Most states in the United States uphold fault-based systems for handling car accidents, and Arizona also follows the traditional fault-based system. This means that all drivers must purchase and maintain auto liability insurance for use in the event of an accident. In a fault-based state, the driver who causes an accident is liable for the resulting damages.
Determining Fault for an Auto Accident in Arizona
Some car accidents are more straightforward than others when it comes to determining fault. For example, if one driver was driving legally within the speed limit and another driver under the influence of alcohol causes an accident with the first driver, liability for the incident will almost certainly fall to the intoxicated driver. However, the fault is more difficult to determine in some car accident cases. Depending on the location of the accident, the traveling direction, and speeds of the drivers involved, and the traffic pattern in the area, it is possible for liability to fall to one or multiple drivers, including those injured in the accident.
An injured driver must establish liability for an accident in a fault-based state before filing an insurance claim or pursuing legal action against another party. The first steps after any car accident are important for all drivers and can have a profound effect on an injured driver’s recovery options.
- Document as much as possible from the accident scene as you can. If you sustained serious injuries, wait for paramedics to arrive. If you feel well enough to move around, take photos of the accident scene, the damage to your vehicle, the surrounding areas, and your injuries while they are fresh and readily apparent.
- Refrain from saying anything a police officer could interpret as an admission of guilt. Even a seemingly harmless phrase like “I’m sorry” could constitute an admission of guilt taken out of context. Answer the responding officers’ questions truthfully and concisely until they allow you to leave.
- Obtain witness information. Get the names and contact information of any eyewitnesses or other drivers who saw the accident. These individuals can be valuable sources of information and may help you prove fault for the accident.
- Seek medical care immediately afterward. Even if you think you have only suffered minor injuries, seeing a doctor right away and obtaining a medical report will work in your favor if you need to pursue a lawsuit or insurance claim for your accident.
- Consult with an attorney. Your lawyer can analyze the evidence and help you determine the best course of action for securing compensation for your damages.
Determining fault is an essential step for handling a car accident in any state like Arizona that follows a traditional fault-based system. In a no-fault state, every driver uses his or her own insurance to cover damages from accidents regardless of who caused those accidents, except under specific conditions like cases involving very severe injuries or damages beyond the scope of available insurance coverage.
Comparative Fault in Arizona
Arizona also follows a comparative negligence law, meaning that more than one party, including an injured driver, could potentially absorb fault for a claimed incident. For example, if one driver was texting behind the wheel and ran a red light, striking another driver who was speeding, the distracted driver who committed the moving violation would likely absorb most of the fault for the accident. Additionally, the speeding driver would likely incur some fault despite the fact that he or she was driving with the right-of-way, due to speeding.
The comparative fault could come into play with an insurance claim or a civil lawsuit for a car accident in Arizona. The plaintiff’s shared fault for a car accident would diminish the potential recovery he or she could secure. The shared fault may also bar a driver from securing an insurance settlement. Ultimately, any driver concerned about the fault in a recent Arizona car accident should consult an attorney as soon as possible.