How to File a Car Accident Claim in Phoenix

If you’ve recently been injured in a car accident in Phoenix, AZ, you may be unsure what to do next. There are decisions to make, documents to complete, and people to contact. Meanwhile, you’re still trying to heal physically and emotionally from this upsetting event. 

One of the first things you should do is file a car accident claim. This is an important first step that prompts the insurance company to look into the accident, understand what happened, and determine if you’re eligible to receive compensation. 

The process to file a claim can be complicated, so we’re here to make it a little easier. Today, we’re sharing the steps to take, what to do, and why it’s important to have a qualified, experienced car accident lawyer by your side. 

Why Do You Need to File a Claim?

In the aftermath of a car accident, administrative work is the absolute last thing on your mind. You want to make sure you and your passengers are OK. You’re checking out your vehicle and trying to gauge the repairs that you might need. 

The filing process can be stressful, but it’s necessary. An insurance claim allows you to receive compensation for the damages that you and others have suffered. In the throes of your recovery, you might not realize all of the expenses that could be coming your way. 

These can include:

  • Medical bills
  • Vehicle repairs
  • Missed days at work

Combined, these can negatively impact your quality of life. While compensation cannot make all of these issues go away, it does make them much easier to manage. When you don’t have to worry about the financial side of things, you can focus on the actions that matter. 

Of course, there’s rarely a straight, simple line from Point A to Point B, especially in the insurance realm. Before you begin this process, it’s a good idea to enlist legal help. An experienced car accident or personal injury attorney will be familiar with how these exact claims work and can guide you through each step.

Understanding Arizona Car Accident Law

As you start thinking about filing an insurance claim, it’s important to understand the basics of Arizona car accident law. In short, we operate under a traditional “at-fault” insurance model.

This means that if an Arizona driver is involved in a car accident, they have the right to:

  • File a claim with their own insurance company
  • FIle a claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company
  • File a personal injury claim to seek damages in court

The majority of states in the U.S. follow this model, which is based on the concept of tort liability. Put simply, each insurance company will pay for the damages sustained, according to each party’s degree of fault. The at-fault driver is responsible for compensating the other parties involved in the accident for the damages they’ve suffered.

That driver’s insurance company will pay up to the policy limit on their insurance policy. If this amount is not adequate to support the extent of your suffering, you can file a lawsuit. This allows you to seek additional compensation for other economic damages, such as lost wages and medical expenses.

In addition, you can also seek support for non-economic damages, including:

  • Pain 
  • Suffering
  • Anxiety
  • Depression

Filing an insurance claim is the only way to initiate this process and fight for the payout you need and deserve. In the state of Arizona, you have up to two years after your accident to file a personal injury claim or a lawsuit. This timeline is known as the statute of limitations.

Can You File an Insurance Claim on Your Own?

If your car accident is minor, you may feel that you can file an insurance claim on your own. While we recommend hiring a lawyer to help you navigate this complicated process, there are steps you can take if you decide to go this route. 

1. Stick to Written Communication

The best rule to follow when pursuing your own insurance claim is to stick to written communication only. Verbal agreements and confirmations are not legally binding, and will not hold up in court. 

It’s also common for accident victims to say the wrong thing, or say too much when discussing the details of their case. When writing those details down, you have more control and forethought, which can limit unnecessary exposure. 

2. Keep and Organize Important Documents

It’s important to keep all of the documents that relate to your car accident case. To get the maximum compensation possible, you will need to have documents, including witness reports, to help establish facts such as:

  • The extent of your injuries
  • Your overall costs incurred
  • The income you’ve lost
  • Who was at fault for the accident

If you cannot prove any of these factors, then the insurance company could fail to pay you the full amount that you need. Keep the originals of all documents, and make copies for parties who require them. 

3. Understand Compensation

When filing on your own, you need to know what your compensation could potentially cover. In most cases, the insurance company will determine how much you’re owed by calculating the combined expenses of your medical bills and lost wages.

If you were at fault for even part of the accident, your involvement could limit how much compensation you receive. For instance, if your actions caused 10% of the accident, then the adjuster will lower your settlement offer by 10%. 

Filing a Car Accident Claim: Step-by-Step Process

When you work with a car accident lawyer, it’s easier and quicker to file an insurance claim. Your lawyer will know exactly which steps to follow and how to complete each one. 

While every accident is unique, here is the basic timeline and sequence of events. 

Step 1: Collect Evidence at the Scene 

Of course, the very first order of action following a car accident is to check the extent of everyone’s injuries and seek medical treatment. If someone is seriously injured, call an ambulance immediately.

However, if you or someone else is physically able, there are things you can do at the scene that will make it easier to file an insurance claim later. 

