Alabama Motor Vehicle Accident Laws and Safety Requirements

Filing a personal injury lawsuit over a car accident takes place against the background of state law. Alabama’s personal injury laws and vehicle safety requirements provide comprehensive guidance to a would-be plaintiff. The following is a brief outline of Alabama’s relevant laws:

Statute of Limitations: In Alabama, you must usually file a personal injury or property damage lawsuit (arising from a car accident, for example) within two years of the date of the accident in order to keep your claim alive. There are, however, a few limited exceptions.

Shared Liability: Alabama is a pure contributory negligence state. This means that the victim of a car accident will be denied any compensation at all if he was even one percent to blame for the accident. Alabama’s contributory negligence rule is one of the most draconian personal injury laws in the nation.

Fault/No Fault Insurance Rule: Alabama is a “fault” state, meaning that if you were in a vehicle accident that you believe was the other driver’s fault, you are free to file a personal injury lawsuit or press a claim against the other driver’s insurance company.

Minimum Insurance Coverage: Alabama drivers must carry bodily injury and property damage liability insurance covering at least $25,000 per individual, $50,000 cumulative per accident and $25,000 for property damage.

Types of Damages Available: Compensatory damages are available. To get punitive damages, the victim must submit clear and convincing evidence that defendant intentionally engaged in a wrongful act. Punitive damages are capped at three times the amount of compensatory damages, or $500,000, whichever is greater; however, these limits don’t apply to intentional injuries or wrongful death actions.

Uninsured/Underinsured Drivers: Alabama does not require its motorists to carry uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage.

Product Liability for Defective Vehicles: In determining whether a vehicle (or component thereof) is defective, the court must balance the risk to the consumer against the utility of the vehicle’s design. This means that you cannot win a lawsuit over a defective vehicle merely by showing that it could have been designed or manufactured more safely.

Suing the Government over Defective Roadways (Sovereign Immunity): The state of Alabama cannot be sued unless its officials act intentionally, maliciously, fraudulently, in bad faith, beyond their authority or under an incorrect interpretation of the law.

Motorcycle Helmet Laws: All motorcycle riders are required to wear helmets on Alabama roads.

Seat Belt Laws: Alabama’s seat belt law makes failure to wear a seat belt a primary offense – a police officer can pull you over and ticket you for failure to wear a seat belt alone, with no need to justify the stop by reference to another offense, such as speeding. The law applies to front seat passengers 15 years of age and older, and the maximum fine for a first offense is $25.

Dram Shop Laws: Anyone who provides alcohol to another person in violation of the law and causes that person to become intoxicated, can be held civilly liable if the intoxicated person injures or kills another as a result of his intoxication This can include nightclub and employees, bar owners and party hosts.

DUI/DWI Laws: In Alabama, the Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) threshold for intoxication is .08, except that for drivers under 21 it is .02. There is no automatic penalty enhancement for an exceptionally high BAC. Consent to sobriety testing is implied in law and refusal to consent can result in a driver’s license suspension. There is no mandatory jail time for a first offense, although a fine of between $600 and $2,100 can be imposed along with a driver’s license suspension of up to 90 days.

Distracted Driving (texting while driving, etc.): In Alabama, 16 and 17 year old drivers with Intermediate Licenses (less than six months of driving experience) are banned for all cell phone use while driving. All other drivers are banned from texting while driving.