Have you recently been injured in a car accident in Arizona? If so, the law might be the last thing on your mind. You’re busy healing, recovering, and sorting through the details of what happened.
Still, it’s important to seek legal counsel at this critical time.
An experienced car accident lawyer will know exactly how to handle cases like yours because they’ve worked on similar claims in the past. They’ll also have an in-depth knowledge of the state’s car accident laws, so they can tell you what to do, which documents to complete, and the timelines you need to follow.
While they work in the background on your behalf, it helps to know as much as possible about Arizona law, yourself. Today, we’re sharing the legal basics to understand.
1. Duty to Stop and Share Information
Under Arizona law (ARS § 28-663), if you’re involved in an accident that results in injury or death to another person, you must either:
- Stop immediately at the accident
- Return to the scene of the accident as soon as possible
You must be able to perform these actions without causing a traffic obstruction. Stop your vehicle and park in an area that does not obstruct traffic. Depending on the specific circumstances, failing to do so could mean breaking the law, and could even result in the suspension of your license.
Note that you’re required to stop at an accident that causes property damage or injury to a person. This statute does not apply to accidentally striking an animal, as unfortunate as the incident might be.
Under the statute, you aren’t required to simply stop. You also must share the following information:
- Your name
- Your address
- Your vehicle registration number
If the other party at the accident requests it, you must also be ready to share your driver’s license number, as well as your car insurance information. Remain at the scene until law enforcement arrives.
2. Duty to Render Assistance
If a driver is injured in an auto accident, you must render reasonable medical assistance to that person if either one of these scenarios applies:
- The injured party requests aid
- It is obvious that the injured party needs aid
In this case, reasonable medical assistance means making arrangements for the injured party to be transported to a facility for medical or surgical treatment. This action can be performed either upon request or if it’s obvious that treatment is necessary. You should not attempt to move anyone who is physically injured unless it is essential to do so.
3. At-Fault State Requirements
When it comes to car accident laws, states can fall into one of two categories:
- At-fault states
- No-fault states
In no-fault states, drivers must carry a form of auto insurance called personal injury protection, or PIP. If they are in an accident, their PIP coverage will pay for their medical bills, no matter which driver is at fault. However, the at-fault driver will still be responsible for covering any property damages that occur.
On the other hand, an at-fault state operates a little differently. In these states, the at-fault driver is the one responsible for covering both the physical injuries and the property damages that the other driver suffers. The bodily injury coverage portion of their auto insurance policy will kick in to pay for the injured party’s medical bills.
States that follow at-fault insurance laws are often called tort states. Arizona is an at-fault, or tort, state. If you are involved in a car accident here, the at-fault driver’s insurance company is required to pay for your injuries and damages.
If the at-fault driver does not have bodily injury liability insurance, the injured party has two options:
- Leverage their uninsured motorist coverage
- Obtain PIP coverage
If you decide to add PIP coverage to your auto insurance plan, the at-fault driver’s insurance company will likely reimburse it once you reach a settlement.
Required Car Insurance Minimums
In Arizona, drivers are required to carry car insurance. This is a mandatory requirement for anyone operating a motor vehicle on the state’s roads and highways.
The minimum levels of financial responsibility include:
- $25,000 bodily injury liability (one person)
- $50,000 (two or more persons)
- $15,000 property damage liability
Note that as a driver, these minimums are not designed to cover your injuries and damages. You may also choose to pursue PIP coverage to make sure you’re covered in the event of a collision.
4. Pure Comparative Negligence
Simply designating between at-fault and no-fault states doesn’t quite show the whole picture. In at-fault states, there are three more categories that states can fall into. These include:
- Pure contributory negligence
- Pure comparative negligence
- Modified comparative negligence
Let’s break these down a little more.
Pure Contributory Negligence
In a pure contributory negligence state, you could still be held liable for the accident even if you only carry the slightest bit of fault for causing it. If the at-fault driver can prove that you were even 1% negligent, you would not be allowed to claim any car accident compensation from the other driver’s insurance.
States that follow this law include:
- North Carolina
- Washington, D.C.
Pure Comparative Negligence
While pure contributory negligence laws can be more strict, pure comparative negligence laws are a little more flexible. This is the type of law that Arizona follows.
If both parties are found to be negligent in the accident, the settlement for each party will directly correlate to the amount of fault they each carry. For instance, you can still receive a settlement if your actions (or inaction) contributed 30% to the accident. However, the amount you receive will be reduced by 30%, so you’ll ultimately only receive 70% of the total claim.
