Leading Phoenix Personal Injury Lawyers
The Lamber Goodnow Injury Law Team is a Phoenix-based group of personal injury lawyers and legal professionals committed to helping accident victims and their families. We innovate, work hard, and fight for our clients because it matters to us. Every member of our team is passionate about helping people. It’s what drives us.
Our attorneys believe in taking a proactive look at the law. This involves leaving no stone unturned as we investigate what caused an accident, how we can seek justice under the law for our clients, and what we can do to prevent the particular accident from happening again. In some cases, this even involves pursuing legislation to try and keep other people safe.
Phoenix-Based, National Accolades
Our efforts have resulted in industry-wide recognition. Our cases and lawyers have been featured on CNN, MSNBC, Today, NBC News, CBS News, ABC News, Fox News and many more (see media clips here). U.S. News and Best Lawyers® have named the Lamber Goodnow team a “Best Law Firm,” while Avvo® has given Lamber and Goodnow 10/10 ratings. We have also been named the #1 personal injury law team by Attorney at Law Magazine (Greater Phoenix edition), a top three personal injury law firm by the Arizona Republic/AZ Central Reader’s Choice, North Valley Magazine top five personal injury lawyers and Arizona Law Firm of the Year.
We believe in and regularly utilize technology to advance our clients’ cases. High-tech tools such as Virtual Reality, 3D printing, iPad Pros, Google Glass and Apple watches allow our attorneys and clients to communicate seamlessly and efficiently. This use of technology was noticed by Apple, which selected us to be the first legal team ever profiled on its website. In a cover story, The American Bar Association (ABA) Journal named Lamber and Goodnow two of the “Techiest Lawyers in America.”
Call our Phoenix-based attorneys 24/7 for a free, no obligation consultation.
What to Do After an Accident
The days immediately following an accident are often the most important for finding and preserving evidence of what occurred. It is vital that relevant evidence be gathered, identified and catalogued. Phoenix-based accident cases that go to trial typically end up being heard in Maricopa County Superior Court or Arizona Federal District Court. Both courts have complex rules of evidence that determine what a jury will ultimately hear. Although each piece of evidence must be looked at on its own, there are steps that can be taken early in a case to ensure that a jury has the opportunity to examine all relevant evidence.
Although there are many different types of relevant evidence, some examples include:
Physical Evidence: Physical evidence may be very helpful to show who was at fault in an accident. Some examples of physical evidence include:
- Damage to a car showing it was hit
- Torn or bloodied clothing
- A worn or broken stair that caused a fall
- An overhanging branch that blocked road visibility
It is important to recover physical evidence immediately after an accident because, if it is not preserved or photographed in the first few days, it may get modified by time, the weather, lost, destroyed or repaired. It is also important that you work with an attorney to catalog its location once stored to ensure what’s called the “chain of custody” and future admissibility.
Chain of custody refers to the paper trail, or chronological documentation, showing the seizure, custody, control, transfer and analysis of physical, or electronic evidence. The process is important to show that the evidence gathered is legally acceptable to courts and government agencies. It is important to be able to show that the evidence collected at an accident scene has not been altered, hidden, or destroyed, and that it accurately reflects the actual events that occurred.
In the digital age, the evidence preservation process has become important in civil litigation and personal injury cases. In the criminal arena, police would seize evidence, seal it in plastic bags, label it, and sign it in to a locked evidence room until its presentation at the trial. If the evidence were taken out for any reason, it would be noted in an evidence log. In the civil arena, however, evidence can be both electronic and physical. The stages of electronic discovery in civil litigation are: identification, preservation, collection, processing, review, analysis, production and presentation of evidence at a trial. Examples of non-electronic evidence in a personal injury case may include: photos of the accident scene, photos of vehicles, physical vehicle parts, natural contributors to an accident such as a tree branch, police reports, medical records and personal notes about the accident.
