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Winter Car Accidents and Alabama Law

January 18, 2024 Firm News

Hundreds of winter car accidents have occurred due to the terrible driving conditions the last few days in north Alabama. Many people are left wondering what car insurance covers after a car accident in wintry conditions.

If one of those people is you, here’s a quick summary of what you need to know:

If Someone Else Was At Fault in Winter Car Accident

If another driver negligently caused the accident, then that person’s liability insurance carrier is responsible for paying.  Negligence is simply the “failure to use reasonable care.”  For example, if someone was traveling too fast for wintry conditions and rear-ended you, then this would likely be negligence.

Damages to Property

If your vehicle has been totaled, you are only entitled to the fair market value of the vehicle. We generally recommend that people use the CARFAX Value by VIN site to determine the fair market value of their vehicle.

Unfortunately, under Alabama law, you are not entitled to the amount of money you paid for the vehicle, nor are you entitled to necessarily have a car loan completely paid off.

If you owe more on a car loan than the fair market value of the vehicle (it happens frequently), then you must hope that you purchased “gap” insurance.  Gap insurance will pay off the difference between the car loan balance and the fair market value of the vehicle.

If your vehicle is repairable, then you are entitled to the following three categories of damages:

Cost of Repairs

You are entitled to 100% of the repair costs from the other person’s insurance company. You are also permitted to choose the body shop that performs the repairs. However, Alabama law permits insurance companies to insist on paying for used replacement parts, so long as they are in good working order.

Rental Car

You are also entitled to a rental vehicle while your car is being repaired. Some insurance companies pay in a stipend fashion and others pay a rental company directly. If the insurance company elects to pay a rental car company directly, they must choose a rental location that is within a reasonable distance of your primary residence.

Diminution in Value

A car with a history of being in an accident is worth less than it was prior to the accident. If another person negligently damaged your vehicle, then you are entitled to a sum of money representing the difference between the pre and post wreck value of the vehicle.

Damages to Person

If you are injured as a result of another driver’s negligence, you have a right to make a personal injury claim against the other driver’s insurance.  Depending on your particular case, you may be entitled to up to 8 different types of compensation.  The legal word for these different types of compensation is “damages.”

Here are the 8 different types of damages in Alabama personal injury claims:

  1. Medical Bills
  2. Future Medical Bills
  3. Pain and Suffering
  4. Mental Anguish
  5. Lost wages
  6. Future lost wages
  7. Disfigurement
  8. Permanent injury

For a full explanation of each type of damage, read our article Types of Damages in a Personal Injury Claim.

If You Were Partially or Fully at Fault in Winter Car Accident

In Alabama, if you were partially or fully at fault for a winter car accident, you cannot collect damages from the other driver’s insurance company.  This rule is called the Contributory Negligence rule.

Damage to Property

In this situation, you will have to rely on your own car insurance to pay for your damaged vehicle.  Hopefully you have collision or comprehensive coverage with your car insurance company. If you only purchased liability coverage, then you are out of luck.

Assuming you have collision or comprehensive coverage and your car is totaled, your insurance company will pay you the fair market value of the vehicle, less your deductible.  Most people have a deductible of $500 or $1,000.

If your car is repairable, your insurance company will pay for the repairs and a rental car if you have the coverage for it. On the other hand, you are not entitled to damages for diminution in value in this situation.

Damage to Person

Due to the contributory negligence rule in Alabama, it may be difficult to successfully make a personal injury claim against the other driver’s insurance in a winter car accident where you are partially or fully at fault.  However, even if are concerned that you may have been partially at fault in a wreck, it is still wise to contact a personal injury attorney for a Free Case Evaluation.


If you have questions about what car insurance covers after winter car accidents, talk with one of our attorneys to learn more about your legal rights.