A guest statute is a law that was passed in order to protect drivers when their vehicle gets in an accident and their passenger is somehow hurt or injured. The guest statute protects the driver, or the individual responsible for operating the vehicle, from facing legal repercussion brought on by a lawsuit filed by the passenger. This ensures that passengers cannot seek to recoup money for any type of financial losses that may have been caused by the accident. Although this law is beneficial to drivers, it can cause serious issues for passengers who have suffered injuries and losses due to an accident.
What is the Alabama Guest Statute?
In Alabama, the guest statute specifically states that an individual who operates a motor vehicle cannot be liable for any injuries or losses sustained by a non-paying passenger within the vehicle unless there is proof the driver was negligent or deliberately remiss while operating the vehicle. Essentially, this statute ensures that, unless the driver was utterly negligent or intentionally dangerous, the passenger cannot sue to collect monetary compensation for their injuries.
Understanding the Alabama Guest Statute
The Alabama guest statute was passed in 1935, when there weren’t as many cars on the road and accidents were few and far in between. Today, the roads are saturated with cars and the drivers who own them. Unfortunately, there are also a lot more car accidents on the road.
Common Interpretation of the Alabama Guest Statute
Many of those who interpret this statute believe that because the driver is doing a favor for the passenger by giving them a ride, he or she cannot be held accountable for ordinary carelessness and negligence. However, many courts disagree with that theory because it removes all responsibility from the driver. Many people in the state of Alabama do not agree with this law and feel as though it is unfair and outdated.
Defining the Term “Wanton”
Part of the statute defines certain actions, such as excessive speeding and drunk driving as “wanton.” Unfortunately, the statute does not clarify what “grossly negligent” is, which means the judges are forced to interpret it. That is why it is difficult for this law to always be applied fairly. In addition, it’s difficult to prove that a driver a “grossly negligent” beyond reasonable doubt, because there would have to be proof that the driver intentionally meant to harm the passenger.
How to Get around the Guest Suit Statute
Fortunately, the guest suit statute have certain flaws which allows them to work around it. The most common method of working around this statute is to use its verbiage to their advantage by redefining it. They provide a more broad definition which will favor the victim instead of the drivers, who were mainly protected in the original wording.
One way to get around this statute is to redefine what is considered “wanton or willful misconduct”. When that term is redefined to include actions such as falling asleep while driving will ensure that drivers are accountable for their actions and passengers will get justice.
The guest suit statute can be either beneficial or can become a big liability. It helps protect drivers from frivolous lawsuits, but it also prevents passengers who were injured during an accident to sue for compensation. Luckily, injured passengers can work with a legal professional to get the justice and money they deserve.
If you are the victim of a serious auto accident in Escambia or Baldwin County 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. Don’t let the Alabama Guest Statute hinder your ability to be duly compensated for injuries suffered as a passenger in another’s vehicle. Schedule a consultation with Noel today.