The Guest Passenger Statute in Alabama

In most states, a passenger in the car has the right to sue the driver if the motorist’s negligence injured them. Alabama has an outdated law on the books, which is very much still in effect.

The Guest Passenger law sharply limits when you can sue the driver of the car that you were riding in for negligence. However, there are still circumstances in which you or a loved one may qualify for compensation.

Contact Steve Morris Law to learn from an experienced Alabama auto accident attorney whether you may be eligible for financial compensation.

The Guest Statute Is a Relic that Still Determines Your Legal Rights

In 1935, Alabama passed the Guest Statute. During this time, hitchhikers were common on the road, and car ownership was limited. The state wanted to encourage drivers to give rides to others without fear of being held legally accountable by their passengers in a car accident.

Every other state that passed a similar type of law has repealed the statute by now. The Guest Statute remains the law in Alabama, and it can restrict your right to sue the driver of the car in which you were hurt.

Who Is a Guest Under the Law?

The Guest Statute provides that someone who is not paying the driver cannot sue after an accident in which the motorist was negligent. A guest would be considered someone who the driver was giving a ride to outside of a commercial context. If you were in a taxi or an Uber, you would not be considered a guest, and you can sue the driver. If you were in the car with your friend, the Guest Statute would apply.

There are other situations in which you may not be a guest. If you were conferring any type of benefit on the driver, even if it is not financial, you may not be a guest. For instance, if the driver was picking you up to go to work for them, you may have the right to file a lawsuit.

Negligence encompasses most wrongful and careless acts that a driver does behind the wheel. For example, if a driver was involved in an accident because they did not properly check their blindspot before turning, the passenger likely cannot sue the driver. Most car accidents involve ordinary negligence, so suing the driver would be very difficult.

When You May Be Able to Sue the Driver

However, it is not impossible to sue the driver, based on what they were doing at the time of the accident.

Here are some exceptions to the Guest Statute limitation on suing the driver:

  • You were carpooling with the driver.
  • The passenger in the car was a minor.
  • The driver of the car was intoxicated or under the influence.
  • The driver was being reckless or acting in a wanton manner.
  • The driver was excessively speeding at the time of the accident.

As you can see, there is a fine line between negligence and something that could allow you to sue. Many cases would be a close call that may potentially allow you to sue. For example, if the driver was texting at the time of the accident, you could argue that they were being reckless. You would need to have evidence that would help you overcome the presumption that you cannot sue.

How a Car Accident Lawyer Can Help Your Case

In order to preserve your right to sue, you should contact an attorney as soon as possible after the car accident. Your attorney would investigate your accident to gather the proof that you need to show liability.

Guest Statute cases are very dependent on the individual facts that your lawyer would need to establish.

You can expect that the driver’s insurance company would often try to use the Guest Statute to escape liability, forcing you to fight.

Our car accident attorney can do the following in your case:

  • Present evidence that shows whether you were a guest.
  • Investigate whether one of the exceptions to the Guest Statute rule applies and compile the necessary proof.
  • Negotiate and deal with the insurance company, especially when they are trying to claim that you cannot sue.
  • Estimate the value of your claim, so you know how much to seek.
  • Negotiate a settlement agreement with the insurance company.
  • Take your case to court if the insurance company will not settle the case for what you deserve.

Given the presence of the Guest Statute, you should never try to handle one of these cases on your own.

You can expect to have a very difficult time, and you would likely go away empty-handed.

Contact an Alabama Car Accident Attorney Today

If you or a loved one have been injured in a car accident, Steve Morris Law can fight on your behalf for a fair settlement check to pay for your injuries. Given the uphill battle you may face under Alabama’s Guest Statute, you need to be extensively prepared when beginning the legal process, which means that you need to call a lawyer today. Call us today at 256-357-9211 or send us a message through our website to schedule your free initial consultation.

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