Is Arizona a No-Fault State?
By Zachary Mushkatel on November 2, 2018
Arizona is a fault-based insurance system. This means that in Arizona, the one who is responsible for causing a car accident is also responsible for paying for the damages. Is Arizona a no-fault state?
Is Arizona a No-Fault State?
This “you break it, you buy it” theory is what differentiates Arizona from states that apply a no-fault system. In no-fault states, all parties involved in motor vehicle accidents, whether at fault or not, must first submit their claims to their own insurance companies.
In Arizona, however, injured people can directly file their claims with the at-fault driver’s insurance carrier.
At Mushkatel, Robbins & Becker, PLLC, we deliver high-quality legal representation and individualized service to our clients by focusing on what matters most. Our auto accident lawyers serve clients throughout all of Phoenix and the West Valley. If you’ve been hurt in a car accident, call or visit our firm online to schedule a personalized free consultation today.
What Does It Mean That Arizona Is a Comparative Negligence State?
The majority of car crashes involve one party who was negligent or careless and an innocent victim. There are, of course, situations where more than one party shares the blame. Say, for instance, that the other driver was mostly to blame for the crash, but you were speeding at the time, so you may be found partly to blame as well. This type of shared liability triggers a situation known as comparative negligence.
There is a range of ways that states resolve situations like this. In some states, if you are to blame, even in the smallest way, you can’t recover damages at all. In other states, your recovery will just be reduced by your own share of responsibility, but only if you are less responsible for the accident than the other party. Arizona applies a “pure comparative negligence” approach, which means no matter how much you may be to blame for the crash, you can still recover compensation.
However, your recovery will be reduced in direct proportion to your share of the liability. So, in practice, this means you probably won’t recover much of anything if you are primarily to blame. But it also means that you can still collect compensation, even if you perhaps share some responsibility.
For example, if you are involved in a crash with damages of $10,000, and you are found to be 25 percent at fault, your award would be reduced by $2,500.
How Will an Attorney Help Prove Fault After a Crash?
In Arizona, an experienced auto accident lawyer can collect evidence and present your case to the insurance carrier. An attorney can also negotiate on your behalf to assert pressure and leverage on the insurance company to settle the claim, where appropriate. In other cases, an attorney may need to file suit against the responsible individual or company in order to obtain a jury verdict.
The first step in any investigation is to determine who is actually at fault. This can be more complicated than it may seem in some cases. A knowledgeable attorney will uncover vital evidence such as:
- Police accident reports
- Accident reconstruction analysis
- Video or photographic evidence from the scene
- Witness statements
- Electronic crash data (“black box” data)
- Medical records and billing statements
Many cases boil down to a he said / she said scenario, such as four-way stop accidents and on-ramp merge accidents. However, in the vast majority of cases, there will be credible and neutral evidence to help demonstrate who caused the crash.
What If the At-Fault Driver Had No Insurance?
Sadly, this happens all too often. One driver disobeys a traffic law, seriously injures others, then turns out to carry no insurance. In fact, as of 2015, the Insurance Information Institute ranked Arizona 24th in the nation for most uninsured motorists, with an incredible 12 percent of all drivers in the state failing to carry the legally required minimum coverage.
This means you need to carry optional coverage to protect yourself, your family, and your passengers, just in case you get hit by one of these uninsured drivers. Two types of insurance are helpful in these scenarios:
- Uninsured motorist coverage: This coverage is designed to compensate you in the same way the other driver’s coverage would have, had they carried it. This means you can still claim medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
- Medical payments coverage: This optional coverage pays for your unpaid medical bills, regardless of fault or shared liability. It can be very helpful if you suffer a catastrophic injury.
What Is the Statute of Limitations on Car Accident Claims in Arizona?
In the vast majority of cases involving private citizens and companies, you will have just two years from the date of your crash to file a lawsuit against those responsible. However, there are exceptions. For instance, if the other driver is employed by a local or municipal government, such as a fire department, sanitation department, and so forth, then you may have as little as 180 days to take action to preserve your claim. There are also other exceptions that apply when the federal government is involved.
Therefore, it is important to take action to protect your rights as soon as possible. With offices conveniently located in Sun City, Surprise, Glendale, Peoria, and Scottsdale, the Arizona car accident lawyers of Mushkatel, Robbins & Becker, PLLC, can quickly meet with you and build a strategy for pursuing fair and just compensation. Remember, never speak with the insurance company until you’ve consulted an experienced attorney first. For a free consultation and to learn more about how we can help, contact us online today.
Zachary Mushkatel is an Arizona native who earned his undergraduate degree from the University of Arizona in 2001 and his law degree from the University of Minnesota Law School in 2004. After serving as a public defender, he entered into private practice and, ultimately, joined forces with Mathis Becker to form the law firm known today as Mushkatel, Robbins & Becker, PLLC. In addition to criminal law, Mushkatel practices civil litigation, with a focus on estate litigation and personal injury cases. He also serves on the Board of Directors for the Surprise Regional Chamber of Commerce and Sun Valley Lodge, and he is an executive officer and member of the Board of Directors for the West Maricopa County Bar Association.