The Arizona Judicial Branch understands the importance of digital evidence; consequently, it has established the Task Force On Court Management of Digital Evidence by Administrative Order 2016-129 in order to develop policies for court management of digital evidence.
Police Reports: Under ARS § 28-666, the driver of a vehicle involved in an accident that results in injury to or death of a personal shall give notice immediately to either the local police department, county sheriff or nearest highway patrol.
When the police arrive at the scene they will create a police report. The police report will usually be an important piece of evidence in determining the cause of the accident, even though it is often inadmissible in court. A police report will contain helpful information such as the date, weather conditions, time and location of the personal injury incident. It will also often contain the name, telephone numbers and statements of others involved in the accident, or any witnesses to the accident, which may prove invaluable when trying to prove fault. Additionally, the report will have the officer’s initial assessment of fault. This will include the officer’s written narrative of the details and causes of the accident, and usually includes a diagram.
Once a police report has been created you may obtain one by requesting it from the police department. If you know which law enforcement agency came to the scene of the accident and prepared the report (state highway patrol, county sheriff), you may call the police department and obtain the records. Depending on the jurisdiction, there are also online record request services.
A police report may be used in your Phoenix personal injury settlement negotiations. If the police report indicates fault, it may be used as a settlement tool. The attorneys on the Lamber Goodnow team or their partner firms will corroborate and use information from the police report, as well as medical records, evidence of lost wages, explanations of loss of enjoyment and other important documents to draft a demand letter for the at-fault’s insurance company, demanding damages in order to make our client whole. The demand letter would summarize the facts of the case, describe the injury, provide evidence of loss and demand compensation for injuries.
A police report is usually inadmissible (not accepted as valid) in court because it is considered hearsay. The legal definition of hearsay is: “a statement made out of court that is offered in court as evidence to prove the truth of the matter asserted.” In other words, hearsay is any statement made outside the court that is offered in court to prove that the information in the statement is true. A statement may be considered written, oral or even a gesture.
The reason these statements are usually inadmissible is because they are not made under oath, therefore, a judge or jury cannot personally observe the demeanor of the person making the statement. Additionally, the opposing party cannot cross-examine the person making the statement. If the statement is made out-of-court, a judge or jury does not have the ability to analyze the statement for ambiguity, insincerity, faulty perception or erroneous memory.
Not all out-of-court statements or assertions are considered hearsay. The statements of any parties to a case are admissible in Arizona personal injury cases, as is the case with all civil matters. The Federal Rules of Evidence, and the Arizona Rules of Evidence, outline various types of statements that are excluded by the Hearsay Rule, as well as exceptions to the Hearsay rule, and thus, may be heard and considered by a judge or jury.
In some situations, facts in the police report may be admissible under Arizona Rules of Evidence Rule 803(8), the public records exception to the hearsay rule. Reports made by government agents, such as police reports, are included in this exception. The full list of Arizona hearsay exceptions provides additional opportunities for evidence to be admitted.
Medical Records: Medical records are a crucial form of evidence because they can help establish the extent of a person’s injuries, and the amount of compensation they should demand. If you have been injured in the accident, make sure you receive medical treatment for your injuries as soon as possible. Seeing a medical professional is important to begin immediate treatment, as well as to document your injuries from an accident. Medical treatment and therapy may last much longer than you anticipate, so make sure that you preserve all medical records. Documents to preserve include:
- Emergency room admitting charts
- Paramedic reports
- Doctors’ and Nurses’ notes (this includes therapists)
- Test and exam results
- Your physician’s diagnosis and prognosis
Arizona’s Hearsay Exceptions 803(6), Records of a Regularly Conducted Activity and 803(4), Statement Made for Medical Diagnosis or Treatment are both hearsay exceptions that create the admissibility of Medical Records in court.
Read more about what to do following an accident here.
