So you have been injured in a car accident, what now? Often one of the first questions people have is “what damages can I recover?” “how will I be compensated?” Well the law in Alabama usually applicable to car accidents are so called causes of action of negligence and/or wantonness.
Negligence is a common law cause of action which arises when one person owes someone a so called “duty” or “duty of care.” In the context of a car accident people who are driving on public thoroughfares have a well recognized and established duty of care to operate their vehicle safely. While this duty arises from years of case law, there are also statutory obligations which can come into play. This so called “rules of the road” are codified in the Alabama Code. If someone breaches their common law “duty of care” by driving in an unsafe manner or contrary to the quote “rules of the road” and an accident results they can be held liable under a negligence theory because they have (1) breached a duty of care, which (2) resulted injury or damage to another person. Therefore many times when you see a complaint filed in court regarding an accident case you will see as the cause of action a claim for negligence.
Often times the subject of punitive damages comes up in the context of personal injury cases. People often want to know what punitive damages are available to them as injured persons or if they are at fault when punitive damages as a risk if they risk exposing themselves to punitive damages. Notably punitive damages are not available pursuant to a negligence cause of action. If one is sued only for negligence, the only damages recoverable are so called compensatory damages also referred to as “out of pocket” or “special” damages. Notably these damages do include claims for pain and suffering related to an injury. So if one sues only for negligence one could recover such items as medical expenses, loss wages and damages for the physical pain that they undergo as a result of being injured. However they would not be able to recover punitive damages or damages punishing the other party for their wrongful conduct. This does not mean that punitive damages can never be recovered in a car accident case. If someone’s conduct is especially egregious or grossly negligent, for instance someone is drinking and driving and the results of them drinking and driving an accident occurs their conduct may rise to the level of “wantonness” or reckless conduct. In that case punitive damages could be available.
Wantonness can be viewed as negligence on steroids. When someone is so negligent that it is almost certain that some harm is going to result. Drinking and driving or texting while driving might be an example of this. Running a red light on purpose to beat someone in a race, while not meaning to get into an accident but resulting in one could be an example of wantonness. In these sorts of situations in addition to the compensatory damages already discussed, damages for punitive damages are to punish the wrong doer or tortfeasor might be available. Briskman and Binion has a long history of obtaining verdicts and settlements in favor of their client in all aspects of personal injury cases including car accident cases. We are continually resolving cases on behalf of our clients in this area.
If you have any questions in regard to your car accident please do not hesitate to reach out. We stand ready to help.