If You’re a Passenger in a Car Accident in Alabama — Truth Is Stranger Than Fiction
Alabama has plenty of things to be proud of: a rich musical tradition, great catfish, friendly people and fantastic rivers and lakes. But to paraphrase the immortal words of Gary Busey from the 1993 movie The Firm: “I’ve seen a lot of strange things.” Some I wouldn’t spray paint on an overpass. But I ain’t never seen nothing like Alabama’s Guest Passenger statute.
Alabama’s Guest Passenger statute states that if a person is a passenger in a car that is in an accident, and it was the driver’s fault, then the passenger cannot sue the driver unless the driver intended to harm her.
Got it? Yeah, me neither.
It means that if you’re a passenger in a car accident in Alabama, you can’t sue the person driving you around unless they INTENDED to hurt you.
Driver looking at her phone and plows into the back of a pickup? No suit.
Driver unintentionally drifts off the road and hits a tree? No suit.
Driver attempts to change his child’s diaper going 65 and hits the guardrail? No suit.
Driver looks you dead in the eye and says “I’m going to wreck your side of the car.” Bingo.
The upshot is that in Alabama drivers are immune from lawsuits for mistakes. So, unless they act so recklessly and wantonly that they almost intend to hurt you, there is no case. The Alabama Legislature, in its limited vision, felt like this would give drivers greater incentives to pick up hitchhikers. (Wait. What?)
Anyway, a driver can be held liable for mistakes made which injure cargo or items (besides humans) being transported. So, if a driver accidentally runs a stop sign and injures your stereos, butter beans or goats, then you CAN sue for damages.
Leading us to the conclusion that, in Alabama, a driver owes a greater duty to a sack of potatoes than to an actual, living, breathing human being. Like I wrote — strange.