of car accidents. The vast majority of collisions are crashes caused by bad choices. They are not accidents. Bad driver choices frequently include driving too fast or too close to other vehicles as well as failing to yield properly. On our website and blog you can read numerous articles about other bad driver choices such as distracted driving, impaired driving and fatigued driving.

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