Arizona Auto Accident Injuries – Fault

When dealing with a personal injury claim in Arizona and you make a claim for damages as a result of an automobile accident, the first thing an insurance adjuster, or a jury, will do is determine “fault”. The person whose “negligence” caused the accident typically pays for the damages. If more than one person caused the accident, then the fault is distributed between the parties. For example, one driver can be forty percent “at fault” and another sixty percent “at fault”.

If the person making the claim is at fault, his or her recovery is reduced by the percentage of fault apportioned to them.

For example:

Driver A proves damages of $10,000

Driver A is apportioned 10% fault in the accident.

Driver A recovers $9,000

The type of system that allows for recovery, even if the injured party is partially to blame for causing the accident, is a comparative negligence system. Different states use different comparative negligence systems. Arizona uses a “pure comparative negligence system”.

In a pure comparative negligence system, an injured party may recover damages even if they are 99% at fault for the accident. Theoretically, if driver A above was found to be 99% at fault for the accident, he or she could recover $100 or 1% of the established damages. Practically speaking however, an insurance company and a jury do not split the hair so cleanly, but it is theoretically possible in Arizona to be almost totally at fault, and still receive some damage award.

So, you have to understand, fault analysis begins at the accident scene. What you say and do at an accident scene is very important. Even if you believe you are only partially at fault in the accident.

Here are some accident scene do’s and don’ts.

  • Don’t move the cars unless it is unsafe to leave them in the street;
  • Do immediately call the police;
  • Do get the other driver’s insurance information;
  • Do write down the license plate number of the other car;
  • Don’t make any statements until the police arrive;
  • Do request immediate medical help if you feel in even the slightest need.
  • Do take pictures of your car.

If you do decide to bring in a lawyer, this is the best stage to do so– immediately following an accident. A lawyer, at least a good one, knows how to build a case. They know the law, they know your rights and if necessary, they can hire experts to re-create the accident to help to determine fault. This is important because once an adjuster makes his or her decision, the only recourse you have is a courtroom setting, whether arbitration, mediation, or trial. So, do not take “fault” for granted. Even if it seems obvious to you, remember that a jury or arbitrator has to reconstruct this accident in their minds, sometimes years later. Make sure you start to build your case at the accident scene. Take nothing for granted.

The Law Offices of Daniel J. Marco, PLLC offers a free injury case evaluation with offices in Gilbert, Mesa, Phoenix, Scottsdale, Tempe and Chandler, Arizona. Contact us at 480-275-4894 to arrange your free evaluation.