In addition to Arizona, other states that follow pure comparative negligence laws include:
- New Mexico
- New York
- Rhode Island
Modified Comparative Negligence
In a modified comparative negligence state, you cannot receive compensation for your damages if your percentage of negligence is above a certain amount. Most of the time, this percentage is 51%.
If you are found to be at least 51% negligent in the accident, you cannot claim any damages. The states that follow modified comparative negligence include:
- South Carolina
As you can see, determining fault is only one step in filing an insurance claim and receiving compensation after a car accident. After a car accident in Arizona, the pure comparative negligence strategy will come into play.
5. Reporting an Accident
In some states, the onus falls on the driver to report a car accident to the police. Arizona is not one of those states. Under the Arizona Traffic and Vehicle Regulation Code, most of that reporting responsibility falls on the law enforcement officers themselves.
According to the Arizona Revised Statutes, Section 28-667, law enforcement officers must prepare a written report if they are tasked with investigating an accident. However, they don’t have to do this for every single accident they work on.
Official reports are only required if the crash meets the following criteria:
- Results in injury or death
- Causes more than $2,000 worth of damage to a driver’s vehicle or other property
- Results in the issuance of a traffic ticket
Understandably, a police officer cannot report an accident if they aren’t aware of it. As soon as possible after a collision occurs, it’s smart to call law enforcement to the scene. This applies to any accident, even minor ones.
The only exception would be if the accident was truly minuscule, and did not cause any obvious injuries or property damage.
6. Statute of Limitations
If you’ve experienced a car accident injury, it’s important to act quickly. You have two years from the date of the accident to file a lawsuit for your injuries and damages. This timeline applies to any case, regardless of whether you’re seeking a legal remedy for an injury, wrongful death, or vehicle damage.
It also applies regardless of the specific individual filing the case, such as:
- A driver
- A passenger
- A motorcyclist
- A bicyclist
- A pedestrian
While two years might sound like plenty of time, the process can take longer than you might think. That’s why it’s so important to hire a car accident lawyer as soon as possible after your collision. Your attorney will walk you through all of the steps required to file a claim and can help you do so quickly and easily.
If you try to file a lawsuit after that two-year mark is up, it will usually be met with a denial.
One important distinction to make is that this timeframe does not apply to making an insurance claim. However, that doesn’t mean you don’t have to file one. Any insurance company, either yours or the at-fault driver’s, will require you to make a claim if you plan to seek compensatory damages.
In most cases, you’re required to file a claim, or at least contact your insurance agency and let them know that an accident occurred which could trigger a claim, within a “reasonable” amount of time after the accident. If possible, you should try to take this action within a few days.
Even if you’re confident that your claim can be settled outside of court, don’t stretch this timeline too far. If the claim does turn into a lawsuit, you’ll want to have plenty of time to take care of all of those details. If you think your time might be running out based on the Arizona statute of limitations, it may be time to hire a car accident lawyer.
7. Types of Damages You Can Claim
Under Arizona laws, attorneys and insurance companies will categories your accident-related damages into two categories:
Typically, economic damages are straightforward and easy to calculate. These are quantifiable expenses, such as:
- Medical expenses (past, current, and future)
- Lost wages
- Vehicle repairs
Non-economic damages can be a little trickier. These expenses are not quantifiable and are more long-term in nature. Examples can include:
- Pain and suffering
- Anxiety and depression
- Emotional distress
- Loss of affection or companionship
According to the Arizona State Constitution, there is no cap on the amount of damages you can claim in a personal injury or car accident case.
When you’re ready to claim damages, you have two options. First, you can pursue an out-of-court car accident settlement with the other driver and their insurance company. This is usually the best route to take if the case is straightforward and the blame clearly lies with one party.
That party’s insurance company will offer you a settlement to consider. If you accept it, you will sign a release form that essentially waives your right to sue for additional damages in court later.
If you cannot come to an agreement with the other driver’s insurer, you can also choose to file a lawsuit. In this case, the court will determine the total amount of damages that you are owed, including both economic and non-economic ones. Then, they’ll apply the comparative fault system to determine your final payout after reviewing all of the evidence.
Understand These Arizona Car Accident Laws
Car accident laws can be tricky, especially if you don’t work in the legal field. Thankfully, we do.
At Sweet Lawyers, we’re well-versed in every aspect of Arizona car accident law. We’ve worked on cases just like yours, and we know how to help you fight for the compensation you deserve.
While it’s helpful to familiarize yourself with these statutes, you shouldn’t have to stress about remembering every detail. That’s our job, and we have years of experience doing it. If you’ve been injured in a car accident, reach out to our team today for a free consultation.