When you cross the Alabama State Line, there is a sign which says, “Welcome to Alabama the Beautiful.” It is beautiful. We have mountains, trees, lakes, and even a coastline with incredible white sandy beaches. We have the world famous Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail with its eleven courses. However, these beautiful attributes cannot apply to the laws of the state.
Today, I was near the beautiful coastline in Enterprise, Alabama on a fee petition hearing in Coffee County. While there, I was speaking with an attorney from Chicago, Illinois. We were discussing some of Alabama’s laws and, particularly, the laws regarding wrongful death claims. You should have seen his face when I told him that the only damages available to the family of a victim of wrongful death are punitive damages, i.e.: to punish the wrongdoer. No damages are allowed to compensate the victim’s family. Nothing for lost wages. Nothing for the value of a life. Nothing for the loss of a spouse or parent. This is only in Alabama. No other state has such a rule.
Later today, I spoke to an attorney in Jacksonville, Florida. He was referring an accident case to me which occurred in Alabama. We were discussing the facts of the case, and when I explained to him that Alabama was a pure contributory negligence state, he was in disbelief. What is a pure contributory negligence state? If two parties are in an accident and one is 99% at fault and the other is 1% at fault, neither party may recover damages from the other. Most states are comparative negligence states, and in the example above, the person who was 1% at fault would recover 99% of the verdict.
These are just a couple of the laws which adversely affect victims of accidents, injury and death. There are others. These laws need to be revised to bring Alabama in line with the rest of the country.