Huntsville Car Accident Lawyers
Car accidents place an unnecessary burden on victims, resulting in injuries, disability, and potentially death. Accidents can involve a wide range of vehicles and situations, and it is important that North Alabama drivers understand how to remain safe on the road. The facts listed here will help drivers prevent injuries, property damage, or worse.
Although drivers take steps to avoid accidents, safe driving is a choice left to everyone on the road. Some motorists do not take driving seriously, and they cause accidents that require compensation, legal support, and potentially cause disability. When someone is hurt in a car accident, they should reach out to a Huntsville car accident lawyer and ask for assistance.
Why are Roads in North Alabama Challenging?
The roads in North Alabama can be challenging for motorists, as the mountainous terrain to the north gives way to urban and suburban streets in Huntsville. Alabama experiences heavy precipitation in the winter and spring, and wet roads make driving that much more difficult as vehicles transition from rural to suburban or urban roads.
Intense heat and humidity in the summer makes drivers uncomfortable, overheats their tires, and makes asphalt far more slippery than it would otherwise be. Visibility can decrease when bright sunlight shines directly on drivers, and extreme winds blow through the area in conjunction with major storm systems traveling from the west.
Alabama ranks 19th in the nation in overall road condition according to the Reason Foundation, but the state ranks 29th in rural fatalities, 36th in urban fatalities, and 37th in overall fatalities. Although Alabama appropriate funds on urban roads and overall maintenance, drivers must take responsibility for their actions. Drivers on interstates should exercise even more caution, as the state ranks 36th in urban interstate pavement condition and 24th in rural interstate pavement condition.
The Alabama Department of Transportation (Alabama DOT) compiles accident figures every year, and that data drives statewide initiatives. In 2018 alone, there were 158,925 automotive accidents among almost six million registered vehicles. Fatal accidents, traffic deaths, the number of registered vehicles, and the number of licensed drivers all increased, leading to more road congestion. The total number of car accidents, injuries, and economic losses have also been on the rise since 2009.
Accidents tend to spike during morning rush hour around 7:00 a.m. and afternoon rush hour between 3:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. when roads are most crowded. The Alabama DOT notes that most accidents occur within a 25-mile radius of the victim’s home and that accidents overwhelmingly occur on two-lane roads. These trends lead to over 50 percent of all accidents involving passenger cars, whereas another 39 percent involve pickups and SUVs. Family cars, then, are the most commonly involved vehicles on the roads.
What Brings Traffic to North Alabama?
Traffic in North Alabama comes from a wide range of sources as the area is teeming with industry, commerce, and busy roads. Interstates 65 and 565; U.S. Routes 43, 72, 431, and 231; and Alabama State Routes 17, 20, 53 and 255 crisscross North Alabama, allowing suburban traffic to enter the Huntsville area, while interstate traffic flows from Mississippi, Tennessee, and Georgia.
Redstone Arsenal is a post managed by the United States Army hosting a workforce of up to 40,000 people every day. The Army Materiel Command, Aviation and Missile Command, Missile Defense Agency, and Marshall Space Flight Center work within the grounds of the arsenal.
In conjunction with Redstone Arsenal, defense contractors in the area also keep their offices outside the base. Owing to its unique location just south of downtown Huntsville, Redstone Arsenal sends traffic to practically every part of the city.
Several Fortune 500 companies keep offices in Huntsville. Because the city hosts so many industries, the whole of North Alabama fills with people, as Huntsville alone added almost 50,000 residents since 1990. Commerce in Florence and Athens continually adds to the population, and traffic on Interstate 65 in Athens includes thousands of people traveling to the Gulf Shore every summer.
The University of Alabama in Huntsville adds to congestion, as it educates students from across the state, with an enrollment of just under 10,000. Heritage Christian University, Calhoun Community College, Huntsville Bible College, and the University of North Alabama bring even more traffic and relatively inexperienced drivers to the region.
