presented by: Frank S. Buck P.C., Personal Injury
No-Doubt Liability & Contributory Negligence in Auto Accidents
Automobile accidents are typically litigated under the theory of negligence. Negligence requires four basic elements: a duty, breach of that duty, causation, and damages. Under Alabama law, drivers owe a duty to others on the road to drive with reasonable care. Essentially, we all must act as a reasonable person would when driving. Breaching that duty by driving carelessly, such as by texting while driving or taking one’s eyes off the road for a protracted period, may cause an accident and result in damages. If someone drives in an unreasonable manner and hits another vehicle because of it, that person is legally liable for the resultant damages. The determination of liability depends on the facts of each case, and establishing liability can be difficult at times. However, certain types of automobile accidents leave little or no doubt as to who is at fault; this is sometimes known as “no-doubt” liability. If a driver hits you from behind, or rear-ends you, while you are stopped, it is almost never considered your fault. The Alabama Rules of the Road require a vehicle to be able to stop safely whenever traffic has come to a halt ahead of it. To this end, drivers must leave sufficient braking distance between their cars and those ahead of them. The damage to the vehicles is particularly telling in such cases; the front of the vehicle that rear-ended another will be damaged, while the back of the vehicle that was rear-ended will be.
While liability is usually not disputed in rear-end automobile accidents, there are exceptions. Alabama is a pure contributory negligence state,meaning that, if an accident is even 1% your own fault, you cannot recover money from the one who hit you. If a driver fails to act with reasonable care and is hit by another driver, their own negligence may prevent a successful lawsuit, even if the accident was technically or mostly the fault of another. Essentially, drivers must take reasonable steps to protect themselves from harm while driving. For example, in a rear-end case, if the vehicle that was rear-ended has malfunctioning taillights, that is considered negligence on the part of the driver, and it will bar recovery under the theory of contributory negligence. In sum, always make sure to drive carefully, pay attention to the road and other vehicles, and make sure to keep your taillights in working order.
-Frank S. Buck, P.C., Attorneys at Law have been offering professional legal services and serving Alabama citizens for over 40 years. We have experienced trial attorneys who have over 89 years of combined trial experience. You can reach us 24 hours a day at (205) 933-7533. Please call us for a free consultation.