If you’ve been injured in a car accident in the State of Alabama, you may have questions about how the laws will affect your property damage and/or personal injury claim. In this article, we’ll review the laws most commonly associated with car accidents. To read the entirety of each law, click the link to the specific State of Alabama statutes in each section.
Here are the Alabama car accident and traffic laws we’ll cover:
Pedestrians and Crosswalks
The driver of a vehicle must stop and yield the right of way to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within a crosswalk when the pedestrian has reached the halfway point of the crosswalk, or when the pedestrian is approaching so closely from the opposite half of the crosswalk as to be in danger.
Restrictions on Pedestrians Crossing Roadways
No pedestrian is permitted to suddenly leave a curb or other place of safety and walk or run into the path of a vehicle which is so close as to constitute an immediate hazard.
Pedestrian Control Signals
Whenever special pedestrian-control signals exhibiting the words or symbols “Walk” or “Don’t Walk” are in place such signals shall indicate as follows:
- “WALK”. Pedestrians facing such signal may proceed across the roadway in the direction of the signal and must be given the right of way by the drivers of all vehicles.
- “DON’T WALK”. No pedestrian should start to cross the roadway in the direction of such signal, but any pedestrian who has partially completed his or her crossing on the walk signal must proceed to a sidewalk or safety island while the “Don’t Walk” signal is showing.
- “DON’T WALK” (flashing). No pedestrian should start to cross the roadway in the direction of such signal, but any pedestrian who has partially completed his or her crossing on the walk signal must proceed to a sidewalk or safety island while the “Don’t Walk” signal is flashing.
Crossing at Other Than Crosswalks
Pedestrians intending to cross a roadway at any point other than within a marked crosswalk or within an unmarked crosswalk at an intersection shall yield the right-of-way to all vehicles on the roadway.
Pedestrians must use only the marked crosswalk to cross between two adjacent intersections that have traffic-control signals in operation.
Pedestrians can cross an intersection diagonally only when it is authorized by traffic-control devices.
Pedestrians on Roadway
Where sidewalks are provided, it is unlawful for any pedestrian to walk along and upon adjacent roadway.
Where sidewalks are not provided, pedestrians are permitted to walk only on or along the left side of the roadway or on it’s shoulder facing traffic from the opposite direction.
Pedestrians’ Right of Way on Sidewalks
The driver of a vehicle must yield the right of way to any pedestrian on a sidewalk.
Drivers to Exercise Due Care
The driver of a vehicle shall exercise due care to avoid colliding with any pedestrian upon any roadway and shall give warning by sounding the driver’s horn when necessary and shall exercise proper precaution upon observing any child.
Pedestrians Under the Influence of Alcohol or Controlled Substance
A pedestrian who is a hazard due to being under the influence of alcohol or drugs must not walk or be upon a highway.
Obedience to Traffic Control Devices
A driver must obey any traffic control devices applicable to the driver, unless directed by a traffic or police officer.
Driving on Right Side of Roadway
Drivers must drive in the right lane of roadways with the following exceptions:
- When passing another driver in the same direction
- When there is an obstruction in the right lane
- Upon a roadway with three or more lanes of traffic
- Upon a roadway restricted to one way traffic
Passing On the Left
Driver proceeding in the same direction must pass to the left at at a safe distance and shall remain in the passing lane until it is safe to return to the right lane. Drivers being passed must not increase the speed of their vehicle until their vehicle is completely passed by the overtaking car.
Limitations on Overtaking on the Left
Drivers may drive to the left side of the center of the roadway in overtaking and passing another vehicle only if the left side is clearly visible and the overtaking vehicle can return to its lane without coming within two hundred feet of oncoming traffic.
Passing On the Right
Drivers may pass on the right under the following conditions:
- When the driver about to be passed is about to make a left turn. However, the driver attempting to pass on the right must not do so without driving off the pavement of main-traveled portion of the roadway.
- When the roadway has two (2) or more lanes of traffic moving in the same direction.
- On a one-way street where the roadway is free from obstructions and wide enough for two or more lines of moving vehicles.
Following Too Closely
A driver must not follow another driver more closely than is “reasonable and prudent”, having due regard for the speed of other drivers and traffic conditions along the roadway.
Except when overtaking and passing another vehicle, the driver of a vehicle must leave a distance of at least 20 feet for each 10 miles per hour of speed between their own vehicle and the vehicle directly ahead of theirs.
A driver who is towing another vehicle that is 25 feet or longer must leave at least 300 feet of space ahead of their vehicle to allow an overtaking vehicle to enter and occupy this space without danger.
Drivers and Mobile Electronic Devices
Drivers must not drive while using a mobile electronic device to write, send or read a text-based message, except for the sole purpose of calling 911. Drivers are permitted to use a mobile electronic device if the vehicle is parked on the shoulder of the roadway, or if the device is a pre-programmed global positioning system (GPS). The driver is not permitted to program GPS coordinates while driving.
