What if I was in a car wreck and wasn’t wearing my seatbelt…can I still win damages?

In Alabama you are required to wear a seat belt if the car is in motion and you are in the front seat.  Interestingly, if you are seated in the back seat of a car and over 15 years of age you are NOT required to wear a seat belt, even if the car is moving  (although, or course, it’s a good idea to always wear a seat belt, no matter which seat you’re in!).

But, what happens if you are in a car wreck and aren’t wearing a seat belt even though you’re in the front seat?

To answer that question we first have to discuss a concept called “contributory negligence.”

Under the contributory negligence principle, if an injured person negligently “contributed” to his own injury then he cannot recover damages (money) from anyone else who caused the injury.

For example, if you step into a busy intersection without looking for oncoming traffic and are hit by a car you may be “contributorily negligent” for your own injuries.

So, does not wearing a seat belt make you contributorily negligent for your injuries in a car wreck?

Alabama has rejected the so-called “seat belt defense,” which applies in some other states to award plaintiffs only the damages they would have recovered had they been wearing a seat belt.

Instead, in Alabama failure to wear a seat belt is NOT evidence of contributory negligence and does not limit the liability of an insurer. 

Of course, you should still wear a seat belt because seat belts save lives.  When used properly, a seat belt can reduce the risk of fatal injury by front seat passengers by up to 45 percent.

Don’t let an insurance company convince you to settle for less just because you weren’t wearing a seat belt.  Find an experienced personal injury attorney to help you maximize your recovery.

If you have been hurt in a car accident in Alabama you may be entitled to compensation.  Call or come by our Tuscaloosa office today for your free consultation

Car insurance is car insurance, right? WRONG! The insurance on your car is actually a collection of policies that protect you in different ways. Let’s go over the basics of each type of policy so that you can understand what your car insurance does for you.

Liability Coverage

Liability coverage takes care of certain expenses when you’re at fault in an accident. Up to the limits of your insurance policy, liability coverage will pay for the medical treatment and property damage sustained by third parties in an accident you caused, but it does NOT cover you or your passengers. No matter what kind of car you drive, you need liability insurance. In fact, Alabama law requires you to have it. To fulfill Alabama car insurance laws, you must have liability insurance with the following minimum coverage:
• $25,000 for bodily injury or death per person;
• $50,000 total for bodily injury or death per accident;
• $25,000 for property damage.

Keep in mind that these are NOT coverage recommendations – just the bare minimum needed to satisfy the Alabama Mandatory Liability Insurance Law.

What do those numbers mean? They are the maximum amounts that your insurance company will pay out for an accident. For example, if you have the minimum property liability coverage required by Alabama law, then your insurance company will pay out a maximum of $25,000 – any damages after that will be paid out of your own pocket.

Collision Coverage

Collision coverage may help pay for damage to your car after you’ve had an accident, possibly including replacement of your vehicle.

Comprehensive Coverage

This is an extra layer of coverage to help with unfortunate events besides collisions, things like break-ins, hail damage, theft, etc.

Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage

UM coverage helps protect you when you have an accident with another driver who has no insurance. UIM helps when the other driver does not have enough coverage . Did you know that as many as 1 in 8 drivers nationwide are uninsured, and around 30% of drivers do not carry enough insurance? In Alabama the numbers are even higher: according to the Insurance Research Council, around 18% of Alabama drivers were uninsured in 2015. Don’t count on other drivers to have enough insurance to take care of your injuries. Instead, protect yourself with a good UM/UIM policy.

Medical Payments Coverage and Personal Injury Policies

These types of policies provide additional coverage for medical expenses and sometimes even loss of income caused by an accident.

Gap Insurance (Guaranteed Auto Protection Insurance)

What if you owe more on your car than it’s worth? Gap insurance can help cover the cost to pay off the loan on your vehicle after a loss.

Miscellaneous Policies

Insurance companies offer a variety of other policies, including towing and labor coverage, rental car coverage, and even policies specific to classic cars.

Car insurance can be complicated. Even if you buy the right policies you may still need help after an accident making sure you receive the benefits of those policies. Insurance companies are in the business of selling insurance, not in the business of paying claims. That’s why you need an experienced personal injury lawyer fighting for you and making sure you get the compensation you deserve. Call us today at 205-553-5353 or come by our Tuscaloosa office and let us get started working for you.