Toyota and Mazda automotive factories in the area build tens of thousands of vehicles every year, employing thousands of residents. Large manufacturing companies such as these have massive trucks entering and exiting their facilities every day, causing a significant uptick in local congestion.
In addition, travelers from as far east as Atlanta might drive to the Huntsville airport to save money on otherwise expensive airfares. Huntsville is also known for Space Camp, located at One Tranquility Base in Huntsville. Travelers and school children from around the world descend on this facility throughout the year to learn more about spaceflight and the science behind becoming an astronaut.
What Types of Car Accidents Might Occur?
Accidents in North Alabama are no different from those occurring in any other part of the United States. Drivers find themselves in similar conditions, and they may be caught up in these accidents at any time. Common types of car accidents include the following:
Rear-end accidents. These often occur in traffic or near intersections. Congestion starts and stops at random intervals, and drivers may miscalculate how much they should accelerate or brake. Rear-end accidents also occur in parking lots or on residential streets. Certain areas allow parking on the street, and it is difficult to dodge vehicles that jut into the roadway. Rear-end accidents also occur when drivers use cruise control and do not properly adjust or brake as traffic slows.
Head-on accidents. Accidents involving a head-on collision occur when drivers are stuck in inclement weather or the dark and unincorporated areas of North Alabama. Because there are so many wooded and unlit roads, drivers must be as careful as possible. If the driver cannot see the lines on the road, they should slow down and sidle to the right as much as possible.
Sideswipes. Sideswipe accidents often occur because drivers do not see one another in their blind spots. Most people can relate to this feeling as they plan to slide into another lane and a car happens to be there. Some people are nearly struck when a larger vehicle cannot see them and changes lanes, taking up the space where they should be.
Evidence of this problem is found in non-intersection accident figures for 2018 showing that Morgan, Marshall, Jackson, Madison, Limestone, and Lauderdale Counties combined for over 8500 incidents. Given that 28 percent of all accidents occurred on four-lane roads, drivers must keep their guard up as the roads widen.
T-bone accidents. These accidents can occur in tight intersections because drivers roll through and do not see other vehicles. In 2018, Madison County experienced 8985 intersection accidents. Another 1860 occurred in Morgan County, 1618 in Marshall County, 527 in Jackson County, 766 in Limestone County, and 1560 in Lauderdale County. In rural locations, intersections have a mix of stop and caution lights. Some people do not notice that they must come to a complete stop, causing a tragic accident. These accidents also occur in suburban areas because of the narrow streets, preponderance of teen drivers, potentially confusing signage. Drivers hoping to turn may cause an accident when they do not see another vehicle approaching.
Roadside accidents. Accidents occurring on the side of the road most often involve law enforcement officers and stranded drivers. Alabama averages more than 150 roadside/shoulder accidents every year, and the Move Over law requires that drivers move over when an emergency vehicle of any kind is using the roadside or slow down if a lane change is not possible. In short, assume that someone is outside a vehicle and near the road if they pull over.
Although law enforcement officers are at risk every day, motorists who are changing tires, exchanging information after an accident, or adjusting cargo could be hurt by someone using the shoulder as a passing lane. Emergency lanes also serve as a temptation in heavy traffic, and drivers should not use these lanes to pass as law enforcement and first responders may speed down these lanes to the scene of an incident.
How Do I Avoid Common Causes of Car Accidents?
There are certain behaviors that drivers must reject if they hope to prevent accidents, property damage, and injuries. Common causes of car accidents should be met with a level of caution and avoidance that many drivers do not consider.
Distracted driving. To stop distracted driving, it helps to set down cell phones and use hands-free systems. Teenagers often have issues with distracted driving. One-fourth of teens involved in a recent study by the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute admit that they respond to at least one text message each time they drive.
Although distracted driving can cause all types of accidents, head-on and rear-end accidents are most common as drivers do not know when to stop or do not realize they are straying from their lane. Texting and driving makes motorists 23 times more likely to be involved in an accident, 90 percent of all accidents involve driver error, and distractions can mount, including watching videos, adjusting the stereo, talking to others, or reading maps.
