Alabama Law: Hurt While a Passenger? You Might Get Nothing.

Feb 3, 2023 | Allen A. Ritchie | 0 comments

Car wreck in Alabama

If you are a passenger in Alabama and get into a car wreck, you had better hope the other car is at fault. The reason: you generally cannot sue the driver of the vehicle you are in. Sound insane? You bet.

Alabama is the only state with such a strict passenger law.

The Alabama legislature thinks that if you accept a free ride, you accept the risk of bodily harm. The law is often explained by saying that a good Samaritan (as in the bible story where a traveler is helped) should not be punished if the help offered goes wrong.

Now a good lawyer has some workarounds. First, if there is any pay for the ride, this law does not count. I have argued that anything of value can be payment, not just money. For example, offering a sandwich, a bottle of water, or even fixing the driver’s kid’s bike can be a payment.

Second, the law does not protect the driver if he or she is reckless or wantonness. Here a little bit of legal explanation is required. Wantonness is a reckless disregard for the rights or safety of others. I would argue that speeding and even texting fall into this category.

Third, having a regular driving relationship, like commuting to work, will void this restriction. I know this sounds odd, but welcome to our unique state laws.

Here is what I often hear when I try to explain the guest passenger statute, “If I am hurt in a car driven by someone else, I should be able to go against that person’s insurance for my medical bills, loss of income, and suffering. Isn’t that what insurance is for?” My answer is, “Not in Alabama.”

If you are hurt in a traffic accident or suffer any other personal injury, you can talk to us at the Law Firm of Eiland and Ritchie (251) 666-1212 for free. We want to help you get back on your feet.

Also, join us for NBC 15 LawCall, our legal call-in TV show, here in Mobile every Sunday night at 10:30, right after the news. We will take your calls live.

Allen Ritchie

Alabama personal injury lawyer