There is a reported car crash every 3 minutes and 27 seconds in Alabama. In fact, the average Alabama driver has a 90% chance of getting in a car accident in their lifetime. With 19 highways running through the state, you need to know Alabama car accident laws to keep yourself safe.
Not sure where to start? Keep reading to learn:
- How to report an accident
- If Alabama’s a no-fault state
- When you really need legal representation
Our complete Alabama car accident law guide includes all the info you need to know in case of collision.
What to Do During the Crash
Alabama car accident laws require drivers to immediately stop their car during a collision (Alabama Code §32-10-1). You may move your vehicle out of the flow of traffic, but stay close to the scene.
Make sure you and any passengers are safe from additional harm, and check for injuries. Call 911 if it seems anyone may need medical attention. It’s actually the law in Alabama for you to reasonably render aid to anyone hurt in a crash.
Also call the police. If you don’t 911 call, you can dial *47 (*HP) to reach highway patrol. Per Ala. Code § 32-10-5, drivers must report any accidents with injuries or death to law enforcement right away.
You don’t have to call the police if there’s only property damage. However, some injuries show up well after the fact so it’s never a bad decision to alert law enforcement. It’s also a smart move if the property damage looks extensive.
Finally, AC §32-10-2 mandates that any Alabama drivers must exchange information in a car accident. Here’s what you must legally exchange, or leave in a conspicuous place if you hit an unoccupied vehicle:
- Full Name
- Registration number of the involved vehicle
- Driver’s License, upon request
Also note the make, model, and year of the other driver’s vehicle along with license plate number and issuing state.
Finally, take pictures of the crash, damages, and surroundings. If there are witnesses, try to talk to them and get their contact information as well.
How to Report a Car Accident in Alabama
Even with law enforcement, drivers involved in injuries or more than $250 in property damage must still self-report. Within 30 days of the collision, you must complete the Alabama Department of Public Safety’s Form SR-13. This is also necessary if a driver hits and damages an unoccupied car or other property, including highway fixtures.
Only submit this form if you believe the other driver is responsible and you have not received compensation. This form contains a “claims” section and will allow the agency to take action against the uninsured driver.
Finally, don’t think you can be sneaky and get your car repaired without anyone knowing you had an accident. AC §32-10-10 requires shop owners to report vehicles brought in for repairs from a suspected crash within 24 hours. Legally, they must submit the:
- Engine number
- Registration number
- Name and address of the vehicle’s owner or operator
How to Get a Copy of Your Official Police Report
Any police officer who responds to a crash must submit a written report within 24 hours of completing their investigation. These collision reports are frequently the most compelling evidence in future court cases so it’s important to ensure they’re correct.
You can purchase a copy of your crash report online on the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA) website. It’s usually available within 15 days of the accident. You’ll need an email, credit card, and crash information for access.
What Happens If I Don’t Report an Accident?
Alabama car accident laws are tough on individuals who fail to properly report accidents.
If the accident results only in property damage, a driver who doesn’t report it risks a Class A misdemeanor charge. That could mean up to one year in jail and/or a $6,000 fine.
If your crash led to someone’s death, not reporting could get you a Class C felony conviction. Obviously, the penalties for a felony may be even greater, with longer jail time and heftier fines.
In other words, it’s always better to report an accident in Alabama even if you think it’s a minor fender-bender.
Is Alabama a No-Fault State?
Alabama is actually an at-fault or “tort” state. That means if another driver causes your crash, you’re within your rights to sue them for damages. Unfortunately, it’s not that easy since Alabama is one of only four states that follows a pure contributory negligence system.
Negligence Laws in Alabama After a Car Accident
Pure contributory negligence tends to favor the defendant. That’s because even if you’re found 1% at-fault, you cannot receive damages. That means the other driver could be 99% responsible for the collision and you’ll still lose out.
Most states have abandoned this system in favor of comparative negligence, where the less at-fault driver can recover damages. But unfortunately for their residents in Alabama, Maryland, North Carolina, and Virginia still follows these rules.
Never Talk to Insurance Adjusters Without a Lawyer
Because of these extremely restrictive laws in Alabama, anyone in a collision should immediately consult with an auto accident attorney. Not only is it harder to win damages in court, but insurance claims adjusters tend to use the same determinations.
While you may think your insurance provider is working for you, never forget their job is actually to minimize their payouts. If a court finds you some percentage at-fault, an insurance claims adjuster may try to use that against you.
However, having a skilled lawyer in your corner can help protect you from accepting unscrupulous low-ball settlement offers. You need an expert on your corner to protect your Alabama car accident case.
Alabama Car Insurance Laws
Though it might be challenging to claim damages against another Alabama driver, you’re still on the hook if they’re fully at-fault. For example, in cases where you’re the one who damages someone else’s property —like if you hit a parked car.
