The Alabama guest suit statute is a law which bars any guests present in a vehicle during a collision to sue the driver and collect financial compensation for their injuries. The guest can only sue if the accident was caused by the driver driving recklessly. The guest statute only applies if the person who was injured in the vehicle was a non-paying guest. Payment does not have to be in the form of cash, it can also be some sort of material or tangible benefit for the driver. A passenger is also considered a paying guest if the transportation benefits both parties.
Although this statute normally prevents guests from prosecuting the driver for injuries they have sustained, damages may be rewarded to a guest if they can prove the driver was willfully or recklessly driving the vehicle in a way that caused an accident. Passengers can prove that a driver was driving recklessly if they will have evidence that the driver was speeding, driving erratically, driving under the influence, or was distracted while driving.
The first guest statutes were introduced in the 1920s in Connecticut (1927 Conn. Pub. Acts 4404, ch. 308, § 1 [repealed 1937]). It coincided with the increase in vehicle manufacturing in order to meet the increasing number of lawsuits resulting from automobile accidents. The rationale behind this law was that the driver’s responsibility should be limited only to carelessness. It protects drivers from being sued when an accident happens regardless of their efforts to avoid it. Some states went into detail in detailing what falls under willful or wanton negligence. Essentially, anything short of complete disregard for safety or purposely trying to run an individual off the road would be able to hold up in a civil suit.
How to Avoid a Lawsuit as a Driver in Alabama
Although the guest statute was meant to protect drivers from frivolous lawsuits many passengers who are in an accident are able to work around it win monetary compensation for their losses. Being a safe driver is important. Unfortunately, even when drivers are extremely safe accidents still happen. That is why it’s important to cover all of your bases to ensure do not become liable for an accident that was not your fault. Here are some things that will help you avoid becoming a victim of a frivolous lawsuit:
- If you are giving a ride to a co-worker or friend you can agree on some sort of payment, such as for gas so that they are no longer considered a “non-paying guest”.
- Avoid any sort of distractions, such as reaching for items, talking on the phone, texting, or eating while driving.
- Always drive safely and avoid any reckless behavior, such as speeding, running red lights, changing lanes without signaling, etc.
- Never drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
One of the biggest dangers on the road at this time is texting. Police now collect cellphones from accident scenes and run it through programs that uncover what the most recent activity on the phone was. This reveals if the driver was texting or making a phone call at the time of the accident. This would provide the type of evidence a guest would need to prove the driver was being negligent. In order to keep yourself from the temptation of picking up that phone and giving yourself a distraction it is advisable that you put it away somewhere that you cannot see or easily reach. Putting it in the glove compartment or back pocket, for example.
If you are a safe driver and follow these tips you can decrease the chances of you having an accident and will prevent any passengers from suing you for being reckless.
If you were injured in a serious accident in Baldwin County or have been wrongfully accused of causing injuries to the passenger of your vehicle, we can help. Do not delay in contacting a local Alabama auto accident attorney to review your case properly. Foley attorney Noel B. Leonard represents serious auto injury victims and offers legal representation and no-obligation consultations which remain confidential. Schedule a consultation with Noel today.