Most personal injury cases center on the legal theory of negligence. To obtain a settlement or verdict for your damages, you or your attorney will have to prove someone else’s negligence caused the injury. You will also have to navigate Arizona’s comparative negligence rule, which could place some of the blame for the accident on you. Maximizing your compensation award takes a thorough understanding of Arizona’s negligence laws – and how to navigate them to your greatest advantage.
Establishing Negligence in a Personal Injury Case
Establishing negligence is the plaintiff’s duty during a personal injury claim in Arizona. Establishing negligence during an injury claim in Arizona requires four main elements.
- The defendant owed a duty to exercise reasonable care. The relationship between the plaintiff and defendant matters during personal injury lawsuits. The plaintiff’s side of the case must prove that the defendant owed certain duties of care according to this relationship, such as a duty to drive safely or to maintain safe premises.
- The defendant breached a duty of care. The breach of duty of care refers to the act of negligence. Proving a breach of duty is often the most difficult part of a personal injury case in Arizona. The plaintiff’s attorney will need evidence that the defendant should have done something he or she failed to do.
- The defendant’s actions caused the accident. The third element is the causation. The plaintiff’s lawyer must establish a causal link between the defendant’s negligence and the plaintiff’s accident or injuries. The defendant’s negligence must be the main cause of the damages for the defendant to be liable.
- The plaintiff suffered real damages. Finally, the plaintiff’s attorney will need to demonstrate the plaintiff’s real, compensable losses as an outcome of the defendant’s actions or failure to act. Damages may include injuries, medical costs, income deficits, and pain and suffering.
The plaintiff will bear a burden of proof to establish that the defendant was negligent and that this negligence caused or contributed to the injuries in question. A lawyer can help with this burden.
Comparative Negligence Laws
Arizona is a comparative negligence state. This means the courts may assign a percentage of fault to the plaintiff, but he or she may still qualify for compensation. Comparative negligence is the opposite of contributory negligence, which is an all-or-nothing law that will bar the claimant from recovery for any amount of contributory fault. Arizona is a pure comparative negligence state. Even if the plaintiff is 99% at fault for negligently causing his or her own injuries, the plaintiff could still recover 1% of a damage award.
Under comparative fault laws, the courts will reduce a claimant’s recovery award by his or her percentage of fault. For example, naming the plaintiff 25% at fault for an accident would lead to that plaintiff receiving 25% less of the original compensation amount, such as $75,000, if the original award was $100,000. The only time the courts in Arizona will bar a plaintiff from recovery is if it finds that the plaintiff was guilty of intentionally causing the injury or death. Navigating the state’s negligence laws take help from an attorney.