Comparative Negligence in Alabama

Under Alabama’s contributory negligence law, you cannot collect damages from a car accident unless you’re found 0% at fault.
Written by Tiffany Leung
Reviewed by Kathleen Flear
is a pure contributory negligence state, meaning that you can only recover damages from a car accident if you were 0% at fault.
Many find this law too harsh, because even if you’re deemed 1% responsible for an accident, Alabama law prevents any payment of compensation from the party assigned 99% of the blame. 
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What is comparative negligence?

Comparative negligence allows plaintiffs to claim damages in accordance with the fault assigned to them. 
Take a scenario where an accident happened involving you and another driver. If you are assigned 20% of the fault, you will have to cover 20% of the damages. On the other hand, since the other driver is assigned 80% of the fault, he/she will be responsible for paying the rest of the 80% of damages.
Personal injury lawsuits and third-party
insurance claims
both use this principle to determine fault and compensation. Either a judge or jury will assign the responsibility in personal injury suits. When it comes to insurance claims, insurance companies will use this principle to calculate the proportion of the damages they’ll cover after an accident.

Comparative negligence vs. contributory negligence

Comparative negligence can be split into three categories: pure comparative negligence, partial or modified comparative negligence, and contributory negligence. Depending on the state, one of these principles will be followed: 
  • Pure comparative negligence: The injured party may claim for damages according to the percentage they’re at fault. 
  • Partial/modified comparative negligence: The injured party may claim for damages according to their percentage of fault if it is below 50 or 51% (depending on the state). 
  • Pure contributory negligence: The injured party may not claim for any damages if they share any percentage of fault. 
Only 12 states follow the pure comparative negligence principle, and 5 states follow the pure contributory negligence principle. 

What is Alabama’s contributory negligence law? 

Alabama is one of the 5 pure contributory negligence states in the country. Under Alabama law, you are not entitled to damage recovery even if you are only 1% at fault for a
car accident
If you are found to be at fault in any way, you cannot file for any compensation with the other driver’s insurance. In other words, you will be responsible for 100% of your damages and medical bills—even if you can prove the other party is partially at fault.  

How is fault decided?

Insurance companies will use evidence submitted with the claim and police reports to assign fault in a car accident. 
When you’re at the scene of an accident, always try to record as much evidence as possible and call the police if necessary. This could include the date and time of the accident, the weather and
road conditions
, and the
make and models
of the cars.
Speaking to witnesses and taking photographs of the damage will also give a more objective view of the accident to back up your testimony and help insurance companies assign blame more accurately. 

How does car insurance work with comparative negligence? 

Since Alabama is a pure contributory negligence state, you cannot file a claim with another driver’s insurance company even if you have any fault in an accident. You or your insurance will be responsible for your own repairs and medical bills. 
As an example, suppose you’re driving in Alabama and another car
turns right on a red light
as you are passing the intersection. While you see the car, you can't stop in time because you’re driving above the posted speed limit, and you end up hitting the car. 
After investigating the accident, the insurance companies found that the other driver turned right on a red light without checking because they were
texting and driving
. The insurance company awards 80% of the blame to the other driver for
distracted driving
, and 20% to you since you were speeding and couldn’t stop in time. 
Under Alabama’s contributory negligence law, you cannot claim with the other driver’s insurance company since you are partially at fault. However, if you were injured, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. Personal injury law is complex in Alabama and we suggest you contact an Alabama injury attorney to guide you through the process.
Note: This rule only applies to those over the age of 14. Courts have held that children younger than 14 cannot be contributorily negligent.
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Yes. Insurance companies will calculate your premium based on demographics, driving history, amount of fault, and other factors. As a result, you can expect an increase of at least 20% to your premiums if you were found at fault.
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