Alabama’s Guest Passenger Law
Under Alabama law, if you are a guest passenger in a motor vehicle and are injured or killed, you or your loved ones cannot successfully sue the driver unless one of the following exceptions apply:
- You compensated the driver for the ride.
- The injury or death was caused by the willful or wanton misconduct of the driver. For example, the driver may have been intoxicated, speeding excessively or otherwise driving in a reckless manner.
Analyzing the Guest Passenger Law
Alabama is one of only a few states with a Guest Passenger Law. This law is based on the Guest Statute, which was enacted in 1935 when relatively few paved roadways existed in the state and car ownership was relatively uncommon. As the use of automobiles became more commonplace, lawsuits involving the guest passenger law became more frequent in Alabama, resulting in a number of court decisions analyzing how the terms “guest” and “wanton conduct” should be interpreted under the particular circumstances.
A common interpretation of the reasoning of the Guest Statute is that drivers who do someone a favor by offering a lift in their cars should not be held liable for ordinary negligence. The vast majority of states disagree with this reasoning, since it serves to immunize drivers from the ordinary duty of care that members of society owe to each other. One Alabama commentator recently declared the statute to be “a disgrace to the state of Alabama and an obstacle to justice” and argued that “justice requires full compensation to those who have been injured by the carelessness of others.”
The Guest Statute is the law in Alabama
Although one can argue that the Guest Statute is unfair or outdated, it is the law in the state of Alabama. As such, if you or a loved one was injured as a guest passenger, you need an experienced attorney to help you establish that your case falls under one of the exceptions to the Guest Statute.
Meanwhile, drivers may still be able to file personal injury claims against the at-fault driver, or more likely, his insurance carrier. This covers medical expenses, lost pages, pain and suffering, and in some cases, wrongful death.
Taking a closer look at the driver’s insurance policy There is usually a clause that refers to coverage for passengers. You should be able to file a claim against that coverage and receive some compensation, but typically it is a lower amount than for the driver.
If you are a family member related to the driver, you may be covered under his policy.
You may also be able to sue if you are an extended family member or a friend. A personal injury auto accident attorney is best to help you understand Alabama laws and your opportunity for compensation in this case.
The other option is to file a claim against the other driver’s insurance. This supposes he is the at-fault party. In order to establish that as fact, a personal injury attorney can help you collect evidence, witnesses, experts, photographs, the police report, and whatever else is available from the scene to establish the at-fault party.
Blame the Passenger
While you as the passenger cannot be blamed for the accident, insurance companies are always looking for ways to avoid paying a claim.
For example, if you got into a vehicle knowing the driver was intoxicated, you may be held responsible for that decision.
This circumstance may allow the injured passenger to recover damages under the driver’s Uninsured Motorist coverage. These are questions and special circumstances that an Alabama personal injury auto accident attorney should address.
If you seek just compensation for injuries caused by the negligence of others, contact the Law Office of J. Allan Brown, L.L.C. and Attorney Brown, who has more than a decade of experience assisting clients with their personal injury cases.