Personal Injury Attorneys in Opelika
A personal injury is anything that happens to you and causes injury that is done by a person or business. A personal injury lawsuit is handled in civil court. It may be an auto or motorcycle accident, an accident in the workplace, a slip & fall, or an accident with a truck.
If you are injured through no fault of your own, you may be entitled to compensation if the other side was negligent, reckless, or showed an intentional behavior to harm. That can include, but is not limited to, money to cover injury, pain and suffering, a permanent disability, brain injury, or money for lost wages and rehabilitation. Compensation should also be sought if your loved one died due to someone else’s negligence.
Generally, you will be asked to deal with the insurance provider for the at-fault party. We strongly suggest you do not have a discussion with that representative, because they are there to make you go away for the least amount of money they can offer. They are not on your side. An experienced personal injury law firm can make all the difference in your case and in the compensation you will eventually receive.
The law can be confusing and intimidating. The Alsobrook Law Group invites you in for a one-on-one discussion of your legal needs and to explain your options. Please speak to a personal injury lawyer before talking to the other side.
Alabama Personal Injury Laws
No matter how you are injured, Alabama has a statute of limitations which limits the time within which you must file a lawsuit. In Alabama, that deadline is two years, which means within two years you must file an action against any potential defendants.
In most cases, if you do not file within the statute, your case will be barred. You will not be able to recover any compensation from the person or persons responsible for your injury.
The only exception is if the injured party is a minor, the two-year time limit begins when he or she turns 19.
When the action is filed in civil court, you become the plaintiff and the case is filed against the wrongdoer, who is the at-fault party or defendant, who is asked to compensate the injured for his or her loss.
Types of Personal Injury
There are several types of injuries that we litigate. These may include:
Car Accidents – With more than 150,000 crashes in Alabama each year, according to the University of Alabama, Alsobrook will help you determine who is the at-fault party and how best to deal with the aftermath of a car accident. Are there injuries and property damage? Will you need rehabilitation? Is the other side offering you pennies on the dollar to compensate you for lost wages, pain and suffering, your damaged car, and future rehabilitation?
Motorcycle Accidents – There are between 1,500 and 2,000 motorcycle accidents in Alabama each year, resulting in dozens of deaths and hundreds of serious injuries. It is not necessarily the fault of the motorcyclist. Was the other driver speeding, driving while distracted, or on drugs or alcohol? Did they not see the biker? These are questions that our experience trains us to answer in order to make the best case for your side.
Truck Accidents – The driver of a passenger car is at an extreme disadvantage when colliding with a tractor-trailer or even a delivery truck because of the sheer size differential. In Alabama, thousands of individuals are injured and dozens lose their lives in trucking accidents. But who was at fault? Again we will look at the elements of distracted driving, drugs and alcohol, a sleepy or speeding driver, or a poorly loaded rig. We also handle truck accidents in Auburn.
Premises Liability – Otherwise known as slip & fall accidents, the owner of a property has a duty to keep it in reasonable condition for the visiting public. That includes fixing uneven sidewalks, making sure handrails are safe, cleaning up spills on the floor, and even providing adequate lighting and security when there is a known threat on a premise. Falls can be very serious and lead to traumatic head injury and hip injuries and are a serious health issue for seniors. Falls hospitalize 800,000 a year a year in the U.S. according to the National Council for Aging Care.
Defective Products – When you buy a product, a tool, a drug, or even a medical device, there is an expectation that the company has done its due diligence and made sure it was safe for the public. However we find many products sold in Alabama cause injury and even death, even when used as directed.
Dog Bites – The dog owner is strictly liable for an animal’s behavior including biting. This is different from many states where there is a “one bite” rule that protects a dog owner from injury liability the first time a dog bites.
Serious Injuries – Some injuries are worse than others. We represent people who have had the misfortune of having serious injuries such as traumatic brain injuries.
We also handle pedestrian accidents and hit and runs. If you are injured due to the negligence of others in these areas the at-fault party may be found liable for your damages.