Avoiding distractions requires a concerted effort on the part of both adults and teens. Drivers should set the phone aside, allow someone else to read the directions, or let the vehicle speak the directions. Drivers should not get involved in intense conversations in the car, and parents should do everything possible to occupy their children, allowing adults to focus on driving.
Drunk/impaired driving. Driving while impaired can cause sideswipes, head-on collisions, and T-bone accidents because of the reduced reflexes and cognition experienced by the driver. Drunk drivers can become reckless, but they often start and stop erratically, cannot maintain course, and drive far too slowly or quickly.
Drunk driving is easy to avoid if partiers use common sense, invite a designated driver, or ask for a ride from an outside source. Alabama sees a spike in fatal car accidents around major holidays such as New Year’s Eve and Day, Memorial Day, July 4th, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. Although it is fine to have a good time with friends and family, drivers must still be responsible.
Data curated by SafeWise shows that Alabama is the fifth worst state in America when counting drunk driving deaths. Lagging behind only New Mexico, North Dakota, South Carolina, and Wyoming, the 2018 study shows that Alabama has a death rate of 5.49 fatalities per 100,000 citizens. The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency notes that enhanced enforcement around the aforementioned holidays is critical in their fight to stop drunk driving. Moreover, a spokesman for the agency reminds drivers that they can be charged with a felony, up to and including homicide, if they cause an accident in which someone dies.
Drowsy driving. Motorists operating a vehicle while tired is part of an overworking epidemic in the United States, causing drivers to commute to and from work without enough rest. The driver is tired in the morning, and they could easily nod off for just a moment and cause a head-on accident. Drowsy drivers just leaving work are in the same position, and they could cause single vehicle accidents, strike pedestrians, or even cause wrong-way accidents. Even if the vehicle strikes a barrier, it could spin and cut across traffic, causing a multi-vehicle accident.
Although Alabama does not have drowsy driving in its legal code and police officers are not trained to spot drowsy drivers, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration believes about 1.5 percent of all crashes annually involve drowsy driving, causing about 1500 deaths, 71,000 injuries, and $12.5 billion in damage. Drivers must understand that they are more likely to fall asleep on long highways and rural roads with low lighting and little to no traffic, thus making them feel even more drowsy.
Speeding. Driving too fast can cause any type of accident at any time, as excessive speed makes cars difficult to drive, reduces reaction times, and adversely impacts visibility. Speeding also makes inclement weather more dangerous, as the vehicle is more likely to skid on ice, slide on wet pavement, or shift because of gusting winds.
Accounting for 12.1 percent of car accidents in 2019, speed can be a part of an accident even if it does not directly cause the accident. Alabama law specifically states that drivers should never drive faster than is reasonable given the conditions. This statute gives police officers more leeway to pull over and cite drivers who appear to make poor decisions.
It has been reported that approximately eight percent of accidents are linked to improper lane changes and starting an ill-advised lane change at high speeds makes the maneuver inherently more dangerous. Failing to yield the right of way at high speeds can cause an accident as two cars collide without warning. More than six percent of fatal accidents saw the victim run off the road, and it is far more likely that this will occur if the driver is speeding. Motorists should gauge their speed against the prevailing conditions and how they feel in that moment. Some people are more comfortable than others, and there is no shame in slowing down.
Additionally, Alabama has minimum speed limits in certain areas to avoid accidents. A slow driver could be seriously injured or killed if they do not keep pace with those around them. Alabama drivers are also encouraged to slow down when they see flags, flares, fuses, or railroad crossings.
Reckless driving and road rage. Incidents of reckless driving and road rage are such a serious issue in Alabama that the state legislature created a left lane law to address the problem. Drivers cannot linger in the left lane under this new law, and state troopers are participating in enhanced enforcement. The state refers to a study by AAA showing that 80 percent of drivers feel rage when cars in the left lane do not move fast enough or get out of the way. In Alabama, drivers cannot stay in the left lane for more than one and a half miles without moving back to the right. In effect, the state wants to avoid road rage situations that can result in physical violence, gun violence, and even murder.
