A personal injury often results in higher costs than just medical bills. A person who has been seriously hurt may also face lost wages, emotional trauma, pain and suffering, difficulty handling everyday tasks, and a long road to recovery. Personal injury plaintiffs and defendants in Alabama should be aware of the legal process in that state.
Where to File Your Claim
Where a personal lawsuit should be filed depends on where the injury occurred. While there are some exceptions, if a personal injury occurred in Birmingham, for instance, the claimant should file in a court in that district.
The Statute of Limitations
Time is of the essence when filing a personal injury claim in Alabama. The statute of limitations for personal injury claims is two years. This means that a claimant has just two years after an injury occurs to file a lawsuit.
Filing a Personal Injury Claim
Once a claimant decides to pursue a personal injury lawsuit, the process is just beginning. After a complaint is filed, the defendant will be served with the appropriate documents, usually within 30 days. The defendant then has the chance to file a response before more formal procedures are underway.
Personal Injury Damages in Alabama
In Alabama, personal injury judgments may include costs for:
- Lost wages and potential future earnings
- Medical bills related to the incident
- Property loss or damage
- Pain and suffering
- Cost to hire help for household tasks, if needed
The circumstances of each case are different, resulting in different types of damage claims.
Contributory Negligence in Alabama
Alabama is a pure contributory negligence state. Under this strict doctrine, a claimant cannot collect damages for a personal injury if he or she was even partially to blame for the incident. The at-fault party cannot be held responsible if the victim contributed even 1 percent of the fault for the incident.
The Discovery Process
During the discovery phase, both parties may exchange questions in writing, called interrogatories. The defense may request medical records or even may ask the plaintiff to be examined by a physician of their choosing. And either side may turn to expert witnesses to help bolster their cases.
Settling Through Mediation
Depending on the unique circumstances of the case, parties may move toward negotiating a settlement or taking the matter to trial. Another option may be mediation. With mediation, an unbiased third party mediator determines a fair resolution of the case.
Going to Trial
While a number of personal injury cases are resolved either by settlement or mediation, a good number of them go to trial. This is the traditional courtroom proceeding that most people think of when they think of a lawsuit. It includes jury selection, opening statements, witnesses taking the stand, cross examinations, introduction of evidence, and closing statements, as each side presents its case for the court to consider.
Costs of a Personal Injury Case
Most personal injury lawyers charge contingency fees. This means the attorney collects a portion of the settlement or judgment—and doesn’t collect a fee at all if the case is not successful. There also may be other costs involved, such as court fees, money to pay expert witnesses, copying and other documentation charges, and more.
A personal injury lawsuit doesn’t necessarily end with a court ruling. There may be grounds to file post-trial motions or appeals. And the decision can be affirmed, reversed or remanded.
An Alabama Personal Injury Lawyer Can Help
Personal injury law is complex, and the rules vary by state. Personal injury attorneys who routinely handle cases in Alabama are uniquely familiar with local laws and legal processes.