The Burden of Proof in Personal Injury Cases
The burden of proof requires that the preponderance (i.e., majority) of the evidence proves the defendant is liable for creating the situation that caused your injury.
When we file a personal injury lawsuit, we must prove:
Negligence – We must show that negligence allowed an injury to happen by showing the defendant did not behave in a way a reasonable person would under the same circumstance. Negligence can be applied to a dangerous workplace, a reckless driver, or an irresponsible doctor.
Duty – We must prove the defendant owed a duty to the plaintiff to be cautious, such as sharing the roadways, or a doctor owing a patient a duty to provide competent medical care.
Breach – We then have to prove the defendant breached his legal duty to act in a reasonable manner, either by an action or omission of an action.
Causation – The negligence of that person is the direct cause of your injury which any reasonable person could have foreseen.
Damages – Finally, we get to the damages phase and what the plaintiff is due as a result of the negligence, breach, and causation.
Contributory Negligence – Alabama still follows the rules of contributory negligence which are just like they sound. A plaintiff who “contributed” in any way to the injury they suffered can be barred from receiving any compensation.
This is definitely not a plaintiff-friendly situation, and an experienced personal injury lawyer understands how the defendant will try to use contributory negligence to their advantage. It is up to us to convince the court otherwise.
How Do I Know if I Have a Personal Injury Case in AL?
There are several things that will be looked at when you discuss your case with an attorney. These may include:
The Extent of your Injuries/Medical Treatment
How badly were you injured? Did you just have a few minor scrapes and bruises, or were your injuries more extensive? Whenever you are involved in any type of accident where you may have sustained an injury, it is important to seek medical treatment right away, so your injuries can be properly diagnosed, treated, and documented. Insurance companies will look for any way they can to minimize the amount of compensation they pay out to injured parties, and one way they may do this is by poking holes in your medical claims.
For example, the insurance company might tell you that your injury is not related to the accident in question, because you waited too long to seek treatment. They might also tell you that you are exaggerating the extent of your injuries, because they have not been officially documented. Finally, they might say that you failed in your legal duty to mitigate your losses by not getting treated right away.
The bottom line here is that if you seek immediate medical attention, it makes it much harder for the insurance company to dispute your injuries. At the end of the day, if you do only have some minor bumps and bruises, a legal claim may not be worthwhile. But if you suffered moderate to severe injuries, you could be eligible for damages not only for economic losses such as medical bills and lost earnings, but also for noneconomic losses such as pain and suffering and psychological distress. Your medical report will be very helpful in determining whether or not you have a case.
Evidence of Negligence/Liability
Even if you have suffered significant compensable losses because of your injury, you will still need to prove that another party was liable. Sometimes, this is fairly cut and dry, such as if another driver ran a red light and crashed into you. At other times, however, fault may be in question. When this is the case, a thorough investigation will be needed, which may include reviewing the police report, interviewing witnesses, reviewing any available visual evidence, and bringing in accident reconstruction experts and other specialists for assistance.
Proving liability is especially important in a state like Alabama, where they apply the “contributory negligence” legal standard. Under contributory negligence, if an injured party is found to be even 1% at fault for the underlying accident or event that caused the injury, they can be barred from recovering damages. You can be sure that insurance companies will attempt to use Alabama’s defendant friendly legal standard against you, so if there is any question at all over who was at fault, it is absolutely essential to retain strong legal counsel.
Time Elapsed Since the Injury
In Alabama, the statute of limitations for most personal injury claims is two years from the date of the injury. This means that you have a two-year deadline to file a personal injury lawsuit, otherwise, your lawsuit will most likely be thrown out of court. There are times in which the statute of limitations is shorter, such as if you are suing a government entity, in which case it could be six months or a year depending on which entity you are suing.
The clock starts on the statute of limitations as soon as the injured party knows or should reasonably have known about the injury. There are some cases, such as with repeated exposure to toxic substances for example, when an injury is not discovered until years later. Generally, the clock would start at the first sign or symptom.