Do My Minor Injuries Require Medical Treatment?
Minor injuries require medical attention because the condition can deteriorate quickly. Some victims do not know they are hurt, and they may go on for quite some time before they notice the extent of their injuries.
Whiplash. This injury involves the back-and-forth snap of the neck in any accident. These injuries occur most often in rear-end or head-on collisions, and they lead to soreness and/or headaches. Someone who experiences whiplash might mistake it for a basic ache or pain, but the condition can last for months if left untreated.
Motorists and their passengers often do not want to go through the trouble of visiting the doctor or the expense of riding an ambulance to the hospital. Although these concerns are understandable, victims need to know if they are hurt so that they can seek compensation before the two-year statute of limitations expires.
Bumps and bruises. Supposedly minor injuries, such as bumps and bruises, may be more serious than victims realize at the time of the accident. Adrenaline is flowing, and victims might go home in an operable vehicle only to wake up to even more extreme pain. Muscle and bone contusions cause inflammation and may not bruise right away. If the victim never receives treatment, the swelling and pain can progress to the point at which the hematoma, or localized collection of blood, must be drained by a medical professional.
Sprains, strains, and tears. These injuries cause issues at work, difficulty walking, and even severe back pain. The victim may wait for the pain to go away or take over-the-counter medication to treat the problem. Medical professionals, however, should treat the injuries appropriately using braces or casts depending on the situation.
It may be impossible to drive, work, or even walk normally without treatment. At times, victims may have such a severe strain, sprain, or tear that makes it impossible for them to continue at work. For example, torn muscles in a victim’s hands may prevent them from completing basic office tasks or handiwork.
Cuts. A cut can be infected quickly, which may impair the victim’s motor function because it is simply too painful to move. In all these instances, the victim may believe they can recover without proper medical attention. Victims should seek medical attention even if they will require only a small amount of treatment.
What Types of Serious Injuries can Occur?
Unfortunately, seat belt usage in Alabama is dangerously low. According to Drive Safe Alabama, 57 percent of traffic fatalities in 2019 were not wearing seat belts. Additionally, the state notes that 95 percent of those wearing seat belts during an accident were not harmed. Owing to concerns over seat belt usage, Alabama requires all drivers and passengers to wear seat belts or use car seats of any kind. Even so, 43 percent of traffic fatalities in the state wore a seat belt during an accident.
Airbags help reduce traffic fatalities every year, but they may have unintended consequences, especially if the victim is not wearing a seatbelt during airbag deployment. Research published in the Emergency Medical Journalshows that eye injuries, temporomandibular joint damage, cervical spine fractures, and facial trauma may occur after impact with an airbag. The airbag may be faulty, or it may not deploy at the proper time. In some cases, it may not deploy at all.
Serious injuries may result, including the following trauma:
Head injuries. Injuries to the head include concussions and contusions. These injuries can occur at relatively low speeds, and they cause headaches, nausea, and/or sleeplessness. Some victims have gaps in their memories, or they have issues with short-term memory retention. Victims may not know how they hit their head during the accident, but they should accept all medical attention available when it is obvious a head injury occurred.
A traumatic brain injury might cause severe agitation, confusion, or a marked change in personality traits. Children with these injuries will see a change in their eating and sleeping habits. In some cases, they are always profoundly drowsy. Seizures may also occur in adults or children, and the danger they present should be enough to force all accident victims to seek medical treatment.
Spinal injuries. Trauma to the spine may include damaged or bulging disks. The victim may be paralyzed or partially paralyzed, but other spinal injuries feel like extreme lower back pain. Again, victims must accept medical attention to rule out serious spinal damage. The victim may require surgery to repair the problem; avoiding treatment could make the situation so unbearable that any type of movement is painful.
Internal trauma. This may include bleeding or organ damage depending on the severity of the accident and the victim’s location in the vehicle. These injuries may feel like a stomachache or muscle strain when, in fact, the victim is bleeding internally. No one can see the bleed, and a doctor or other medical professional must use imaging technology to determine the extent of the damage.
