McCutcheon and Hamner have developed a personal injury law practice that consists almost exclusively of suing insurance companies for personal injury. We often are asked questions about different types of automobile insurance. Many people are unsure about what their vehicle insurance covers and what triggers that coverage. The following is a list of common automobile insurance coverage.
Liability coverage for another person or automobile damaged as a result of your carelessness. Liability coverage is purchased for a specific car and that coverage generally follows that car. Liability Insurance coverage is mandatory in Alabama. If you have liability coverage only and the other automobile driver either disputes who was at fault or is uninsured it will be difficult to have your car repaired in a timely fashion. No one will pay for you to rent a car and if you don't get your car out of storage, you will be charged a daily fee that adds up quickly.
Collision coverage is insurance to repair your car if you collide with another object whether or not it is your fault. Often our clients will have collision coverage and a car damaged through someone else’s carelessness and if that person has no insurance,or their insurance disputes or "investigates", then your collision will pay to have your car repaired. With collision insurance you can force your automobile insurance company to pay for your car to be repaired no matter who was at fault. You will have to pay your deductible but they will have to fix your car and get their money back from the other side.
Comprehensive coverage is similar to collision and covers your car in the event of fire, theft, glass breakage regardless of fault.
Uninsured Motorist Insurance
Uninsured motorist coverage follows both the car and driver for personal injury. In other words, if an uninsured driver injures you or someone in your car and you have uninsured motorist coverage then that coverage would pay for your medical bills, pain and suffering, loss of wages, etc. If you are in someone’s else’s car and they have uninsured motorist coverage and you are injured by a uninsured driver then you are covered from the car you are in and if you and your spouse have two cars at home, then you have two more uninsured motorist coverage available to you depending on the severity of the injuries, for a total of three policies, usually for $20,000 each.
Medical Payment Insurance
Medical payment coverage is coverage fro your medical bills arising out of the use of the insured automobile without regard to fault for the occupants of the insured vehicle. Medical payment coverage is typically purchased in increments of $1,000, $5,000 and $10,000. Medical payment coverage was originally designed to pay health insurance deductibles and out of pocket expenses, however, hospitals now want to know not only who your health insurance coverage is with, they now want to know who your automobile insurance is with. They will bill this coverage dry. If you have health insurance coverage, don't tell the hospital who your car insurance is with so you can use your medical payment coverage for deductibles and other out of pocket expenses.
Alabama is one of the few personal injury contributory negligence states. What that means is that if a person contributes to their own injury, they may not recover. Most states are comparative negligence states and under that type of law, the negligence of the parties is compared and deductions are made depending on a percentage of fault assigned.
Car wreck cases like most injury cases are what lawyers call "tort" cases. These are injury cases where the law imposes a duty to act in a manner that does not cause harm to others. Negligence has nothing to do with cases involving contracts or wills and estates but almost entirely with causing harm or injury to another person or their property.
An example of contributory personal injury negligence might be if one person is speeding and another person pulls out in front of them and fails to yield the right of way, neither party will be able to successfully bring a claim against the other in Alabama because both parties are at least 1% at fault for the accident.
In a comparative personal injury negligence state, if the party who was speeding was 10% at fault and their case was worth $100,000.00, the jury would merely deduct 10% from the $100,000.00 to account for their share of the accident.
Contributory personal injury negligence must be proven but it is a complete bar to recovery if you were even 1% at fault in your injury, in the state of Alabama.
By Alabama statute, automobile insurance companies are required to provide uninsured motorist coverage unless this uninsured motorist automobile insurance is rejected in writing by the insured.
Uninsured motorist insurance also means an under-insured motorist. What this means is that if someone is injured by an at-fault driver who does not have any insurance or does not have enough insurance(under-insured) this uninsured motorist coverage pays for bodily injury over and above what the at-fault driver has for your personal injury.
McCutcheon and Hamner have been handling uninsured motorist cases for more than 20 years and personal injury attorneys read the car wreck cases where other personal injury lawyers got it wrong. Uninsured motorist is a somewhat difficult area of the law where attorneys basically have to follow a pre-set formula to make certain that their personal injury clients are able to collect all of the benefits that are available to them in the event of serious personal injury.
The Alabama Supreme Court has held that failure to give notice of claim to the uninsured motorist insurance company voided this coverage. In this case the Alabama Supreme Court ruled in an unanimous decision that the failure to notify the uninsured motorist insurance company invalidated the coverage bought and paid for by the insured.
If someone is injured by an uninsured/under-insured driver they must promptly notify their uninsured motorist insurance company. The insurance card or insurance coverage declaration sheet will say UM/UIM which indicates that you have this type of coverage. Alabama state law allows the stacking of three policies if you have three cars but typically not more than three.
Not only must notice be given to the insurance company of the claim, the company must be given an opportunity to evaluate the claim before settlement with the at-fault driver’s insurance company. If that is not done, according to this recent Alabama Supreme Court decision, benefits will not be paid for insurance that you paid for. When settlement is reached with the at-fault driver's insurance company they must not be given a general release of all claims but give a special release prepared by a lawyer who is familiar with these claims. The law requires only a "pro tanto" release which allows a person to pursue their UM/UIM benefits. Even if you don't have UM coverage, but the car you were riding in does, you may be able to make a claim for that coverage.
Our experienced personal injury attorneys here with McCutcheon and Hamner see accident victim after accident victim. We have a steady stream of people who are injured and we hear stories of how they were injured and how their injuries affect their ability to live their lives. We have never seen a case where the monetary compensation was worth the injury. We have practiced accident and personal injury law for over 20 years and can tell you that while most injuries heal, people that break bones never fully recover and often can tell the weather through the development of arthritis. We get to know our clients and see how the injuries they have suffered affect them at home, work and in their relationships with their families.
Some of the most preventable car accidents are side impact cases. When a car is hit in the side or "T-boned" there just isn’t enough space between the impact and the people in the car hit from the side for the car to adequately protect its occupants. What can happen is that the head of the driver breaks the side glass, hits the hood of the car, and the person bounces back into the car severely injured of dead. Sometimes you can see marks on the hood from this terrible situation.
If everyone would develop the habit of looking both ways before entering into an intersection, most of these cases could be prevented. Develop the habit of making sure that both ways are clear before entering the intersection and do not rely on the traffic signal. teach the people in your family to look both ways before they enter into an intersection. Drive defensively and assume the other driver is not going to stop.
The advances in car safety that have been brought about in some measure through lawyers efforts has resulted in cars that have electronic stability control, anti-lock brakes, airbags and working seat-belts. These advances in safety are being offset by a lack of concentration on driving through the use of cell phones and texting. These distractions cause accidents. Accidents cause injuries. Buckle up and drive defensively.