It’s very common that more than one person was at fault in an accident. And who gets injured in an accident doesn’t indicate who was to blame. Determining fault, degree of fault, and subsequent compensation in an auto collision is a complicated process and varies by state. In Arizona, you are entitled to partial compensation if you are partially liable.
Let’s delve into how fault is determined, the liability laws in different states, and what you need to do after an accident to make a stronger case.
Liability in different states
Each state has laws that determine the amount of compensation in an auto collision based on the degree of fault. Arizona adheres to the theory of pure comparative negligence, which determines compensation according to the percentage each person is at fault in the accident. If you are partially to blame, you can still receive partial compensation. If 30 percent of the accident is your fault, you can receive 70 percent compensation for medical care and other expenses.
To find out what kinds of compensation, or “damages,” you may be entitled to following an accident, read our detailed article here.
The few states that follow the doctrine of pure contributory negligence determine that if the accident is in any way your fault, you cannot collect any compensation. Even if the accident is only 5 percent your fault, you will not receive compensation.
Another type of law, modified comparative negligence, limits your ability to collect compensation. For example, in some states you can receive compensation if you are less than 50 percent liable for the incident.
Determining fault in an auto accident
After an accident, the police, you, and any attorneys involved will gather evidence including photographs of the vehicle damage and road conditions, witness statements, and each driver’s account of the accident. The police will determine if any traffic laws were broken and who was at fault. He or she will file a police report outlining the details of the accident. The police officer’s conclusions will be crucial evidence in an insurance claim and legal case. However, the officer’s assessment can be disputed. Always ask for the police officer’s name and badge number, the police report number, and a copy of the report.
If the accident was completely your fault, contact your insurance company and file a claim under your collision coverage. If the accident was totally or partially the fault of the other driver, contact both your insurance company and the other driver’s insurance company.
When you and/or the other driver make an insurance claim, the insurance company will take the police report into account. The company will also take into consideration any medical reports filed by doctors and emergency medical responders.
If you engage the services of a personal injury attorney, he or she will also conduct an independent investigation. The lawyer may interview witnesses, speak to physicians, consult with accident re-creation specialists, subpoena video footage, and much more.
All of this evidence will be considered in an insurance claim and, if necessary, in a lawsuit.
What to do after an accident
Before liability is determined, you’ll need to do several crucial things to help strengthen your case:
• Call the police and ask them to respond to the scene. Tell the officer what happened. Remain calm and cooperative. Be completely honest and state only the facts. Do not admit fault or partial fault.
• When speaking to anyone involved in the accident, also state only the facts. Don’t admit fault or even apologize. This could make you seem guilty later.
• Get as many witness statements as you can, or seek out witnesses and get their contact information. Take numerous photos of the accident, the scene, the road conditions, and your injuries. These photos will help you and your lawyer build a stronger case. Click here for a detailed list of evidence you should gather at the scene.
• Seek medical attention as soon as possible, even if you don’t feel you are seriously injured. Shock and adrenaline commonly eclipse pain in the hours immediately following an accident. If you wait until pain surfaces later on, your injuries probably won’t be accounted for in your claim.
• Consult with an experienced personal injury attorney before discussing the case with the other driver’s insurance company. Insurance companies always try to settle for less than you deserve. An attorney can advise you on your rights and legal options. He or she will also handle all the communication with the insurance companies in a way that preserves your best interest. Your attorney will also know the laws for your state and will get you the most compensation possible.
The Lamber-Goodnow Injury Law Team offers free consultations for individuals involved in auto accidents. We only get paid if you get paid.
In this article, personal injury attorney James Goodnow walks you through the steps of a personal injury case.