Statute of Limitations for Arizona Car Accident Lawsuits

car accident lawsuits

Life is rolling along fine until you wake up staring at the ceiling tiles in a hospital room. Every time you get into a vehicle, you risk being in a car accident. In Arizona, 98,778 car crashes took place in 2020, resulting in 41,350 injuries and 1,057 deaths.

Car accident lawsuits are how people suffering personal injuries or death receive compensation for their loss. Insurance companies may offer you a quick settlement amount. Don’t accept that offer until you consult with Sweet Lawyers.

The primary focus of every insurance company is to collect premiums, not pay claims. They will offer a low-ball settlement hoping a family desperate to pay expenses accepts. A car accident attorney will determine whether the settlement offer is appropriate or if you will likely receive a higher award by filing a lawsuit.

You must comply with various rules to file a lawsuit, including the Arizona Statute of Limitations. We will share everything you need to know about this deadline here.

What Is a Statute of Limitations?

State and federal laws include a statute of limitations, setting the maximum amount of time anyone involved in a dispute has to initiate a legal proceeding. There are statutes for criminal proceedings and civil lawsuits, including personal injuries from automotive accidents. The deadline is based on the date the alleged incident took place.

The time you have to take legal action varies from state to state. Under certain circumstances, there are exceptions to the general rule.

For example, the deadlines for cases involving personal injury and wrongful death from car accidents are different in some states. In other states, they are the same.

In some states, the rules for an automotive accident between two cars, a car and motorcycle accident, and an accident involving a commercial truck differ. Understanding how the statute is calculated and what rules apply to your particular case may be confusing.

Contact a Phoenix, Arizona car accident attorney if you are unsure of where you stand legally or if the deadline is approaching and you are not comfortable with the legal process. They will review your case, begin collecting discovery and file your lawsuit by the deadline.

Statute of Limitations for Arizona Car Accident Lawsuits

The statute of limitations for Arizona is set forth under ARS § 12-542. For personal injuries, including injuries that result in death, the time frame is two years from the date of the accident. This means if you are in a car accident on July 1, 2022, you must file your lawsuit with the appropriate court no later than July 1, 2024.

While the courts are strict on making the two-year deadline or forever losing your ability to file a claim, there are some exceptions. Exceptions include persons suffering injuries when a minor child, people of unsound mind, and people experiencing a period of disability making them unable to commence legal action.

Under these circumstances, ARS § 12-502 allows the tolling of the deadline.

Minor Child

Tolling is a way of suspending the statute of limitations. Tolling takes place with a minor child until the minor child turns 18 years old. On the date of their 18th birthday, the two-year timeframe for filing begins.

For example, a child suffers permanent, life-altering injuries from an automotive accident at eight years old, but the child’s parents do not file a lawsuit. Once the child turns 18, they have two years from their birthday to file a civil suit for those injuries.

Unsound Mind or Disability

When a person is in an accident and suffers a traumatic brain injury, they may legally be of “unsound mind.” This means that they cannot manage their affairs or understand their legal rights. Upon removal of the disability, the two-year timeframe for filing a lawsuit begins.

The State of Arizona Supreme Court recognizes an action for personal injury as a fundamental right under the Arizona Constitution. The law covers the inability of a person suffering injuries to bring an action on their own behalf. It does not cover the possibility of a parent or guardian asserting those rights on their behalf pursuant to Barrio v. San Manuel Division Hospital for Magma Copper Co., 143 Ariz. 101, 692 P.2d 280 (1984).

This means even though the guardian or conservator over a person may have the ability to file a lawsuit on behalf of a person with injuries, their failure to take action does not penalize the person suffering injuries. Upon recognizing those injuries, the person has two years to take legal action.

Discovery Rule

This exception to the statute occurs if a person is not aware of their injuries until beyond the deadline. This may happen if you are in an accident and there are no injuries found at the time of the incident.

A few years later, you develop symptoms of an injury, such as spinal degeneration, that relates to the accident. Even if the discovery of the injury occurs beyond the two-year statute, you can file your lawsuit within two years of the date of discovery.

Defendant Absent From State

ARS § 12-502 states that if the defendant in a car accident lawsuit is absent from the state during the statute of limitations period, the countdown is suspended until they return to Arizona.

As an example of the way this works, let’s say you are in an accident on June 1, 2022. The defendant, knowing they are liable, flees the state. They wait out the standard two-year statute of limitations and return to Arizona on August 15, 2025.

The entire time the defendant is absent from the state, the statute is tolling. You may now file your lawsuit, even though they were absent for three years.

Some calculations must take place in determining the final deadline. Any time the defendant was in the state, the time was not tolling. If they were in Arizona for six months during that period, you would only have 18 months from their return to take legal action.

Statutes for Lawsuits Against the Government

If your injuries are due to an accident with a vehicle belonging to a government or municipality, the statute of limitations is considerably shorter and has additional requirements

The statute requires a plaintiff to file a “Notice of Claim” on the public entity within 180 days following the date of the incident. You must follow specific rules to ensure this notice and all future documents are properly served on the defendant.

There are also different procedures in ARS § 12-820 to ARS § 12-823. If filing a lawsuit against a government employee or entity, you have only one year from the date of your accident to file the lawsuit.