First, take photos or videos of the scene of the accident. Key details to capture in the photos include:

  • Nearby road signs and traffic signals
  • Damage done to all cars involved
  • Physical injuries on you and your passengers

Next, you need information on the other driver. In addition to their full name and the make/model of their car, remember to also ask for their insurance information.

Then, look for any witnesses who may have seen the accident occur. They may be able to provide statements on the spot. Or, they may share a statement with the responding police officer. Either way, capture their contact information so your lawyer can reach out later. 

When the police arrive at the scene, they will capture their own details to create the official police report. Your lawyer can obtain a copy of this report, which will include basic details of the collision, along with other critical information, including:

  • Statements from drivers, passengers, and witnesses
  • Diagrams of the accident (location, collision point, vehicle paths)
  • Citations issued for the at-fault driver
  • Other pertinent crash-related details 

Sometimes, the police report will also contain the police officer’s conclusions on why the accident happened, or how it occurred. You can request a copy of this report yourself by visiting the Phoenix Police Public Records page on the City of Phoenix website.

Communicating at the Scene

It’s important to be careful when speaking to anyone immediately after a car accident. There’s a chance you might not be thinking clearly, and you could say something that could be used against you later. For instance, you may feel pressured to apologize, even if you weren’t at fault for the accident. 

However, if a police officer approaches you to ask about the collision, you should never lie. It can be nearly impossible to remember what you said and keeping up the facade of a lie is more complicated and costly than telling the truth. 

If anyone asks how you are feeling, be careful not to dismiss your condition. Even if you feel OK and suffer no apparent injuries, you could still be hurt. Many kinds of soft-tissue injuries do not show up until a few days later, which is why we always recommend seeking medical treatment after an accident occurs. 

Step 2: Prove Fault

Once immediate medical needs have been met, you can reach out to your insurance provider and the other driver’s provider to open a new claim. By allowing your attorney to handle these sensitive and often complex conversations, you can avoid adding extra stress and anxiety to your plate. 

Attorneys know how insurance adjusters think. They know they’re not in the business to lose money, and they’ll look for any way possible to limit your payout. 

This is where the concept of fault comes into play. Your lawyer can help you prove the at-fault driver caused the accident, using details and data from various sources, such as:

  • The official police report
  • Witness testimonies
  • Your personal notes, photos, and videos
  • Accounts from accident reconstructionists
  • Details about vehicle damage

Step 3: Gather the Required Documentation

The validity of your insurance claim will depend on many factors. One of those is the documentation that you’re able to provide. In the aftermath of an accident, it’s important to keep meticulous records. 

These records help prove the extent of different damages you’ve suffered and give your case credibility, both in a claim and in court. Here are the common categories of records to keep.

Medical Damages

To prove the extent of your medical damages, make sure to keep the following:

  • All bills and receipts related to the accident
  • Doctor’s notes
  • Every document you receive from your physician or hospital
  • Explanation of benefits statements from your insurance provider
  • Photos and videos showing your physical injuries
  • Notes on future therapies and treatments that may be required (and associated costs)

Vehicle Damage

To prove the extent of your vehicle damage, make sure to keep the following:

  • All records detailing repairs made to your vehicle following the accident
  • Information on the prior value of your vehicle
  • Information on recent upgrades (e.g. new leather upholstery, new rims)

Lost Income

To prove the extent of your lost income, make sure to keep the following:

  • Any doctor’s notes explaining that you require time off work
  • Information on your current salary and/or commission (e.g. tax forms)
  • The number of sick days, PTO days, or vacation days you have available 

Step 4: Prepare Your Letter

Once you’ve completed these first three steps, you should have all of the information you need to prepare your letter for the insurance adjuster. In this letter, you will explain what occurred, why you have a basis for a claim, and the amount of compensation that you believe you should receive.

Note that you have two years from the date of the accident to notify the at-fault driver and their insurance party about your claim. You must reach a settlement within that timeframe, as well. If you choose to pursue a lawsuit, the two-year deadline also applies. 

According to Arizona insurance laws, an insurance company must notify the party submitting the claim within 10 days of receiving notification of the loss. If they want to visually inspect your damaged vehicle, they must do so within seven days. 

Need Help Submitting a Car Accident Claim?

If your accident was straightforward and you have documentation to support your car accident claim, it will usually be settled outside of court. However, if the settlement isn’t sufficient for your needs, your attorney can also represent you if you take the case to court. 

The documents involved in an insurance claim are overwhelming. They can also be filled with jargon and legal terms, seemingly designed to trick you into saying or doing something that could damage your credibility.

Our team at Sweet Lawyers is here to help you move forward in confidence. Contact us for a free consultation today!

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