When an individual is injured because of the negligent actions or omissions of another party, they deserve to be compensated. This typically involves negotiating a settlement with the responsible party’s insurance company or filing a personal injury lawsuit. In Alabama, there is a strict time limit for filing an injury claim. This is known as the “statute of limitations.” An injured party must initiate a legal claim within the designated statute of limitations in order to recover damages for their injury.
Damages in Alabama Personal Injury Cases
Compensatory damages that may be available in a personal injury lawsuit can be broken down into two general categories: economic damages and non-economic damages. Economic damages are those which can be quantified, such as damage to personal property, hospitalization costs, cost for surgeries and other types of medical treatment, rehabilitation, lost wages, and loss of earning capacity. Non-economic damages are intangibles that are more difficult to assign a dollar value to. Examples may include physical pain and suffering, emotional distress, and diminished quality of life.
In order to recover compensation for a personal injury in Alabama, you must prove that the other party was 100% responsible. Under the state’s “contributory negligence” legal doctrine, if you are found to be even 1% at fault for the underlying incident that caused the injury, you may be barred from recovering damages.
Alabama Two-Year Rule for Personal Injury Lawsuits
Alabama Code Section 6-2-38 sets a two-year deadline for filing a civil lawsuit for “injury to the person” based on another party’s negligence. This includes incidents such as auto accidents, slip and fall accidents, medical malpractice, and numerous other types of personal injuries. In general, the two-year clock starts running on the date when the event that resulted in the injury occurs. In cases in which a plaintiff could not reasonably have known about the injury within the two-year time frame, they generally have six months from the date of the discovery of the injury to initiate a legal action.
Exceptions to Alabama’s Two-Year Statute of Limitations
There are a few exceptions to the two-year filing deadline in Alabama. For example, if an injured party was a minor or mentally incapacitated at the time of the injury, they generally have two years from the date the injured party turns 19 or is declared sane. This exception does not always apply, however; and in any case, there is an overall filing deadline of 20 years from the date of the underlying incident.
There are also exceptions for injured parties who want to initiate a legal action against a government entity. If the claim is being filed against a city or town in Alabama, you must file a written notice of claim within six months of the date of injury. If the claim is against a county, you must file a written notice within one year of the injury date.
There are some cases in which you may not be initially aware that a municipality or county is one of the parties responsible. For example, if you are injured in a car accident and the driver was a government employee who was “on the clock” at the time of the accident, you may have a claim against both the individual and their employer. This is one of the reasons it is extremely important to have your case reviewed by a skilled personal injury attorney as soon as possible after you become aware of your injury.
What Happens if I Miss the Filing Deadline?
Missing the filing deadline for a personal injury claim can be a fatal blow to your case. If you are past the deadline and you try to bring a legal action, the responsible party will almost certainly bring this up and move to have your case dismissed. The motion for dismissal will most likely be granted unless your case falls into one of the exception categories.
Allowing the filing deadline to pass can also be a problem if you are trying to negotiate an out-of-court settlement. This is often the case with accidents in which the injured party is dealing with the other party’s insurance carrier. If the parties are unable to reach an agreement during the two-year window, the injured party loses their negotiating leverage. Insurance companies know this, and one of their common tactics is to delay communications and even “go dark” for several months in hopes of running out the clock.
Speak with a Seasoned Alabama Personal Injury Lawyer
If you or someone close to you has been injured in an accident, you need to be mindful of the time limits for bringing an injury claim. As soon as possible after the incident, contact a personal injury attorney to have your case thoroughly assessed and discuss your rights and legal options. At M. Adam Jones and Associates, we have extensive experience and a successful track record with even the most complex accident injury cases, and we work closely with our clients to provide the strong personalized representation they need and deserve. For a free consultation with one of our attorneys, contact us today at 334-699-5599, or send us a message through our online contact form.