Drivers and Intersections
When two (2) drivers approach an intersection at approximately the same time the driver on the left must yield to the driver in the right.
Drivers Intending to Turn Left at Intersections
A driver who intends to turn left at an intersection, or into an alley, private road or driveway must yield the right of way to drivers approaching from the opposite direction.
Drivers Entering or Crossing a Roadway
A driver about to enter or cross a roadway from any place other than another roadway must yield the right of way to all other vehicles on the roadway to be crossed.
Bicyclists must obey the same traffic laws as drivers of cars, and are subject to the same penalties as are drivers for violating traffic laws.
Motorcyclists must obey the same traffic laws as drivers of cars, and are subject to the same penalties as are drivers for violating traffic laws.
Motorcyclists and Lanes of Traffic
Motorcyclists are entitled to the full use of a traffic lane and drivers must not take any action to deprive a motorcyclist of his or her right to use a full lane on a roadway.
A motorcyclist must not pass another driver in the same lane. Motorcyclists must not ride more than two (2) abreast in a single lane.
Motorcyclists must not pass another driver in the same lane. Commonly known as “lane splitting,” motorcyclists sometimes attempt to pass other drivers when traffic is slowed, or bumper to bumper. To move forward through traffic motorcyclists sometimes drive between cars. Doing so is not only illegal, but quite dangerous.
All motorcyclists must wear helmets while riding on roadways.
Motorcycles and Headlights
From thirty minutes after sunset until thirty minutes before sunrise, every motorcycle riding on a roadway must have at least one and not more than two lighted headlights turned on.
Driving Offenses and Accident Requirements
A driver who drives in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property is guilty of reckless driving, and can be fined and imprisoned.
Alcohol and Minors
A driver under the age of twenty one (21) must not drive if there is 0.02% or more alcohol in their blood.
Driver’s Duty to Give Information and Render Aid
A driver involved in an accident resulting in injury or death to any person, including other drivers, passengers, and/or passersby must give their name, address and the registration number of the car they are driving and must upon request, exhibit their driver’s license to any person injured in the accident, or to the driver, passengers, and/or police officers investigating the accident.
Moreover the driver must render to any person injured in the accident reasonable assistance, including making of arrangements to transfer the injured person to a physician, surgeon, or hospital for medical or surgical treatment if it is apparent medical treatment is required.
Accidents Involving Death, Personal Injury, or Substantial Bodily Injury
A driver involved in an accident resulting in injury or death of any person must immediately stop and remain at the scene of the accident until the driver has fulfilled the requirements of Section 32-10-3.
Section 32-10-3 reads in part that the driver must give their name, address and the registration number of the car they are driving, and must upon request exhibit their driver’s license to any person injured in the accident or to the driver of the car involved in the accident.
Accidents Involving Only Damage to Another Car or Property
A driver involved in an accident resulting only in damage to property or another car which is driven or attended by any person must immediately stop at the scene of the accident or as close to it as possible and must remain at the scene of the accident until the driver has fulfilled the requirements of Section 32-10-2.
Accidents Involving Damage to Unattended Car or Unattended Property
A driver who collides with a parked car or who collides with other property which is unattended must immediately stop at the scene of the accident or as close to it as possible and must attempt to locate and notify the driver or owner of the damaged car or damaged property.
Once located the driver who caused the accident must give the name and address of the car owner and its driver. If the driver or owner of the damaged car or property cannot be located, the driver who caused the accident must attach a written note to the damaged property in a conspicuous place giving their name and address and the registration number of their car.
Driver’s Duty to Notify Police Department
A driver involved in an accident resulting in injury or death must immediately by the quickest means of communication give notice to the nearest police office.
Accident Reports Filed By Police Departments
Every law enforcement officer who investigates a motor vehicle accident must forward the necessary completed written report to the director within 24 hours of completing the investigation.
Accident Report Forms
The director must prepare and upon request supply to police departments, coroners, sheriffs, garages, and other suitable agencies or individuals, uniform accident report forms.
The required written accident report must require sufficiently detailed information about the location of the accident, probable cause, injuries to persons, property damage, deaths of persons, the registration of vehicles involved including license numbers, the name, address, and driver’s license number of the operator, highway design and maintenance, including lighting, markings, and road surface, and the names and addresses of any witnesses.
Open Alcohol Container Law
A driver or passenger must not be in possession of an opened container of an alcoholic beverage or consume a controlled substance while the car is traveling on Alabama roadways.
An opened alcoholic beverage container must be kept only in an area of a vehicle that is inaccessible to the driver. In the case that the driver does not have knowledge of and cannot access alcoholic beverages in an open container in the passenger area of the vehicle, it is not illegal to have an open alcohol container.
Passengers of a hired vehicle and passengers of a motor home can consume and possess an opened container.