In a case against the state, the attorney general may request a change in jurisdiction, either before or while filing their answer. This moves the trial to Maricopa county.

When the court finds in favor of the plaintiff, the amount of the award from the public entity shall include interest from the time the obligation accrued, plus court costs.

How Long Should I Wait?

If you or a loved one suffers severe injuries in an accident, you need to contact Sweet Law to schedule a consultation as quickly as possible. Signs you need a personal injury attorney include:

  • When there is a long-term permanent disability
  • When there is a question of liability
  • When the insurance company is not offering a fair settlement
  • When you cannot afford the medical expenses
  • When the injury is due to an auto defect

As soon as you hire an attorney, they can begin working on your case. Discovery is a lengthy process and involves gathering police reports, witness statements, medical records, photographs, and more.

Your attorney may conduct depositions of medical personnel, witnesses, law enforcement, and first responders. They may wish to file interrogatories, demand for documents, and admission requests on the defendant. These are all standard steps in the pursuit of a personal injury settlement.

The old phrase “looking out for number one” applies here. You need to schedule a consultation if an insurance company or anyone else offers you a settlement. This is a good indication of their liability and an attempt to resolve the matter as quickly and cheaply as possible.

A person or company liable for your injuries is seeking to get the lowest settlement possible. If you agree to a settlement of $10,000 and later find out your case is worth $210,000, there is no going back to claim the rest. Once you settle, that is all you get.

Discuss any settlement offers and your injuries with an accident attorney before agreeing to anything.

The offering party may pressure you, saying it is a “one-time offer.” Don’t fall for that trick. They don’t want you talking to an attorney who knows what your injury is worth.

How Much Can I Get in a Car Accident Settlement?

Each case is different—the accident circumstances, personal injuries, insurance coverage, and more all vary from case to case. Every jury is different, and there is no hard set of rules saying, “if this happens, you get this $$$ amount.”

There are average settlement amounts for car crashes resulting in personal injury lawsuits. A basic guideline, depending on the injuries you suffer, is: 

  • $10,000 to $25,000—minor injuries such as whiplash or soft tissue damage
  • $50,000 to $75,000—long term injuries that require physical therapy or surgery
  • $75,000 to $100,000—spinal injuries not causing paralysis
  • $100,000 to $250,000—brain injuries causing cognitive impairment, loss of brain function, or requiring surgery
  • $250,000 to several million dollars—injuries causing paralysis or severe brain injuries requiring daily assistance

Insurance companies have limits. If you have an injury that may result in a $150,000 settlement, but the insurance coverage is only $20,000, that is all the insurance company will offer.

This is when you need to contact a car accident attorney about filing a lawsuit. They will help you get the compensation you deserve.

Factors That Impact Car Accident Settlement Amounts

When deciding on how much you deserve in compensation, the judge or jury will look at the following factors. These are not listed in any particular order.

1. Financial Loss

This covers all financial loss you are experiencing because of the accident. It may include the loss of your automobile, medical expenses for your treatment, and loss of income due to an inability to work.

2. Severity of Injuries

The severity of your injuries impacts your settlement. A minor whiplash and broken leg will not render as high a settlement as a traumatic brain injury, permanent injury to a leg requiring one or more surgeries, and other life-altering injuries.

3. Mental Pain and Suffering

This is emotional distress due to the accident. The injury is not easily definable and is hard to prove.

The award for this is more likely to occur if permanent physical disfigurement impacts a person’s self-confidence and abilities. Another form of mental distress is PTSD from the accident, such as fear of driving a car again.

4. Physical Pain and Suffering

This is physical pain you experience as a result of your injuries. This may be ongoing pain from back injuries or head injuries causing a constant, incurable headache. Consideration includes the likelihood of you continuing to suffer this pain in the future.

5. State Law

Accident laws that pertain to your particular case will impact the decision regarding your award. For instance, whether or not you were partially at fault in causing the accident. This can include negligence, a driver being drunk, speeding, or other traffic law violations.

6. Liability

The easier it is to prove you are not at fault for the crash, the better your chance of receiving compensation. If there is a dispute over which driver is at fault, or if there is evidence you may be partially at fault, the amount of compensation may be adjusted to reflect this.

7. Car Insurance Policies

Every car insurance policy has a limit on personal injury coverage. This may meet or exceed the state minimum. If an auto owner fails to carry the minimum amount of car insurance, they may face penalties, even if they are not at fault in the accident.

Maximize Your Settlement

To maximize the amount of the car accident settlement you receive, you need to:

  • Collect evidence
  • Get a medical evaluation
  • Start the process immediately

File your car accident lawsuit immediately by scheduling a consultation with a Phoenix car accident attorney.

Consultation for Car Accident Lawsuits

Car accident lawsuits are time-consuming and require legal knowledge of court procedures and rules, traffic law, personal injury law, and more. Don’t risk having your case dismissed because of an innocent mistake.

If you or a loved one is suffering from car accident injuries, you need the services of Sweet Lawyers. We offer a 100% free, no-obligation consultation, are available 24/7 to discuss your case and you pay nothing unless we win.

Visit our website to request a police report and schedule a consultation. We are available by text, email, our online form, or call us at 1-800-674-7854.

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