Determining Liability in an Arizona Car Accident

The year 2020 had  98,778 car crashes happening across the state of Arizona, with 1,057 people as fatalities. 

This should come as no surprise, as being involved in a car accident can be costly and life-changing. When an accident happens due to someone else’s negligence, you have every right to seek justice against their negligence.

An Arizona car accident can be a complex affair to unravel because of Arizona’s laws of fault. For any party to get held accountable in a car accident, first, who’s liable must be determined. 

Arizona follows some unique laws related to liability. Read on to learn more about Arizona liability laws and how liability is figured in a car accident.

What Does It Mean to Be a Fault State?

States across the US use either a fault or no-fault system. This impacts how an insurance claim gets handled following a car accident and who is responsible for paying for damages when there is an accident. 

Arizona is a fault state, which means car accidents and the subsequent claims must identify liability. This system uses tort liability, which means damages get paid based on a degree of liability. More on this shortly. 

In a fault state, if you’re a driver in a car accident and it’s determined you’re the reason the accident happened, then your insurance is responsible for costs and damages. It means that you as the driver are liable for the car crash and the cost of damages. 

Fault Statute of Limitations

Because Arizona practices as a fault state, determining liability is key to any litigation resulting from the case. 

For this reason, Arizona also has strict guidelines related to the statute of limitations for filing a lawsuit. Arizona’s Revised Statutes section 12-542  says that you have only two years to file any civil case related to a car accident. 

The two-year limit applies to whether a lawsuit is seeking compensation for an injury, damages, or wrongful death. It also applies no matter who’s filing the suit as a result of the accident. This might include:

  • A driver
  • A passenger
  • A motorcyclist
  • A bicyclist
  • An electric scooter rider
  • A pedestrian

In most cases, the two-year statute of limitations begins from the date of the accident in question.

How Is Fault Determined?

As a fault state, who’s at fault or liable in an accident is key to getting compensation for the accident. When a court considers the liability in Arizona, they use the law of negligence. 

Determining fault or even a degree of fault can be cumbersome because such careful and detailed investigation is required. The before, during, and after the accident must be considered and studied from every possible and available angle. 

As multiple sides consider fault, you need to make sure you’re rights are being represented. You want someone advocating on your behalf through the process of the investigation. 

Often there are things to consider when delving into fault or liability that the average person might not even consider. It’s the reason you need an experienced lawyer working on your behalf. 

Ultimately, the fault comes down to investigating every shred of the details related to the accident until you can figure out liability and prove it to the court. 

How Contributing Factors Impact Fault

When considering and proving liability in Arizona, the state uses the idea of contributing factors when determining fault. 

An accident attorney will consider all the factors that might contribute to why the accident occurred.

For example, if a driver is in an accident and liability is being considered, and it’s found that the driver was under the influence of alcohol, this would be a contributing factor that would impact fault in the accident. 

What Is the Comparative Fault Rule?

In some car accidents, it can be obvious who’s at fault. One driver is wrong, while the other holds no liability. In a case like this, the liable driver’s insurance will be responsible for medical bills, lost wages, and other losses you suffered. 

More often than might be expected, though, both drivers hold some responsibility for an accident. 

Let’s say, for example, one driver smashes and rear-ends another driver. The car hitting the car in front of them seems liable for the accident on the surface. Yet, the front car may have stopped suddenly at a light because they were also sending a text message as they were approaching the intersection. 

Now, they weren’t the driver who hit another car. Yet, they also weren’t driving safely, which could have contributed to the fast and sudden stop. 

Do both drivers have some liability for the accident? 

In Arizona, the court and a jury would consider the comparative fault rule. A driver might be found to be 90% at fault, while the other driver has a 10% liability. This means that you’re responsible for 90% of the damages awarded in the case. 

If a case doesn’t make it to court, and they often don’t, an insurance company will also consider the comparative fault law and try to place a percentage of fault on other drivers in a case.

Who Do You Notify in an Arizona Car Accident? 

If you find yourself suddenly in a car accident, it can feel overwhelming and scary. In Arizona, where liability becomes an important consequence of an accident, you need to know what to do following an accident. 

Following your accident, communicating with the right people can mean a better investigation and more opportunities to protect your interests. 

Let’s take a closer look at what you should do following an accident. 

Police

The first thing you should do is contact the police and emergency services. All parts of the investigation and report to insurance will start with a police report. 

You need to call the police. It’s not uncommon, especially if the other driver is at fault or uninsured, for them to ask to skip calling the police. Your own insurance company will expect a police report when you call them. 

