Help is Only a Heartbeat Away logo with McPhillips Shinbaum Attorneys

Rental Car Accidents and Insurance

When you drive a rental car, you are likely to be in a city or state where you are unfamiliar with the roads or the laws. If your rental car is involved in a collision, it can be very stressful and you may be uncertain of your legal position. It is important to understand the process for handling rental car accidents and what to expect from the insurance company.

What happens if my rental car is in an accident?

If you are involved in a collision while driving a rental car, you may have to pay at least part of the cost of repairs for the damage you caused even if you were not the driver at fault. When you rent a car, the rental company requests proof of insurance to check that you have at least the minimal level of liability insurance required by Alabama law and to find out how much your deductible is.

Does my insurance cover the damage?

To a large extent, your liability depends on the insurance option you chose when you rented the car:

  • Declined further insurance. Many car insurance policies provide coverage for rental cars, but if you are subsequently involved in a collision you are required to pay the deductible to the rental company up front, even if you were not at fault. If your policy does not provide coverage for the cost of renting a replacement car after a collision, you have to pay the rental company for the number of days the rental car is out of action due to repairs (loss of use). Even if your policy does provide rental car coverage, it may be limited in value, and you may have to pay the difference to the rental company.
  • Extra insurance. If you bought extra insurance, the policy may cover all damage to your rental car and any other damaged car, even if you were at fault. This depends on the exact terms of the policy. You may have to pay the deductible in some cases. If the extra insurance provides only limited coverage, your insurance policy on your own car usually bridges the gap.
  • Collision damage waiver (CDW). If you purchased CDW, all damage to the rental car itself is covered. However, it does not necessarily cover your medical costs for injuries or damages to another car if you are at fault. CDW often does not cover damage to tires or the chassis, and you may still have to pay a reduced deductible for the damage to the rental car.

Don’t let insurance companies take you for a ride

Insurance companies do their utmost to avoid paying settlements even when they should. Make sure you hire a dedicated Alabama auto accident lawyer who knows how to handle insurance claims.

Help is Only a Heartbeat Away logo with McPhillips Shinbaum Attorneys

Can I Sue for Wrongful Death?

The family of former hockey enforcer Derek Boogaard has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the NHL. Boogaard died in May 2011 from an accidental painkiller overdose, drugs the family says the NHL heedlessly supplied him with. Boogaard was drafted to provide NHL fans with entertainment through his fighting skills, which took its toll and caused him to need regular painkillers. It is alleged that the NHL negligently allowed him to get addicted and failed to take care of him when he became an addict.

When can I sue for wrongful death?

Under the Code of Alabama, (Section 6-5-410) you can bring a lawsuit for wrongful death as a personal representative of the deceased against a person or corporation, for an act, failure to act or negligence which caused the death. You must commence the lawsuit within two years of the date of death.

How are damages distributed?

Wrongful death is a civil remedy, so if your lawsuit is successful a jury awards damages. The damages are distributed to heirs in accordance with the Alabama Statute of Distributions. This provides rules for how assets should be distributed if a person dies without a will, but also applies to damages from a wrongful death lawsuit even if the deceased had a will. The order for distribution depends on the surviving family members:

  • A surviving spouse has first priority on the distribution of damages and receives at least half of the damages in all cases, up to a maximum of all damages if there are no surviving children or parents.
  • Surviving children that are also children of a surviving spouse receive equal shares of the remaining damages after the spouse has received the first $50,000 and half of the remainder of the damages.
  • If there is no surviving spouse, surviving children share the damages equally.
  • In the absence of a surviving spouse or children, the damages award is shared by surviving parents.

If you have lost a loved one and think it may have been caused by negligence, arrange a consultation with a compassionate Montgomery wrongful death attorney.

Help is Only a Heartbeat Away logo with McPhillips Shinbaum Attorneys

Bicycle Riders Can Lose Rights if They Disobey the Law

Did you know that May was National Bike Month? As the weather warms each year, biking becomes more and more popular and people take to the roads with their bikes. Unfortunately, every year we see far too many collisions between cars and bicycles, resulting in serious injuries and even fatalities.

Alabama law regulates the riding of bicycles just as it does other vehicles. Cyclists who violate Alabama bicycle laws may be found to be at fault and be barred from recovering compensation from a negligent driver because of their own contributory negligence.

