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Troy Schwant
Troy Schwant
Attorney • (800) 574-4332

Why do Alabama courts protect drunk drivers from liability?

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You would think that a state as conservative of Alabama would want to do everything they could to punish drivers who operate their vehicles while intoxicated, but for some reason the Alabama courts still protects drunk drivers from liability by still allowing the defense of contributory negligence.

To most people the phrase "contributory negligence" will just be a legal phrase that only lawyers use. Simply put, contributory negligence is a defense asserted by a defendant when they want to blame the plaintiff for his own injuries. Imagine for a second that you were driving through an intersection traveling a few miles over the speed limit when you and your family are suddenly hit by a drunk driver who ran a red light. For most people this would be an open and shut case, but that is until you factor in the defense of contributory negligence.

If a jury determined that you were just 1% at fault for your accident despite it being abundantly clear to any rational observer that the other driver should be required to pay for any damagess caused by the accident, if the jury determined that you were partly to blame for the accident because you were speeding, then the drunk driver is not legally responsible for the damages that he caused. Obviously the example I just provided is an extreme one, but one that is a possible result in a state that allows a contributory negligence defense to be asserted by a defendant. Personally, I don't know why Alabama is one of only four states that still allow a defendnat to assert the contributory negligence defense, but hopefully the Alabama courts will stop protecting drunk drivers and start protecting drivers that don't drive drunk.

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  1. Ronnie says:
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    Great article. What is the original intent of contributory negligence and what is it designed to protect?

    Aside from that, I think you brought up a really good example of how worthless our judiciary system has become at determining and delivering justice. Using your example, if the court were to prove that a person operating a motor vehicle above the legal limit, it should relieve him/her of any defense if he were to be involved in an accident. Obviously I realize it’s much more complicated than that and perhaps a bit extreme, but I still believe that we should chop people’s hands off for stealing. So take it with a grain of salt.