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Negligence is a key legal concept used to determine personal injury liability. Understanding the nuances of Alabama contributory negligence will help you navigate a personal injury lawsuit and understand the best steps to take to pursue compensation. A personal injury attorney can also advise you on your legal rights and how to maintain the best chances of maximum compensation. Get a free case review with Long & Long Injury Attorneys today.

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Types of Negligence in Alabama

In Alabama, negligence is generally defined as the failure to take reasonable care to avoid causing injury or loss to another person. There are several types of negligence recognized in Alabama law, including simple negligence, gross negligence, and contributory negligence. 

Simple negligence might involve a momentary lapse in attention, such as a driver accidentally running a stop sign. Gross negligence is a more severe form which shows reckless disregard for the safety of others, such as driving at high speeds in a school zone. Contributory negligence occurs when the plaintiff’s own negligence plays a role in causing their injury.

How to Establish Contributory Negligence

Alabama contributory negligence involves several critical elements that must be considered in personal injury cases. Here are the key components:

A lawyer sits at their desk facing a clipboard, stethoscope, gavel and sound block, and the scales of justice.

  1. Duty of Care: The first element involves establishing that the defendant owed a duty of care to the plaintiff. This duty varies depending on the relationship between the parties and the situation, but this generally refers to the obligation to act as a reasonable person would under similar circumstances.
  2. Breach of Duty: Once a duty of care is established, it must be shown that the defendant breached this duty through action or inaction that a reasonably prudent person would not have taken under the same circumstances.
  3. Plaintiff’s Contribution to the Harm: This is the crux of contributory negligence. It must be proven that the plaintiff was not responsible for the accident in any way and did not contribute to the harm they suffered. If the plaintiff is found to be even 1% at fault, they lose the right to recover any damages from other parties who may have been 99% at fault. 
  4. Causation: It must be shown that the breach of duty by the defendant caused the harm. In contributory negligence, the plaintiff’s own negligence must also have contributed causally to the resulting injury.
  5. Damages: Finally, it must be demonstrated that the plaintiff suffered actual damages as a result of the incident, such as physical injuries, financial losses, or emotional distress.

In Alabama, the application of contributory negligence is particularly stringent. This rule underscores the necessity of thorough investigation and robust legal argumentation in personal injury cases within the state.

Contributory vs Comparative Negligence

Alabama’s negligence law is unique to that of many other states due to the contributory negligence rule. Most other states follow a comparative negligence rule. This allows the plaintiff to recover damages even if they are partly at fault. The total amount of compensation they can receive is reduced by their percentage of fault. For example, if a plaintiff is found to be 20% responsible for an accident, their compensation would be reduced by 20%. There are variations within this doctrine; however, they are not applicable in Alabama:

  • Pure Comparative Negligence: Plaintiffs can recover damages even if they are 99% at fault, though their recovery is reduced by their percentage of fault.
  • Modified Comparative Negligence: Plaintiffs can only recover damages if they are less than 50%–or, in some states, less than 51%–responsible for the accident.

Alabama’s Negligence Law Makes Having a Lawyer Important

Due to the strictness of Alabama’s contributory negligence law, having legal representation is particularly important. A lawyer can help navigate the complexities of negligence laws and work to prove that you were not at fault for your injury. Without a lawyer, the chances of recovering damages can be significantly reduced due to the stringent requirements of proving you were 0% at fault.

If you’re unsure whether you’re eligible to receive compensation after an accident, contact a personal injury lawyer at Long & Long Injury Attorneys to discuss your case for free.

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