How to File a Car Accident Claim in Alabama
After being hurt in an Alabama car accident, you must file a claim with an insurance company to seek compensation your injuries and other losses. For victims who have never been in a crash before, the claims process is unfamiliar territory. Knowing what to do — and what not to do — is very important to achieve the best possible outcome for your case.
The good news is that you don’t have to figure out these things alone. An experienced Phenix City car accident attorney from Bence Law Firm LLC can help file your claim and deal with any obstacles that may arise along the way.
Call or contact us today for a free consultation.
Steps to Take After a Car Accident in Alabama
You can start protecting your legal rights the moment after a crash occurs. If you’re able, taking the following steps can help in any future claim you make.
- Stop: In Alabama, you must stop any time you are involved in a car crash.
- Check for injuries: If you or anyone else in the accident is injured, call 911 immediately. If your injuries are not urgent, remain at the accident scene but go to an emergency room, doctor’s office, or medical clinic as soon as possible. Your medical records will be the foundation for your car accident claim. Fail to seek timely treatment, and claims adjusters may argue that you weren’t hurt or made your injuries worse by delaying.
- Call the police: Alabama law requires that all car accidents that involve injury, death, or significant property damage must be reported to the police. There is another important benefit of calling law enforcement. A police report may indicate the officer’s opinion of who was at fault for the crash, which can be important evidence when filing a car accident claim.
- Take pictures: Evidence is essential in a car accident claim. Photographs are especially useful. Pictures can help determine how the accident happened and who was at fault. Take snapshots of your injuries, property damage to the vehicles involved, and any other evidence that you think could be relevant (e.g., skid marks, a stop sign that the other driver ignored, road debris, etc.).
- Exchange information: All drivers involved in the accident should provide their names, contact information, drivers’ license numbers, license plate numbers, and insurance information to each other. Get the information even if the other driver tries to persuade you not to go through the insurance company for compensation.
- Talk to eyewitnesses: Witnesses are considered objective third parties and their testimony is weighed fairly heavily in court. If anyone saw your accident, it is important to get their contact information and even a brief statement, if possible.
- Do not assign blame: There will be time to sort out which driver was at fault for the crash, but right after the wreck is not it. Do not assign blame to anyone at the scene, and certainly do not accept blame. This can greatly hurt any claim you file later on.
- Call a skilled car accident attorney: Contact a lawyer as soon as possible after the crash. Insurance representatives will start calling you within hours. Don’t agree to give them a recorded statement about what happened or accept their first settlement offer. Let a trusted car accident attorney examine the facts of your case to determine your next steps. An attorney can also notify your insurance company if you haven’t done so. Even more importantly, a lawyer can speak to the other driver’s insurance company as well.
If you were critically injured in the wreck, don’t worry if these steps weren’t taken. Bence Law Firm is staffed by a talented legal team that can investigate the wreck and collect the evidence needed to support your claim. Your priority should be your health and recovery. We can handle the rest.
Alabama Car Accident Statute of Limitations
Every state has a time limit to file a car accident claim. In Alabama, you have two years from the date of the car accident to bring a claim against a negligent driver. Failure to file before the deadline could bar you from receiving compensation forever.
Many accident victims do not take action right away because they think that two years is a long time. But it’s really not. Before filing a claim, a lawyer must conduct an investigation, collect evidence, review medical records, and build a strong argument for the compensation that accident victims deserve.
An attorney will also need time to evaluate when the best time to file a claim will be. With catastrophic injuries, the ultimate outcome for a victim may not be known for months. Your lawyer will want to wait for you to reach maximum medical improvement (MMI) first. This is the point at which your doctor believes that you have recovered as much as can reasonably be expected given the nature of your injuries.
Alabama’s Car Insurance Rules and Requirements
Alabama requires all motorists in the state to carry auto insurance. The minimum requirements in Alabama are known as 25/50/25. This means that every driver must carry at least:
- $25,000 for bodily injury liability per person
- $50,000 for all bodily injuries in an accident
- $25,000 for property damage per accident
This coverage allows accident victims to pursue compensation from the at-fault driver’s insurance company. It’s important to note that you can only collect compensation up to the policy limits. The costs for medical care and lost wages can easily exceed the minimum amount for people who are seriously injured. A knowledgeable car accident attorney can help you explore whether there are other avenues for compensation after a wreck.
Will I Need to Go to Court for My Car Accident Claim?
Many accident victims are hesitant to file a car accident claim because they don’t want to go to court. This is understandable. No one wants to recall the trauma of a car accident, especially while they are trying to recover from serious injuries.
Fortunately, the vast majority of Alabama car accident claims settle out of court. Settlement negotiations take place between you, your lawyer and the insurance company of the at-fault party. Typically, a fair settlement can be reached during these negotiations. That means that you will not have to go to court.
However, there are times when an agreement cannot be reached. In those circumstances, your lawyer may recommend taking the case to trial. There are risks and benefits of a trial, so you should always have a detailed discussion with your car accident attorney before making a decision.
There might also be a reason to pursue trial if the at-fault driver’s policy limits do not adequately cover your losses. For example, the lifetime costs for someone with a brain injury or spinal cord injury can number in the millions. To seek additional compensation, you may be able to file a lawsuit directly against the at-fault driver.
Why Do I Need a Lawyer?
You are not required to hire a lawyer to handle your car accident claim. However, Bence Law Firm highly recommends that you do.
Attorneys have specific skills and training that can be critical assets in order to maximize your claim for compensation, such as:
- Ability to anticipate insurance arguments: Alabama is one of only a few states that prevents accident victims from obtaining compensation if they share any fault for the crash. That means that if you are even one percent at fault, you cannot recover any money whatsoever. Given this law, it’s certain that insurance companies will try to push the blame onto you. An experienced car accident lawyer will know when you are being unfairly blamed for the wreck and push back with a solid, evidence-based claim that protects your rights.
- Knowledge of court procedures: Filing claims against other parties requires a detailed understanding of how the court system works, what forms will be necessary, and the deadlines to file them. That’s a lot of extra work that you don’t need during your recovery.
- Understanding of legal jargon: Laws aren’t written in a basic, easy-to-understand style. A trained attorney learned how to interpret this jargon during law school and can help make sure that no small, yet important, details are missed.
- Experienced negotiating skills: Sitting across the table from the opposing counsel may be intimidating for those unfamiliar with how the settlement process works. Having a talented attorney who can handle negotiations for you will ensure that you don’t accidentally say something that jeopardizes your right to full compensation.
- Knowing the value of a case: No attorney can guarantee you a favorable result or particular dollar amount for your case. However, a good lawyer can make a general estimate of what a fair settlement could be based on the facts of your case and the outcomes of similar cases that came before yours.