While your personal injury attorney is likely to do more investigating following the accident, the police report provides valuable information from the police collected at the scene of the accident. 

Insurance Company

No matter who’s at fault in an accident, you need to report the accident to your insurance company. Even if you’re confident the other driver is at fault for the accident, their insurance company will want to negotiate and communicate with your insurer. 

You might wonder how much you need to tell your insurance company when you report the accident. You should provide just the facts and nothing more. Often people get on the phone with the insurance company and start talking, even saying too much. 

You don’t need to give a detailed explanation or your thoughts on who’s at fault. Provide just the basic facts when you report the accident. 

You don’t want to inadvertently say something that would later give your insurer a reason to deny a claim.

What You Should Do Yourself

Of course, the most important thing at the scene of an accident is to remain safe. Get medical attention as needed. Even if you don’t feel like medical care is needed, you should still be examined by medical staff. 

Often adrenaline and shock hide symptoms. You also want there to be a medical report for your case. 

If you’re able, it makes sense to snap some photos from different angles of the accident. Get both close-up photos and ones from a distance. 

Sometimes witnesses to an accident will leave as emergency services arrive. If you’re able, gather the names and contact information of any witnesses to the accident. Their accounting of events may be important to prove liability.

Personal Injury Lawyer

Proving liability requires, especially degrees of liability, extensive investigation. It also needs to be done by someone who can negotiate and has access to legal documents related to the case. 

The sooner you seek legal help, the better. If you have any part of liability in the accident, you want your lawyer to get to work quickly working to protect your interests. 

If liability falls on the other driver, you also want your lawyer to get to work right away to build a case showing their liability.

Uninsured Drivers in Arizona

If you regularly pay your car insurance premiums to be protected, you might be surprised and frustrated to learn that many in Arizona are driving around uninsured. In fact, 11.8% of drivers are not insured.  

You want to verify that the driver who may be at fault is actually uninsured. Some drivers will say they don’t have insurance to avoid a claim. 

If you have a clause in your insurance for uninsured/underinsured motorists (UIM), now would be the time to make a claim. 

Seek the advice of an attorney to see what your options are for compensation if this driver is uninsured. 

Underinsured in Arizona

Similarly, some drivers carry auto insurance but are actually underinsured. This becomes an issue when they’re at fault and liable for the accident and don’t have enough insurance to cover a claim. 

Again, you can fill an underinsured motorist claim. 

Since they aren’t properly insured, your attorney may also seek damages directly from the driver instead of the insurance company. 

What Damages Can You Seek from a Personal Injury Car Accident?

If you’re in an auto accident and experience an injury, your costs can add up quickly. 

When you seek compensation from the liable driver, you need to know what should be covered in a personal injury claim. 

Let’s take a closer look. 

Medical Care

If you suffer injuries due to the other driver’s negligence, you should expect that the other person’s insurance company covers all medical care expenses. 

You will, of course, have emergency care expenses when you’re seen immediately following the accident. But medical expenses can add up long-term, too. 

If you suffer an injury requiring long-term care or rehabilitation, you want those expenses covered. 

An experienced personal injury lawyer will know how to calculate all potential medical expenses you may incur beyond filing a claim and a lawsuit.

Lost Wages

Often injuries lead to lost wages. If you’re injured and are unable to work, your lost wages should get covered as part of the claim to the liable party’s insurer. 

Any appointments that require you to miss work, you should get compensated for. If you can’t work while you heal, you should also get paid for those lost wages. 

This is another time when it’s important to work with a personal injury attorney who understands the implications of the long-term effects of the accident and can work to get you compensated for this time away from work.

Pain and Suffering

Being injured in a car accident is a traumatic experience. Arizona law allows compensation for the pain and suffering that results from a car accident. 

This would include compensation for consequences beyond injuries or due to the injuries. This would include:

  • Chronic pain
  • Physical limitations
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Loss of enjoyment of life

There are several ways an attorney might calculate pain and suffering. This is another time when you reap the benefits of an experienced personal injury attorney working on your behalf. 

Working with a personal injury lawyer to investigate liability and protect your interests is important to you. They can ensure you’re protected, and that unjust liability isn’t placed on you.

The lawyer can also work to make sure you get compensated for the faults of the other driver. 

Determining Liability for Your Arizona Car Accident

Liability is a key part of insurance and making a claim following an Arizona car accident. Despite what you believe, don’t be surprised when the other insurance company looks to place even partial blame on you. 

Protect your interests by working with an experienced personal injury attorney. Contact us today to get help with your Arizona car accident. 

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