Vehicle accident victims are pushing to change what they call archaic state laws that give the state, sheriffs and deputies immunity from civil liability even when they are at fault.
The latest case coming into the ABC3340 News I-Team involves Adam Isbell who tells us he is hurting physically and and emotionally after an August crash with a deputy. He says he is in pain all the time.
"It scares me to drive through intersections now, " remarks Isbell. The crash happened in August at the intersection of Highway 144 and County Road 45 in St. Clair County. Isbell's femur was broken and his hip cracked.
He was riding with a friend to watch a football game, when he says they t-boned a St. Clair County deputy. The friend who was driving was not hurt.
Isbell tells us the deputy blew through the intersection ignoring the warning signs as you approach the intersection and a large stop sign. The state trooper investigation into the crash reports the deputy "failed to yield the right-of-way from stop sign." The vehicle Isbell was in did not have a stop sign on 144.
"He came at a high rate of speed. He had a blatant disregard for anybody. What if a mother with kids were in the car?" questions Isbell.
The deputy was answering "an emergency call to assist another deputy" according to ALEA's report. Isbell says they didn't hear any sirens and later learned the deputy had been pulled off the call he was headed to before the crash.
"He was told to stand down because he had an issue with the person they were serving a warrant to," says Isbell.
Isbell's medical bills top $130,000. He still owes $5,000 for deductibles. His mother has had to move from Florida to care for him. He could not walk for weeks. He says he's lost $14,000 in wages since the August crash.
Compounding that St. Clair County accepts no responsibility. In a letter from the Association of County Commissions Liability Self Insurance Fund, Isbell was told "Deputy Bradberry is entitled to immunity" and that he was "acting in the line and scope of his employment."
According to legal experts, sheriffs and by their extension their deputies have absolute immunity under Alabama's constitution. Any change would have to come with a constitutional amendment.
Isbell wants everyone on the road to know the risk and the law. "That's all I want to do is spread the word to people so no other family has to go through what we're going through."
The St. Clair County Sheriff's office referred us to their attorney for comment. We have not heard back from him by news time. ABC3340 News has been told by a third party that there is no dash cam video of the crash.
Earlier this month ABC3340 News reported the story of a woman hit by a state prison van in downtown Birmingham. She too has been told she has no civil recourse to collect from the state. We have also learned of another incident involving a state prison van recently where a man's truck was damaged in Shelby County.
Attorneys say the only way to protect yourself is to make sure you have uninsured motorist coverage on your insurance policy. They advise you not to get the minimum either. It is not very expensive to add on.