Arizona Personal Injury Laws
Statute of Limitations Rules for Personal Injury Cases in Arizona
In Arizona, a personal injury case is a legal dispute that may arise when one person suffers harm from an injury or an accident and someone else might be legally responsible for that harm. A personal injury case is formalized through civil court proceedings, which seek to find someone legally at fault through a court judgment; however, a more common resolution is an informal settlement before a lawsuit has been filed. There are many different types of accidents and ways that people may get hurt. Here is a list of some Arizona laws that Phoenix-based personal injury lawyers commonly use:
Statute of Limitations - Injury to Person-Two Years (ARS § 12-542)
Limits on Damages - Prohibited (Article 2, Section 31 Arizona State Const.)
Other Limits - Comparative Fault System (ARS § 12-2501)
Notice of Accident - Required (ARS § 28-666)
Arizona Auto Insurance - Mandatory (ARS § 28-4009)
Negligence - Pure Comparative Negligence (ARS § 12-2505)
Wrongful Death - Liability (ARS § 12-611)
Product Liability - Liability (ARS § 12-551)
Premises Liability - Injuries Resulting from Condition of Property (Premises Liability Instruction No. 1, RAJI (5th))
Consult with a lawyer to learn more about the applicable statute of limitations that could apply to your injury or wrongful death case.
Arizona Minimum Insurance Requirements
Arizona operates under a traditional “tort” vehicle insurance model. This means that drivers who are involved in a vehicle accident have several options for recovery, including: file a claim with their own auto insurance company, file a claim with the at-fault driver’s auto insurance company, or file a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault driver.
Insurance is extremely important because it protects a person, or entity, from extreme financial loss due to an accident. Under ARS § 28-4009, drivers must carry liability insurance with at least the following amounts of coverage:
- $15,000 per person for bodily injury or death
- $30,000 per accident for two or more persons’ injuries or death, and
- $10,000 for property damage or destruction
The insurance amounts for bodily injury or death liability cover costs if you are involved in an accident and you are considered to be at fault. Additionally, the property damage amount pays for the damage or destruction caused to someone else’s property.
In Arizona, underinsured liability coverage and uninsured liability coverage are not mandatory. However, ARS § 20-259.01 requires that every insurer writing an automobile liability or motor vehicle liability policy offer, in writing, uninsured and underinsured coverage to their insureds in an amount equal to the insured’s liability coverage. If the insureds reject this coverage, insurers must prove compliance with the statute by having their insureds sign a Department of Insurance (“DOI”) approved form selecting or rejecting such coverage.
Accident Victims Beware: Arizona Healthcare Provider Liens and Insurance Reimbursement in Personal Injury Cases
One of the least understood areas of Arizona personal injury matters is healthcare provider liens and health insurance reimbursement. In Phoenix, virtually every major hospital and healthcare provider automatically files healthcare provider liens with the Maricopa County Recorder’s Office in cases where patients are admitted because of a car accident. Many accident victims don’t realize that these liens are filed even when they have insurance for the balance between what is paid by health insurance and the amount the hospital claims is their actual, “full” rate. In Arizona, this is called a “balance lien.” Other healthcare providers may file these types of liens as well.
Healthcare liens are governed by ARS § 33-931 through ARS § 33-936. The statutes essentially provide a mechanism for healthcare providers to impose a lien against an injured person’s third party personal injury claim. This remedy however, is limited. Injured parties must have an underlying and outstanding obligation to a healthcare provider for the services related to the third party claim. Furthermore, if an insurance company has satisfied the obligation, such as paying the bills in full, the lien must be released.
It’s important to note that these accident liens do not attach to anything other than any recovery you might receive in your claim. The lien does not apply to your home, your car, or your wages. And you only have to pay it if you recover money, and they are generally capped at the amount of your recovery. Healthcare provider liens only secure a provider’s “customary charges” for lien related services. These “customary charges” act as a cap. The cap “prevents the lien from being an amount greater than what the provider typically charges other patients for the services that it provided to the injured party.”