In general, all driving laws that apply to motor vehicles also apply to bicycles, including respecting the direction of traffic, stopping at stop signs and red lights, and yielding when required. There are also rules specific to bicyclists:

  • Riding on the right. Bicyclists must ride as close to the right side of the road as possible
  • No more than two abreast. Cyclists on a road cannot ride more than two abreast unless they are on special, bike-only paths
  • Using the bike paths. Whenever there is a usable path for bicycles near the road, a bicyclist may not ride on the road and instead must ride on the bike path
  • No undue burdens. Bicyclist may not carry anything that prevents them from keeping one hand on the handlebars
  • Have proper equipment. A bicycle must have proper equipment, including a functional brake, a white front light that is visible at least 500 feet in front of the bike and a red rear reflector that is visible in the headlamps of a car from between one hundred and six hundred feet away

If you have been injured in a bicycle accident, contact us to see how our personal injury lawyers can help fight for your rights and get you compensation for your injuries.

Help is Only a Heartbeat Away logo with McPhillips Shinbaum Attorneys

Head Injuries Are Nothing to Brush Off

Chris Wilson, a Jefferson County deputy sheriff, was thrown from his motorcycle in 2004. Landing on his head, he broke his neck and back. He also received a traumatic brain injury that put him in a coma for five days and in recovery for years.

To this one story, however, there is a good ending. Wilson has made great progress and is planning a bicycle ride across Alabama to raise awareness for traumatic brain injuries.

Head injuries are commonly caused by car and motorcycle crashes, as well as by slips, falls, sports collisions and other accidents. Understanding more about head injuries enables us to understand the potential symptoms and empowers us to get medical treatment as soon as possible.

The brain is protected by the hard bone of the skull on the outside and a protective layer of fluid on the inside. Together these provide some natural protection for the brain. Nonetheless, even a seemingly small head injury can still cause damage.

One of the most common types of head injuries is called a concussion, when, as a result of a blow to the head, the brain strikes the inside of the skull causing bleeding or bruising. Common symptoms of a concussion include:

  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Trouble with cognitive skills such as memory, thinking and balance
  • Loss of energy
  • Blurred vision
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Abnormal changes to mood
  • Abnormal changes to sleep patterns

Other more serious types of head injuries can cause permanent damage to the brain, impede daily function, and even cause death. Fortunately, simple preventative measures like wearing a helmet when riding a bicycle or motorcycle and buckling up in the car can greatly increase your chances of getting out of an accident in one piece.

If you have received a head injury, get medical care immediately. If your injury was caused by someone else, our experienced personal injury attorneys are here to help you get the compensation you deserve. Contact us for a free consultation.

Help is Only a Heartbeat Away logo with McPhillips Shinbaum Attorneys

Safe Driving Can Save Your Life

On a recent morning, cars driven by Gina Lindsey and William Rhodes collided head-on on Meriweather Trail, killing both drivers. Accidents like this, which leave Alabamans injured or dead on the roads, are far too common. Indeed, even one accident like this is too many.

In our practice, we find ourselves regularly assisting victims and their families after a devastating accident. We hope that by reviewing some important safety rules, we can all drive more safely and help prevent that next accident from happening.

Drive within the speed limit

Often, this is hard to do because “everyone speeds.” But even if everybody speeds, it is still dangerous. According to the National Safety Council, more than 13,000 Americans die each year because of speeding. It is harder to stop a speeding car, and if there is a crash, the impact is greater because of the speed.

No distractions

We live in a world of distractions. Many people talk on the phone, text, and eat while driving. Children and other passengers can also distract a driver from the main goal: driving safely. Nearly 20 percent of all accidents are now caused by distracted driving.

Don’t drink and drive

Drinking resulting in even a low blood alcohol content lowers one’s awareness of the surrounding environment, and leads to poor judgment and a slower reaction time. Penalties for drunk driving become more severe each year.

Wake up

Driving while drowsy or sleepy is virtually the same as driving drunk in the way that it affects your ability to drive. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety reports that drowsy drivers cause one-sixth of all fatal crashes.

Wear your seat belt

When accidents do happen, seat belts save lives. Always buckle up, even if you’re only driving for a short distance. Driving without wearing a seatbelt is against the law.

If you or a loved one has been in an accident, contact us to speak to one of our experienced personal injury attorneys.

Help is Only a Heartbeat Away logo with McPhillips Shinbaum Attorneys

What if I Am at Fault, Too?

Alabama’s contributory negligence law and its effect on your case

Every driver has a responsibility to others to drive carefully. As a general rule, if a driver breaks that duty through careless driving and, as a result, injures someone else, the driver is liable to the victim for damages. There is, however, a major exception to this rule in Alabama: contributory negligence.

Contributory negligence is a legal defense available to the defendant. If the defendant can prove that the plaintiff in a lawsuit (the injured person) was at fault in the accident, then the plaintiff may not be able to recover any damages at all from the defendant.

