Worker’s Compensation

Pursuant to the Alabama Worker’s Compensation Act an employer is responsible for paying medical and financial benefits to an employee who is injured on-the-job.  The injury must arise out of the employment. Section 25-5-1 through 25-5-240, Code of Alabama, 1975, contains the Alabama Worker’s Compensation statute.  If an employee is injured while working and the injury results from the employee’s work, then the employer is responsible for all medical care needed to bring the employee to maximum medical improvement (MMI).  If the employee is unable to work the employer must pay, after the first 3 days of missed work, temporary total disability (TTD) to the employee.  TTD is paid until the employee reaches MMI.  The TTD is equal to 66 2/3% of the employee’s average weekly wage over the last 52 weeks preceding the injury.  Once the employee reaches MMI a determination is made as to what if any permanent disability the employee has suffered as a result of the injury.  The employee is entitled to compensation if he or she has suffered some permanent impairment or disability no matter how small.  The employer is then responsible for any further medical treatment the employee needs for the rest of his or her life as a result of on-the-job injury.

Products Liability

In Alabama if you are injured by a defective product there are 3 primary ways to recover damages.  The method most often used is to make a strict liability claim under the Alabama Extended Manufacturer Liability Doctrine or AEMLD.  Under the AEMLD the Plaintiff must prove that she suffered injury or damages to herself or her property by one who sold a product in a defective condition unreasonably dangerous to the Plaintiff as the ultimate user or consumer.  Atkins v. America Motors Corp., 335 So.2d 134, 141 (Ala. 1976).  Under the AEMLD Plaintiff can sue everyone in the chain of distribution from the manufacturer to the retail seller.  Although there are various defenses to the AEMLD, because it is a strict liability doctrine once the Plaintiff proves the unreasonably dangerous and defective condition of the product caused her injuries then the Defendants can be liable unless one of the specific defenses applies.

When the Courts adopted the AEMLD, they did not do away with the common law claims for negligent manufacturing or design of products that cause injuries or damages.  Those causes of action are still available to the Plaintiff and follow the standard negligence formula of proving duty, breach, proximate cause and damages.

Finally the third most common claim for injuries or damages resulting from use of a defective product is a claim for breach of warranty.  The most often used claim is breach of the implied warranty of merchantability.  That requires the Plaintiff to prove that the goods were unmerchantable or unfit for the ordinary purpose. AEMLD and common law negligence were wantonness cases apply to instances where the clam is that the manufacturer or seller failed to warn the consumer of known dangers. These failure to warn cases are subject to the affirmative defenses of open and obvious danger and notice or knowledge on the part of the consumer.

Vehicular Accidents

Uninsured/underinsured Motorist Coverage

In Alabama drivers are given an option to elect to be covered by uninsured/underinsured motorist insurance.  In order to deny this coverage you must do so in writing on your policy.  Uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage provides additional insurance coverage in situations where an at fault driver is either uninsured or does not carry enough insurance to cover the full amount of the damages and injuries caused by the accident.  In many instances in Alabama driver’s only have $25,000.00 worth of coverage for an accident.  If the injured Plaintiff’s damages exceed $25,000.00 to include medical bills and pain and suffering than the Plaintiff is responsible for putting his insurance carrier on notice as soon as possible about the possibility of collecting uninsured/underinsured policy provision.  In order to settle with the tortfeasor, the Plaintiff must first seek permission from his or her insurance carrier.  An insured that has multiple vehicles on a single policy can “stack” the vehicles coverage up to 3 vehicles.  In other words if the insured has a $100,000.00 uninsured/underinsured policy and 3 cars on the policy, the insured can collect up to $300,000.00 in additional insurance coverage above and beyond what the tort are or has in coverage.

Premises Liability

The duty owed by a landowner to the person injured on his premises is dependent upon the status of the injured party in relation to the land.  An individual can be a trespasser, licensee or an invitee.  A premises owner owes the highest duty to an invitee.  An invitee in the normal sense is a person who enters land for a purpose connected with the business dealings with the owner or the possessor of the land.  In most instances this is a customer.  A licensee is a person who enters land with the landowner consent or without a business purpose.  Finally, a trespasser is an individual who enters another person’s land without consent and without a business purpose.

A landowner owes an invitee the duty to keep his premises in a reasonably safe condition and, if the premises are unsafe, to warn the invitee of the defects and dangers that are known to the landowner that are unknown or hidden to the invitee.  Open and obvious dangers do not fall within this category.  A landowner owes a licensee a duty to abstain from willfully or wantonly injuring the licensee and to avoid negligently injuring the licensee after the landowner discovers a danger to the licensee.  A landowner only owes a duty to a trespasser to refrain from causing wanton or intentional injury to the trespasser including by setting a trap or pitfall.

In Alabama a business is not the insurer of its clients safety.  As long as the business owner takes reasonable steps to timely discover dangers to his customers and to remedy dangerous situations once they are brought to his attention, the law will usually protect a business owner.  However, whether there is evidence that the business owner failed to take actions to timely discover dangerous conditions or allowed dangerous conditions to remain without fixing them, thus allowing the finder fact to infer constructive notice, liability could result.