If you have extensive injuries, strong evidence of negligence, and you are within Alabama’s statute of limitations, you may have a viable personal injury case. However, you will still need to find out if there are recoverable assets that are worth pursuing. In most accident injury cases, damages are recovered through the defendant’s liability insurance policy. But if the defendant was uninsured or did not have a sufficient amount of insurance, then you may be able to recover compensation through the uninsured/underinsured motorists (UM/UIM) portion of your own auto insurance policy. If there is not enough available from these sources, you may be able to file a personal injury lawsuit directly against the defendant if he/she has assets that can be recovered.
How Much is My Injury Case Worth
Alabama Law Regarding Caps on Personal Injury Lawsuits
In the past, Alabama imposed limits on the amount of money an injured person could collect in an injury case, particularly those related to medical malpractice. The Alabama Supreme Court ruled this practice unconstitutional. That means the state imposes no limits on damages in a personal injury case against a private individual or business, except for punitive damages. Punitive damages refer to compensation awarded to the plaintiff for the sole purpose of punishing egregious behavior by the defendant. Additionally, Alabama caps damages at $100,000 for any personal injury case against a city, town, or county.
Categories of Compensatory Damages Paid in Personal Injury Cases
Most money awarded in a personal injury case compensates the injured person for financial loss, physical suffering, and emotional trauma. As discussed above, punitive damages may also be awarded in cases where the defendant’s actions were especially reckless and showed little to no regard for the safety of others. Monetary losses are much easier for a jury to assess and award than more subjective categories like pain and suffering. These types of compensatory damages include:
- Cost of past, present, and future medical care: In a successful lawsuit, plaintiffs typically receive payment for medical costs they have already incurred and an estimate for costs they expect to incur in the future. This covers such things as hospital admissions, physical therapy, equipment needed to make the home handicapped accessible, and counseling for psychological trauma.
- Lost wages and loss of future earning potential: If you’re employed and cannot work due to your injuries, you should receive payment for lost wages. You’re also entitled to compensation if your injuries force you to accept a lower-paying job, ineligible for promotions, or stop working altogether.
- Reimbursement for property loss or damage: This can include repair or replacement of your vehicle, equipment in your vehicle such as a computer for work, damage to your home, and several other types of property damage.
Estimating the cost of future medical expenses and loss of earning potential can be challenging. The insurance company representing the other party will naturally try to minimize these losses and expenses as much as possible. Fortunately, the Alabama personal injury attorneys at The Alsobrook Jackson Law Firm have years of experience fighting insurance companies whose only concern is paying as little as possible to injured people, while protecting their bottom line. We uncover the evidence you need to show the full financial impact the accident has had on your life.
Compensatory damages can also include payments for non-monetary injuries. The amounts of these payments can be hard to predict and often depend on an appeal to the emotions of jurors. Common types of non-monetary compensatory damages include:
- Pain and suffering: An accident can leave you with chronic pain for the rest of your life. Alabama law recognizes this, which is why it allows juries to consider compensation for pain and suffering.
- Emotional distress: This may be included with pain and suffering and sometimes awarded as a separate category. It compensates personal injury victims for stress, depression, anxiety, and other emotional difficulties caused by the accident.
- Loss of consortium: This refers to the loss of the emotional and physical relationship the injured person enjoyed with their spouse prior to the accident. Changes to parent and child relationships may also be considered. Unlike other categories of compensatory damages, loss of consortium is paid directly to the spouse, parent, or other affected person.
- Loss of enjoyment: If the accident prevents the injured person from enjoying hobbies, recreational activities, travel, exercise, and other types of enjoyment, he or she may receive loss of enjoyment compensation.
If you have suffered a serious injury due to the negligence of another party, it is important to discuss the matter first with an experienced personal injury attorney. There is too much at stake and the consultation is complimentary. Please do not try to settle with the insurer for the other side without strong legal counsel in your corner.
Alsobrook Law Group wants to help you seek fair compensation for the injuries you suffered. Call our Opelika office at 334-345-2765 so we can begin the conversation.