If you feel like the roads in Huntsville, Decatur, and other areas of North Alabama have been a little crowded lately, you’re not wrong. Did you know that 3.7 million people visited Rocket City and Madison County in 2022? Considering there are about 218,000 people living in Huntsville, that’s a LOT of tourists.
However, with an increase in tourist activity comes a heightened risk on the roads. The influx of drivers, especially those unfamiliar with the local laws, can lead to an uptick in car accidents. For those who find themselves involved in a collision with an out-of-town driver, the repercussions can be severe.
The potential injuries, personal damages, and disruption to one’s life and career often leave victims feeling overwhelmed and drowning in medical expenses. In such situations, you really should seek legal advice. Alabama’s got some of the toughest laws on record when it comes to car accident claims, so you’re going to want a team with a track record of success on your side.
First things first: who files the claim for the accident?
You both do, technically. You call your own insurance company (and the other driver calls theirs) and let them know what happened. And then, you call us and WE take over dealing with insurance – even yours. You never know what they’ll try to do to keep from paying out bills for medical and other expenses.
Do I need a lawyer if I’m the one who was hit by an out-of-state driver?
Legally, no one is required to hire an attorney. But it is absolutely in your best interest to hire one, because even if you didn’t cause the accident, you could still face some challenges to your claim.
Alabama follows a contributory negligence system, which means that if you are even partially at fault for the accident, you may be barred from recovering any compensation. This strict approach sets Alabama apart from neighboring states like Tennessee and Georgia, where comparative negligence laws are in effect, allowing victims to seek compensation even if they are partially responsible for the accident.
So, what does that mean? That in order to recover damages, you have to prove total negligence on the part of the at-fault driver. And his or her insurance company will stop at nothing to show that you share some liability, or that your injuries are less severe than you claim.
As attorneys in Huntsville and Decatur, we know the tricks that the insurance company will try to use to blame you for an accident that was not your fault. For example, they may ask you during a deposition if you were wearing your seat belt when the crash occurred. You’ll have to answer that question honestly, but here’s the rub: under Alabama law, they can’t use this against you to claim that you contributed to your own injuries. But that may not stop them from asking just so they can rattle you. If they get under your skin, you may end up saying something that can harm your claim later.
What problems may arise with filing a claim against an out-of-state driver?
Typically, negotiations will take place between your attorney and the at-fault driver’s insurance company. Since insurance laws vary from state to state, it is important to note that motorists from other states may have different minimum requirements for their insurance coverage.
For example, in Alabama, we have 25/50/25 minimum coverage. That means that legally, you are required to have insurance that pays:
- $25,000 bodily injury liability limit per person.
- $50,000 maximum for all bodily injuries to be paid for any one accident.
- $25,000 maximum for property damage per accident.
But there are a handful of states that have a lower minimum than that, and there are drivers all over the country who drive without insurance entirely. So if you’re hit by a driver who only has $15,000/$30,000/$15,000 and your losses are more than this, you will be on the hook for the difference.
Having an uninsured/underinsured policy in place can help to protect your interests in cases where the at-fault driver lacks sufficient insurance to cover your losses and injuries. We can help you with this part of your claim, too.
How can I avoid collisions with out-of-state drivers in North Alabama?
It is important to emphasize that we do not want to discourage tourists from visiting our beautiful state and sharing the joys and unique experiences it has to offer. Their presence contributes to the funding of our vibrant state parks and supports local businesses. And according to the Huntsville/Madison County Convention & Visitors Bureau, we each saved about $1,000 in taxes last year because of the income that visitors drive. Tourism creates job and opportunities, and besides: this is our community. We want to share it with everyone.
However, it is crucial that we prioritize road safety. As tourist season approaches and out-of-state visitors traverse our highways and rural roads, it is incumbent upon all drivers to exercise caution and drive responsibly. That means:
- Avoiding driving during “peak” tourism days, if possible. Summer months see a lot of tourists in general, but when you get an A list artist at one of the venues, you’ll want to be prepared.
- Stay awake and aware on the roads. We don’t want to speak ill of our visitors, but what are the chances they know the rules of the road here? So make sure that you’re not distracted (or under the influence) when you drive. It’s good advice for any day, really.
- Wear your seat belt. Just because insurance can’t use it against you doesn’t mean you should drive without it. They really do save lives, and they may help reduce the severity of your injuries if you are hit by a tourist.
- Review your auto insurance policy. Make sure you have as much coverage as you can afford to have just in case the worst comes to pass. Often, the “worst” part of the bill is the costs for just the minimum; you may be able to add additional coverage for less money than you think.
In the event of an accident involving an out-of-state tourist, do not hesitate to contact Martin & Helms, P.C. Our team of experienced attorneys in Huntsville and Decatur is dedicated to protecting your rights and ensuring that you receive the maximum payout for your losses. Don’t fight this battle alone. To schedule a free consultation, please call our office or fill out our contact form. We proudly serve the communities of Huntsville, Decatur, Madison, Athens, and the entire Tennessee Valley region. By advocating for safer roads and seeking proper legal representation, we can work together to create a secure environment for both residents and visitors alike.