If the defendant’s conduct rose far above the level of negligence and constituted wanton conduct that demonstrated flagrant disregard for the safety of others, however, then contributory negligence will not prevent the plaintiff from winning compensation.

In a civil case in Mobile last year, the jury asked the judge to define contributory negligence. According to the plaintiff’s family, Roosevelt Jones was driving out of the Greater Gulf State Fairgrounds when a gate crashed through his windshield, killing him. The defense contended that because Mr. Jones scored a 1.0 percent on a blood alcohol test, he contributed to his death. Therefore his estate was not entitled to the $4 million in compensation they sued for. The family noted that Mr. Jones was traveling at two or three miles an hour and could not have affected the gate. This case fairly shows the lengths a defense team will go to keep from losing such a case.

When an accident case comes to our office, we carefully dissect every aspect of the case, interviewing witnesses, searching for video evidence, and studying the medical records, accident scene, and vehicles involved. If you have been in an accident, or lost a loved one due to the negligence of another party, our personal injury attorneys may be able to help you.

Help is Only a Heartbeat Away logo with McPhillips Shinbaum Attorneys

Why You Need a Personal Injury Lawyer If You Are Seriously Injured

Many people bristle at the idea of hiring a lawyer. “If I got hurt and the other person is at fault,” they reason, “why can’t I just tell the judge what happened?”  The answer is simple: A lawyer frames your case in the way that makes it most likely for you to receive a fair chance in court or full compensation in an insurance settlement agreement. And since most personal injury attorneys work on a contingency basis — they do not get paid unless you win monetary compensation — there is no need to be concerned about legal fees.

Some people count on their insurance agents to help them after a serious accident. What is sometimes not understood is that insurance companies are for-profit businesses. It’s in the best interests of the company to pay you as little compensation as possible. So in this case, your insurance company is not your friend.

In addition to empathizing with your situation and standing up for your rights, experienced Alabama personal injury lawyers work hard for you because you are in the case together. If you lose, they do not get paid for their work.

Attorneys offer seriously injured clients many services that are beneficial after an accident. They may:

  • Investigate and document your accident
  • Compile your medical bills, lost earnings and other expenses
  • Research your injuries to determine how your injury will affect your financial future
  • Communicate with all involved insurance companies
  • Create a settlement letter laying out your case to the insurance company and negotiating full and fair compensation based on all the facts of your case
  • If necessary, your attorney files a lawsuit against the those responsible for your injuries

For all these reasons, if you are seriously injured in an accident, do not hesitate to contact an Alabama personal injury law firm quickly.

Help is Only a Heartbeat Away logo with McPhillips Shinbaum Attorneys

Not So Easy Rider: Reducing the Risk of Injury for Alabama Motorcyclists

Motorcyclists know that the question is not if you will have an accident while riding a motorcycle but when? Automobile drivers often fail to see motorcyclists in traffic. The Alabama Department of Public Safety reports that nearly 40 percent of motorcycle accidents involve situations where a motor vehicle turns left into the path of a motorcycle.

A recent study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) found that the most common non-fatal motorcycle injuries involve leg and foot injuries (30%) and head and neck injuries (22%), followed by damage to the upper body (20%) and arms and hands (18%).  Studies also show that when a motorcyclist takes appropriate safety precautions, such as wearing a helmet and bright protective clothing, the likelihood of injury and death is significantly reduced.

These laws and guidelines are important to motorcyclists in Alabama:

  • License required.  Riders must be at least 14 years old. The licensing requirement includes mopeds.
  • Protective gear. Alabama requires riders to wear a helmet, and studies have shown that helmets reduce the risk of death in a crash by more than 40 percent, and the risk of head injuries by nearly 70 percent.  Other protective gear is recommended, such as gloves and brightly colored jackets, to protect your skin from abrasions and to make you more visible to other drivers.
  • Take a safety course.  About one-third of those killed in motorcycle accidents each year have not received formal training.  Taking a refresher course from time to time can be beneficial for veteran riders as well.
  • Know your vehicle.  Choosing the right sized motorcycle and maintaining it in good working condition can prevent injuries.
  • Follow traffic laws.  A motorcycle’s easy maneuverability encourages some motorcyclists to speed, swerve and perform other risky behaviors on the road.  Resist the temptation and drive safely.
  • Don’t drink and drive. In 2010, nearly 30 percent of fatally injured motorcyclists got on their vehicles with blood alcohol content above the legal limit.

Our firm fights for the rights of motorcyclists and their loved ones to obtain the compensation they deserve following an accident.  If you require legal assistance, call our office today.