Can Parents Be Held Liable for Teen Driving Accidents?
As mentioned, teen drivers often find themselves in dangerous situations because of distracted driving, intoxication, or a lack of experience. Parents in Alabama must partner with their children as much as possible to create an atmosphere conducive to safe driving, including paying for driver’s education courses and delaying a child’s driving until they are truly ready. Parents may be held liable for damage caused by a teen driver under their care up to $1000. This may not seem like an effective deterrent, but families may lack the ready cash needed to pay for such an emergency.
Am I Eligible for Compensation?
A lawyer determines if the victim is eligible for compensation, and they begin calculations because they will present those figures to the opposing lawyer. Every lawsuit is different, and lawyers want their lawsuits to be as accurate as possible, down to the cent if necessary. Victims must understand that contributory negligence is the rule of law in Alabama. If the victim is even slightly responsible for their own accident, they cannot recover compensation. The defendant will exhaust most of their energy on a contributory negligence defense, and their lawyer will do anything necessary to nullify a damages claim.
Compensation should include the following:
Medical costs. The victim may incur costs ranging from emergency care to specialist treatment, therapy, and prescriptions. Because medical costs tend to accrue over a long period of time, the lawyer may speak with a medical expert who can testify to the extent of the victim’s injuries and/or recovery. Hospitals or doctors may also submit cost estimates as part of a lawsuit.
Work-related losses. These losses include time missed because of the accident, and any income lost as a result of the victim’s specific injuries. For example, a victim working as a craftsman for a local contractor may not have the motor control necessary to complete their work. This person expects to earn considerably higher wages because they possess a certain skill. The same could be said for an executive who loses cognitive function or cannot remain organized at work. They expect to earn quite a lot of money in their life, and they may not plan to retire until they reach age 65 or older. Accounting for those economic losses must be a part of a lawyer’s strategy.
Noneconomic damages. These include pain and suffering, loss of quality of life, and emotional anguish.
Punitive damages. In Alabama, punitive damages cannot exceed three times the compensatory damages awarded at trial or $1.5 million. Municipal governments in Alabama cannot be made to pay more than $100,000 per plaintiff or $300,000 per accident. Additionally, the court cannot force a small business to pay out more than $50,000 or 10 percent of the company’s total value, whichever is greater.
Wrongful death. Cases in Alabama for wrongful death help recover damages for the family similar to those compensable in a personal injury case. Everything from medical expenses to loss of quality of life are included, but only the representative of the decedent’s estate may file this lawsuit. Family members, even dependents, cannot file these claims. Alabama laws of intestate succession explain how proceeds from a lawsuit are paid to the heirs of the decedent. Those funds do not become part of the estate and cannot be used to pay the decedent’s debts.
When Should I Hire a Car Accident Lawyer?
Hiring a car accident lawyer is part of the recovery process. Victims should not wait to hire a lawyer until things settle down because, in most cases, things never properly settle down until the victim receives compensation. The lawyer should review the accident as soon as possible, and they must get to work quickly if they can file a lawsuit.
The lawyer will speak with everyone even remotely involved in the case, and they remain in contact with the victim. The case may go to a settlement negotiation in which the lawyer requests as much compensation as they believe is feasible. If the defendant accepts, the case ends with a lump-sum payment. If not, the case goes to trial.
Huntsville Car Accident Lawyers at Hodges Trial Lawyers, P.C. Help Victims Injured in All Types of Accidents
If you or a loved one was involved in a car accident, allow the experienced Huntsville car accident lawyers at Hodges Trial Lawyers, P.C. to review your case and offer assistance. Our legal team will help you manage the aftermath of a car accident and obtain the compensation you deserve. Call us today at 256-539-3110 or contact us online for a free consultation. Located in Huntsville and Athens, Alabama, we serve accident victims in North Alabama, Madison County, Limestone County, Marshall County, Jackson County, Morgan County, and Lauderdale County.