Driving Under Influence of Alcohol or Controlled Substance
A driver must not drive after drinking an alcoholic beverage or consuming an intoxicant in an amount which renders the driver incapable of driving safely along roadways.
In Alabama, a driver is guilty of the offense of Operating a Vehicle Under the Influence of an Intoxicant if the driver has a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is 0.08% or higher.
Ignition Interlock Device
A driver who is guilty of driving while under the influence of an intoxicant might be ordered to have installed at his or her own expenses an ignition interlock device. The ignition interlock device will serve to restore the driver’s driving privileges during the pendency of the driver’s probation. If an ignition device is installed, it must be installed in every car owned or operated by the driver.
An ignition interlock is a device which measures any amount of alcohol contained in a driver’s body. Before starting the car the driver must blow into a tube emanating from the ignition interlock device. If the device then detects a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) higher than is permitted by law the car will not start and the violation will be reported to the prosecutor, the probation officer, and/or the judge. At that point the driver may be subject to loss of driving privileges, immediate arrest and incarceration up to the maximum term provided by law.
Alabama Dram Shop Law
Alabama has a modified Dram Shop Law. Dram Shop Law refers to the liability of private social hosts, bars, hotels nightclubs and other commercial establishments who serve alcohol to patrons or to minors for injuries intoxicated patrons or minors cause to third parties such as in car accidents.
A private social host is the host at a private party, such as a wedding reception, a corporate sponsored event, a gathering of friends at a private residence, where alcohol is served not for profit.
For an injured third party to succeed in a claim for personal injuries or property damage against a commercial establishment or social host, the injured third party must file a lawsuit alleging the illegal sale or disposition of alcohol by the establishment or the social host.
Financial Responsibility Car Insurance Minimum Limits
In the State of Alabama, each motor vehicle must be covered by an insurance policy that includes liability coverage of the following amounts for all damages resulting from an accident:
- At least $25,000 per person
- At least $50,000 for two or more people
- $25,000 per occurrence for property damage
Alabama Insurance Information
For information about insurance requirements in Alabama, see the State Department of Revenue Motor Vehicle Insurance Requirements brochure.
Liability & Negligence
In Alabama, the victim in a car accident can sue the negligent driver for compensation. The victim’s liability in causing the accident, their contributory negligence, affects whether the victim receives any compensation.
If the victim contributed even 1% of the negligence that caused the accident, then the victim is barred from receiving any compensation.
Example of Liability & Negligence
One morning, Jackson was driving north on his way to work. At an intersection, he pulled into the left turn lane. At the same time, Melanie approached the intersection from the opposite direction. Suddenly, Jackson turned left into Melanie’s lane and their cars collided.
Melanie sustained serious brain injuries and damage to her car, totalling in $100,000 dollars worth of damages.
After their investigation, the police determined that Jackson had failed to yield according to traffic laws. A pedestrian witness told police he saw Melanie texting at the time Jackson’s car crashed into Melanie’s. As a result, the police issued Melanie a citation for using a mobile device while driving.
Melanie sued Jackson for $100,000 and claimed he was 100% at fault for the accident because he did not yield to her right-of-way. At trial, the jury found Jackson liable for failing to yield the right-of-way. However, the jury also found Melissa liable for using a mobile device while driving and partially responsible for the accident.
The verdict stated Jackson’s negligence equaled 70% of the accident, and Melanie’s equaled 30%. Melanie was barred by law from receiving any compensation for the damages.
Alabama’s Fault-based Car Insurance
In Alabama, legal responsibility (fault) for a car accident dictates who can sue for compensation. A person who suffered personal or property damage as a result of a car accident has three options to pursue compensation:
- File a claim with their own insurance company
- File a claim with the insurance company of the person at fault for the accident
- File a lawsuit against the person at fault for the accident
For information about Alabama’s fault-based (tort) system, see the Alabama Department of Insurance website.
Statute of Limitations
Alabama has a two (2) year statute of limitations for property damage and personal injury claims. This means if a driver, passenger, or passerby is injured or sustains property damage at the hands of a negligent driver, the victim must either settle their claim within two (2) years, or file a lawsuit.
If the victim fails to settle their claim or file a lawsuit within the two (2) year period the victim is barred from pursuing the negligent driver in court.
Small Claims Courts
In Alabama, victims of car accidents can choose to sue the negligent driver in small claims court. The jurisdiction of a small claims court regarding personal injury and property damage is limited to a maximum of $6,000, exclusive of filing fees and court costs.
To submit a claim in small claims court, visit the Alabama State Judiciary website.
Alabama Government Tort Claims – Sovereign Immunity
In Alabama, it is not possible to submit a claim against a governmental agency or its employees for personal injury or property damage as a result of negligence on the part of the governmental agency or its employees.
Alabama Constitution: Section 14
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