As a result, like most states, Alabama requires all drivers to carry some type of liability insurance. This is to ensure you can pay at least some of the damages in case of an accident (§32-7A-4).
In Alabama, the minimum liability insurance policy amounts are 25/50/25, which means:
- $25,000 for bodily injury/death of one person per accident
- $50,000 for bodily injuries/deaths of two or more people per accident
- $25,000 for property damage per accident
Alabama law also requires that all liability policies offer coverage for Uninsured or Underinsured Motorists (§32-7-23). Although the coverage is optional, it’s usually inexpensive so it’s wise to keep it on your policy. Especially since Alabama ranks 7th for the highest percentage of uninsured drivers in the U.S.
Some people will choose to carry even higher coverage amounts since it’s pretty easy to use up the minimums. Also, remember that minimum liability insurance only covers the other driver’s damages in an accident where you’re responsible. You need additional insurance coverage for your own damages.
Additional Coverage Options
Since your liability insurance won’t cover your own damages, it’s wise to carry additional personal vehicle insurance. Especially in Alabama, it’s very challenging to sue for damages.
- Most drivers should consider taking out collision coverage since this pays to replace or repair your own automobile after a crash.
- MedPay coverage may be another good option since it covers medical bills for you and any of your passengers.
Both collision coverage and MedPay will kick in even if you’re at-fault for the accident.
Proof of Coverage
Every driver in Alabama must provide proof of insurance if asked to show it to a police officer (§32-7A-6). It can be in paper or digital form, but you should always have it handy.
Driving without insurance in Alabama can get you a Class C misdemeanor charge. That carries penalties of up to three months in jail and a $500 fine for a first offense.
Types of Damages For Car Accidents in Alabama
Even though it may be more difficult to win damages in Alabama, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pursue a case.
This is especially true when it’s clear the other driver was 100% at-fault, like if they were caught drunk driving. In general, there are three types of damages a plaintiff may seek in Alabama:
Economic damages are the measurable monetary damages a person experiences as a result of a car accident. These may include:
- Medical treatment (immediate and ongoing)
- Property damage (vehicular and otherwise)
- Wage loss (time off work and missing employment opportunities)
- Costs for assistive devices (like wheelchairs or prosthetics)
Non-economic damages — often called “general damages — are an attempt to compensate a victim for the non-monetary effects of the accident. These may be harder to prove since they’re less tangible, so keeping detailed records like eyewitness testimonies may help. These “injuries” may look like:
- Pain and suffering
- PTSD or anxiety
- Emotional distress
- Loss of companionship
- Reputational damage
- Disability/physical impairment
It is rare for successful claims to include punitive damages in Alabama because of the pure contributory negligence system. However, it can happen in particularly egregious cases such as a reckless driver who causes an accident with multiple deaths.
These damages are meant to serve as a deterrent and become part of a settlement purely to punish the defendant.
Limits on Damages
There used to be caps on general damages, but the Alabama Supreme Court found the limitations unconstitutional in 1991.
However, there are still a few caps in place. Punitive damage awards cannot be over three-times the value of compensatory damages or $1.5 million, whichever is greater according to Ala. Code § 6-11-21.
Also, there is a “municipal liability” cap according to Ala. Code § 11-93-2. Meaning, if the person who causes the accident is a public employee, like an on-duty police officer, there are limits. An award can be no more than $300,000 when two or more parties claim injuries and $100,000 for property damages.
Finally, Alabama is the only state with a “guest statute” limitation in Ala. Code § 32-1-2. It prohibits any passenger in Alabama from bringing a lawsuit unless the driver was acting willfully or recklessly.
Alabama Statute of Limitations
The same two-year time limit applies to wrongful death suits resulting from the accident. However, the countdown clock begins on the date of the victim’s passing.
If you only wish to pursue additional property damages, the statute of limitations for that is six years (§6-2-34).
If you fail to file on time, you’ll lose the opportunity to sue since a court will most likely deny your claim. You also stand a better chance of a positive settlement if you bring your case while the details are fresh.
How LegalASAP Can Connect You with a Local Auto Accident Lawyer
With the number of special provisions within Alabama car accident laws, it’s crucial you get a lawyer in this state. There are too many rules and regulations that can derail your claim if you don’t know what you’re doing.
If you are in a collision and need help navigating the system, please let us help. We can connect you with a car accident attorney in your area for a free consultation today.
Find out if you have a case, get assistance with your insurance negotiations, and receive the funds you deserve. With the right advocate, you can get back on the road to a better settlement in no time.
Kimberly Dawn Neumann
Kimberly Dawn Neumann is a multi-published NYC-based magazine and book writer whose work has appeared in a wide variety of publications ranging from Forbes to Cosmopolitan. She graduated summa cum laude from the University of Maryland, College of Journalism. For more, visit: www.KDNeumann.com, Instagram @dancerscribe, and Twitter @KimberlyNeumann