Every state has different laws when it comes to car accidents. One such difference is whether at-fault drivers are liable to pay damages. Arizona follows a fault-based system, meaning negligent drivers who cause auto accidents are responsible for any damages the wreck caused. New Mexico also follows a fault-based system.
Some states are no-fault states, limiting a claimant's options after an accident. In a no-fault state, the parties must turn to their own insurance policies for payment on medical bills, property damage, etc. However, in a no-fault state, if an accident does reach a certain threshold of severity, a plaintiff can make a claim directly against the other driver. Arizonians need not worry about this, as Arizona is not a no-fault state; the at-fault party is liable after an accident.
In this article, we'll walk through what happens when more than one party is at fault, when you are at fault, and other things you should know about liability after a car accident in Phoenix.
If you have questions about liability in an accident in which you were involved, give us a call or text today at (602) 345-1818. Our auto accident lawyers in Phoenix look forward to helping you navigate your case.
What If Two or More Parties Were At Fault?
When more than one party's negligent actions (or inactions) have led to a car accident, Arizona follows a “pure comparative negligence” approach. This means that in the case of multiple negligent parties, liability can be shared and divided equally to the percentage at fault each party was in the accident. Subsequently, a party's compensation will be reduced by the percentage of fault they are proven to have had in the accident.
For example, if a plaintiff was rewarded $100,000 in damages, and they were found to be 20 percent liable, they'd receive $80,000 in compensation from the defendant who was found to be 80 percent responsible for the wreck.
As you can imagine, it's extremely helpful to consult an attorney to better understand how to determine percentage of fault and collect evidence to better present your case to the insurance provider.
How Can I Prove It Wasn't My Fault?
If the accident wasn't your fault (or wasn't entirely your fault), your auto accident lawyer will collect evidence to present your case to the insurance company. Your lawyer can also help you file any paperwork, communicate with the insurance provider, and negotiate on your behalf. In some cases, a lawsuit may need to be filed in order to get a fair settlement.
The initial step in the process is to determine fault, and this can be quite a complex step depending on the circumstances. Your attorney will gather evidence, such as the following":
Police accident reports
Accident reconstruction analysis
Video and photo evidence from the scene
Electronic crash data
Medical records and bills
Even if parties are pointing fingers and denying fault, there is usually neutral evidence that can be found to prove who caused the auto accident.
What Happens When the At-Fault Driver Has No Insurance?
Unfortunately, if you are hit by an uninsured driver, you may have to turn to your own policy. This is where uninsured motorist insurance comes into play, and it can be very important in such situations. Despite this, in Arizona, it is not a requirement to purchase this coverage, though we highly recommend purchasing it.
If this happens to you, don't think the uninsured driver will get off the hook so easily. In Arizona, not having liability insurance at the state-required minimum is one of the most expensive civil violations you can get. Additionally, driving uninsured runs Arizonians the risk of getting their license and car registration suspended. If an uninsured driver causes an accident without insurance, the penalties are even harsher. They can be sued by the other driver's insurance company to recover damages to their policy holder's property. If there is a judgment against a driver, the insurance company can provide proof of it to the Arizona Department of Transportation. Once this happens, the driver's license and registration will be suspended until they pay the judgment or begin a payment plan.
These aren't situations anyone wants to be in. To protect yourself as much as possible, purchase uninsured motorist insurance and never drive without proof of financial responsibility.
Do I Have a Timeline?
In Arizona, you will have two years from your accident or the date you discovered injuries to file suit. In New Mexico, you have three years.
However, there may be exceptions depending on who the parties are in the accident. For example, in Arizona, you may have as few as 180 days to take action if the other driver is a government employee, such as a firefighter or sanitation employee. It's best to consult an auto accident lawyer in Phoenix to understand exactly what your timelines are so that you don't miss your chance at recovering damages.
Do I Need to Hire a Car Accident Lawyer?
Hiring an auto accident lawyer is a good idea if the other driver is denying fault, or the insurance company is refusing your claim or lowballing your settlement. It's advisable to have a lawyer on your side to collect evidence, help you negotiate with the other parties, and present your case to get the compensation you need.
If you have been in an accident and need legal help, text or call us at (602) 345-1818 for a free consultation. You can also fill out this online form. Don't go at this alone– we're here to support you.