Determining fault in a Phoenix car accident can be tricky, and is often left to police officers and insurance personnel. Unfortunately, these professionals are not always very good about properly assigning fault, which can make a huge difference to you both legally and financially. Understanding the basic issues behind how to determine fault in a Phoenix car accident will help you protect yourself.
Don’t Claim Fault
The first rule in any car accident is never to claim to be at fault. Even safe drivers who are following the rules of the road can be in an accident. Don’t assume it’s your fault! Generally, if someone accepts blame, they will be assigned fault by the police and insurance personnel. Unfortunately, it’s not often enough to simply avoid taking blame outright. You should also be very careful what you say on the scene; even saying “I’m sorry,” or “It’s no big deal,” can be used against you in a fault determination in court.
Arizona Fault Law: Comparative Negligence
When determining fault for a car accident in Phoenix, the Arizona fault law of comparative negligence applies. This statute says that someone who is determined to be at fault for an accident can claim that the other party also contributed to the accident. If a jury finds this to be correct, the damages will be reduced, and the defendant will only pay for his or her portion of the damages. However, there is no right to make this defense for any defendant who intentionally, willfully, or wantonly caused or contributed to an injury or wrongful death.
Unfortunately, this Arizona fault law means that even if you are involved in an accident that is clearly the other person’s fault, you may not get full damages. Insurance companies look for every possible way to reduce their payments, and every percentage point of reduction is money that you deserve and don’t receive.
Get Help to Determine Fault
It’s common for someone you are in a car accident with, or their insurance adjuster, to try to convince you not to get a lawyer. They promise to be fair. However, without a lawyer, your rights are not protected from the fault determination decided by the police and insurance personnel. You could find yourself getting a reduced payment due to comparative negligence claims. The bottom line is that the insurance company has lawyers protecting their interests – shouldn’t you?
A lawyer can help you determine fault by asking key questions related to your car accident. Some things they may ask include:
- Is there anything about the road design or road signs that may have contributed to your accident?
- Did any trees obscure vision?
- Did anything on the car, such as air bags or mechanical failure, contribute to the accident?
- What actions of each driver contributed to the accident and resulting injuries and damage?
Getting Help with a Lawsuit
If you feel that the determination of fault was incorrect, or that your damages and suffering were not fairly compensated by the insurance offer, you have the right in Arizona to file a lawsuit. This is true no matter how significant the damages and injuries are. For an Arizona auto claim, you have two years from the date of the car accident to file your lawsuit. Remember that you can claim damages not only for direct injuries and property damages, but also for lost wages, pain and suffering, and emotional distress.
Choosing a lawyer that specializes in your type of case is important. If you have an injury case, are fighting a poor fault determination, or have an especially high amount of damages you’re seeking, you’ll want a lawyer with a proven record of success in that area.
If you’re looking for help with a Phoenix car accident case, or you’d like more information about determining fault in a car accident, I’m here to help. I have over 20 years of experience representing clients in Phoenix, and I specialize in auto accidents, car collisions, motorcycle accidents, and pedestrian/bicycle accidents. Call me today at 602-212-0202 for a free consultation!