Just because a lien is filed, doesn’t mean that’s the end of the story. In many cases, these liens can be negotiated or waived. Legal and equitable arguments exist that can reduce these amounts. Some of the more common arguments include:
- The healthcare provider did not perfect their lien by timely recording the lien in the office of the county recorder in the county where the healthcare provider is located. There are different timing requirements depending on what type of provider is attempting to perfect the lien.
- The healthcare provider did not include “a statement regarding whether the patient’s treatment has been terminated or will be continued.”
- Healthcare provider liens do not extend to claims for health insurance and underinsured and uninsured motorist coverage.
- The lien amounts were erroneous or exceed the “customary charges.”
- The care, treatment or transportation which gave rise to the charges, was not medically necessary.
- The care, treatment or transportation was not causally related to the event, giving rise to the claim to which the lien extends.
In addition to healthcare providers, most major health insurance plans have the right to reimbursement for personal injury claims. Reimbursement clauses provide that insurers may be paid back for amounts they pay on your behalf if you are involved in a car accident.
The issue is complicated, however, because Arizona is an anti-subrogation state which provides that an assignment of personal injury cause of action is prohibited. An anti-subrogation law precludes a person or entity from stepping in to take over the rights and remedies of another. For large self-funded ERISA plans, however, federal law on the subject preempts state law. For these large plans, federal law provides that reimbursement is permissible in accident and injury cases where there is a recovery.
Again, just because your health insurance company claims it’s owed money doesn’t always make it so. In many cases, the first step your Phoenix injury lawyer will take is to ensure that the plan is in fact self-funded under ERISA guidelines.
Where Do Accident Victims File Personal Injury Cases in Arizona?
In Phoenix, as in most jurisdictions in the United States, the majority of personal injury cases do not go to trial. At the Lamber Goodnow team, our goal is to frontload matters to get cases resolved for accident victims and their families prior to going to court. In some cases, however, court is necessary.
For Phoenix-based injury and wrongful death cases, plaintiffs generally have the option of filing in two different courts: state or federal.
State Court System
- Maricopa County Superior Court: Most Phoenix-based personal injury cases start in Maricopa County Superior Court. The general jurisdiction court is the Superior Court of Arizona, a statewide trial court. It is a single entity with locations in each county. Each county has at least one superior court judge. In counties with more than one superior court judge, the judges operate in numbered divisions. The superior court acts as an appellate court for justice and municipal courts. To qualify to be a superior court judge, one must be at least 30 years old, of good moral character and admitted to the practice of law in Arizona and a resident of Arizona for the five years immediately before taking office. This court hears the widest variety of cases and keeps permanent records of court proceedings. Maricopa County Superior Court has the largest number of judges in Arizona.
In order for a case to successfully go to trial in Arizona, the plaintiff’s Phoenix-based attorney must:
- File a document (complaint) with the clerk of the court stating the reasons why the plaintiff is suing the defendant, and what action the plaintiff wants the court to take.
- State whether the case is eligible for arbitration according to court rule. If the parties agree to arbitration, they are agreeing to meet with an impartial third party before going to trial, where they will discuss the issues in dispute and accept the arbiter’s decision.
- Deliver (serve) a copy of the complaint and a summons to the defendant.
- File a written answer admitting or denying the statements in the complaint.
- Exchange information about the personal injury case. This is called discovery.
- The case is tried before a jury or a judge.
- The judge makes a decision, or the jury gives its verdict, based on the testimony and other evidence presented during trial. The Arizona Constitution and ARS § 21-102 state that a civil jury shall consist of eight persons, and the concurrence of all but two shall be necessary to render a verdict.
- The losing party may appeal the decision to the next higher level of the court.
- Arizona Court of Appeals, Division 1: Arizona appellate courts have jurisdiction to review trials and decisions appealed to them. Arizona has two appellate courts: the court of appeals is the intermediate appellate court and the Supreme Court is the court of last resort. The court of appeals has two divisions: Division One in Phoenix (16 judges) and Division Two in Tucson (six judges). The court of appeals hears and decides cases in three judge panels, has jurisdiction in all matters properly appealed from the superior court and reviews all decisions properly appealed to it. A court of appeals judge must be at least 30 years old, of good moral character, admitted to the practice of law in Arizona and a resident of Arizona for the five years immediately before taking office. Most appeals come from the superior court, except for death penalty appeals and some cases involving elected officials and disputes between counties, which go directly to the Supreme Court. After a case concludes (or before then in special circumstances), the losing party may appeal to the Arizona state appellate court.
