What Is Contributory Negligence, and How Does It Apply to Alabama Injury Cases? | Belt, Bruner & Barnett Personal Injury Lawyers

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What Is Contributory Negligence, and How Does It Apply to Alabama Injury Cases?

May 24, 2023 | Personal Injury

Negligence is a concept in personal injury law that must be proven for an injured party to hold someone legally responsible for their damages. Negligence is essential to a successful personal injury claim across the U.S., but some states’ laws are much stricter and narrower than others — Alabama included. Understanding negligence in Alabama personal injury laws is crucial to the success of your claim.

Understanding Negligence in Your Personal Injury Case

Four elements of negligence must be proven in a personal injury case. These elements are:

  • Duty of care – the defendant owed the injured party a duty of care. For example, drivers are expected to follow the rules of the road and obey traffic laws.
  • Breach of duty – the defendant breached their duty of care. For example, someone who drives while intoxicated or distracted isn’t upholding their duty to follow the law.
  • Damages – the defendant suffered damages such as bodily injuries or property damage.
  • Causation – the defendant’s breach of duty is directly linked to the plaintiff’s damages and injuries.

Negligence is the core of a personal injury claim – in Alabama, proving the liable party’s negligence can make or break your case.

Alabama Is One of Few Contributory Negligence States

Many states follow the rule of comparative negligence, where fault can be split between a plaintiff and a defendant. An injured party can be partially responsible for their damages but still recover compensation from the more negligent party.

However, this is not the case in Alabama and a handful of other states. Alabama follows the doctrine of contributory negligence. Under this rule, plaintiffs are barred from recovering compensation if they share any degree of fault for their injuries – even just 1%.  Contributory negligence sets a high and challenging bar for personal injury plaintiffs, which is why establishing the other party’s complete fault is so important.

What Does Contributory Negligence Mean for Your Personal Injury Claim?

The defendant in your case can claim contributory negligence as a defense to avoid liability. Contributory negligence can apply in any personal injury scenario, such as:

  • Car accidents
  • Truck accidents
  • Slip and falls
  • Product liability
  • Dog bites
  • Wrongful death

Alabama’s contributory negligence doctrine means you must build an airtight case against the party who caused your injuries and demonstrate that you shared no fault in the accident. Doing so might seem daunting, but enlisting the help of a skilled and knowledgeable attorney will give you the best chance of success for your claim.

An attorney can build an airtight case against the party who caused your injuries by gathering evidence of your damages from medical bills, crash reports, photos and video footage, and more. They can also recruit expert witnesses and accident reconstructionists to show you weren’t at fault.

You have limited time to file a claim under Alabama’s statute of limitations – for personal injury claims, the statute is two years from the day of your injury. The faster you seek representation, the better your odds of a successful recovery.

Contributory Negligence Exceptions for Some Cases

Even though the contributory negligence rule is strict, it is not without exceptions. Three significant exceptions include:

  • Children under 14 cannot be contributorily negligent
  • Children under seven cannot be negligent at all
  • Plaintiffs with mental handicaps or incompetence cannot be negligent

Another exception applies to instances of wanton behavior, when a negligent party knows their actions could lead to the harm or injury of someone else. In cases like these, proving the other party’s recklessness could help you recover damages, even if you are partially at fault.

Call Belt, Bruner & Barnett P.C. for Help with Contributory Negligence

Clearing the bar of contributory negligence in Alabama can be challenging, and having strong legal counsel on your side can make all the difference.

The personal injury attorneys of Belt, Bruner & Barnett P.C. have years of experience with Alabama’s personal injury laws, including navigating contributory negligence. Our team has a record of success helping injury victims like you recover compensation, including more than 80 verdicts of $1 million or more. We can assess the viability of your case, walk you through your options, and advise you on next steps.

Contact us today at (205) 933-1500 or reach out online to schedule a free initial consultation.