- Arizona Supreme Court: To appeal a decision from the court of appeals, the appellant must file a Petition for Review requesting a Supreme Court hearing. The Supreme Court judges, known as justices, evaluate the petitions for review and decide whether they will review the case. Unlike the court of appeals, the Supreme Court is not required to hear every appeal. The Arizona Supreme Court takes up issues regarding personal injury and wrongful death matters with regularity.
To find an Arizona court in your county click here.
Federal Court System
In some cases, residents of Phoenix also have the option of filing their personal injury case in federal court. The United States District Court for the District of Arizona is the federal court for Arizona and is part of the Ninth Circuit. The District was established on June 20, 1910, pending Arizona statehood on February 14, 1912. This is the sole federal judicial district in Arizona. There are court locations in Phoenix, Tucson, Yuma, Flagstaff and Prescott.
If you file in federal court your case would initially be heard by a district court. There are 94 district courts in the nation. A district judge will hear the case and a jury will decide the case. Unlike state court, however, a federal court jury may range from a minimum of six to twelve members and unless the parties stipulate otherwise, the verdict must be unanimous.
A court of appeals hears challenges to district court decisions from courts located within its circuit, as well as appeals from decisions of federal administrative agencies. There are 13 appellate courts that sit below the U.S. Supreme Court. The appeals courts consist of three judges and do not use a jury.
The Supreme Court is the highest court in the United States. Article III of the United States Constitution created the Supreme Court and authorized Congress to pass laws establishing a lower system of courts. The Supreme Court hears cases appealed from lower federal courts, cases that are appealed from state supreme courts and cases between state governments.
In order to have a viable claim in federal court, the court must have jurisdiction to hear the matter. It is important to find a Phoenix-based personal injury attorney that knows the requirements to file in federal court. A federal court has jurisdiction over a matter if there is a federal question or if it is a diversity of citizenship case. 28 US Code § 1331 states that federal question jurisdiction means that the court may hear matters arising under the Constitution, federal law or treaty. Diversity cases empower the federal court to hear controversies between parties who are citizens of different states. 28 U.S. Code § 1332 states that in order to have a viable diversity case:
- The amount in controversy must exceed the value of $75,000, and
- The parties in the case must be citizens of different states.
If the parties in the case are citizens of different states this means that there is complete diversity. A person’s state of citizenship is determined by a person’s domicile. Domicile is the state in which the person is physically present and in which they intend to remain permanently.
Additionally, Supreme Court justices, court of appeals judges and district court judges are nominated by the President and confirmed by the United States Senate, as stated in the United States Constitution Article II Section 2.
Arizona also has Justice and City courts. However, these courts do not hear personal injury matters. Your Phoenix-based attorney should review all aspects of your case and determine whether you should file your case in state or federal court.
As a practical matter, Phoenix-based accident victim lawyers often choose to file personal injury matters in Maricopa County Superior Court because they do not then have the burden of needing a unanimous jury to win.
 Abbott v. Banner Health Network, 236 Ariz. 436, 444 ¶ 23, 341 P.3d 478, 486 (App. 2014), reversed on other grounds.
 Midwest Neurosurgery, P.C. v. State Farm Ins. Cos., 686 N.W.2d 572, 579 (Neb. 2004).
 Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 33-932(A).
 Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 33-932(B).
 Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 33-931(A).
 Ariz. Rev. Stat. § 33-934(B).
 Allstate Ins. Co. v. Druke, 576 P.2d 489 (Ariz. 1978).
 Fed. R. Civ. P. 48(a)-(b).