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Car accidents are a frequent occurrence in Scottsdale, Arizona. While most collisions are property-damage only crashes, some are catastrophic and cause injuries or deaths. According to the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT), 970 people were killed and 28,610 were injured in Arizona car wrecks in 2020, the most recent year for which data is available. While these collisions represent only a percentage of the 98,778 total crashes that were reported that year, they were still a sizeable number.
While the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and state and local governments, including Arizona, have taken steps to try to reduce traffic accidents, injuries, and deaths, they continue to happen. Understanding what to do if you are seriously injured or lose a loved one in a car accident caused by the negligence of someone else is critically important.
At Lamber Goodnow, a Scottsdale car accident lawyer can help car accident victims pursue justice and recover compensation. Our focus is on helping the victims of negligence recover fair compensation for their losses while holding the negligent parties accountable, Your Scottsdale car accident attorney can review your case and explain your potential rights and options. If we agree to take your case, we will thoroughly investigate what happened, gather evidence, and do everything we can to help you to recover the compensation you deserve. Here is what you need to know about motor vehicle accidents and what happens when claims are filed.
Relevant Laws in Motor Vehicle Collision Claims
The Arizona Vehicle Code contains many laws that are meant to regulate how people drive in the state. These laws are designed to increase the safety of people when they share the roads with others and prevent collisions from occurring. When motorists violate these laws, they place others at risk of injuries in car accidents. Here are some of the most common laws that our Scottsdale car accident lawyers encounter when we handle the car accident claims of our clients:
• Following too closely prohibited – ARS § 28-730
• No passing on the right other than when the vehicle to be passed is preparing to turn left, when the passing motorist is traveling on a one-way street, or when the passing motorist is traveling on a road with a minimum of two lanes headed in the same direction – ARS § 28-724
• Pass on the left and remain there until it is safe to move back into the right lane ARS § 28-723
• Drive in the right lane unless you are passing someone traveling in the same direction or when there is an obstruction, you are traveling on a one-way street, or when the road you are on has three or more lanes – ARS § 28-721
• Drive at a reasonable speed for the circumstances when driving on a highway – ARS § 28-701(a)
• Reckless driving prohibited – ARS § 28-693
• Obey stop signs and stoplights unless a police officer otherwise directs you – ARS § 28-644
• Drunk or drugged driving prohibited – ARS § 12-1381
Insurance Company Tactics in Scottsdale Motor Vehicle Collisions
Car accident claims in Arizona follow a fault-based system, which means that when you are involved in an accident that the other motorist caused, you will file your damages claim with the other motorist’s insurance company instead of your own. While this type of approach might make some sense, the process involved with recovering compensation is rarely straightforward.
Insurance companies are in the business to make profits, and they do everything possible to increase their profit margins. Because of their profit motive, insurers try to take steps to diminish claims and the amounts they have to pay to accident victims. Insurance adjusters are employed by insurance companies to try to reduce how much money a claimant might receive when a car accident occurs.
In many cases, an insurance adjuster will call a car accident victim shortly after the company learns about the crash. Adjusters undergo training in how to interact with accident victims and might seem genuinely concerned about the victims’ injuries and well-being. Regardless of whether you personally like an adjuster who contacts you, remember that they are employed by the insurance company and do not have your best interests in mind. Adjusters are trained in how to ask questions in such a way as to trick victims into making statements that can be used by their employers to reduce how much they will have to pay in claims.
Another common approach used by insurance companies to try to reduce the value of claims or avoid paying them is to ask accident victims to sign medical authorizations. An insurance representative might tell you that the company needs to access your medical records to verify your injuries before it can process your claim. However, the reality is that the insurance company will use the authorization to delve into your entire medical record to try to claim that your injuries were caused by something other than your car accident.
Some insurance companies send low-ball offers to car accident victims soon after their collisions. These offers might be sent when the insurance companies are fairly certain that their insureds were at fault. The purpose of sending a low-ball offer to a car accident victim is two-fold. First, the company knows that many accident victims face ballooning medical bills combined with income losses and might be tempted to accept an unreasonably low offer early in the process. Second, the company hopes that the victims will believe their claims are worth far less than they are. If you accept a low-ball offer, your ability to pursue additional compensation to cover your losses will be foreclosed.
These examples of the types of tactics insurance companies use demonstrate why it is important to call a car accident lawyer in Scottsdale as soon as you can after you are injured in an accident. When you hire a lawyer, your attorney can communicate with the insurance company on your behalf and prevent you from making critical errors that could harm your ability to recover the compensation you deserve. The bottom line is that you should never sign anything an insurance company sends to you or agree to talk to an insurance adjuster before you have had a chance to speak to an attorney at Lamber Goodnow.
Insurance Coverage Issues
Arizona requires all motorists to carry auto insurance that meets or exceeds the following minimum coverages under ARS § 28-4009:
- $25,000bodily injury for onevictim
- $50,000 bodily injury for two or more victims
- $15,000 property damage
Even though it is the law in Arizona for motorists to be insured, many people still drive while uninsured. If you are involved in an accident that was caused by an uninsured motorist, it can be harder for you to recover damages for your losses.
Another problem exists when motorists comply with the law but only purchase insurance that meets the minimum standards. This can be an issue when an underinsured driver causes a serious accident. When someone is seriously injured, their medical expenses can quickly exceed the minimum bodily injury liability coverage held by people with insurance that only meets the state’s minimum requirements.
Because of these issues, the state requires auto insurers to offer uninsured/underinsured (UM/UIM) coverage under ARS § 20-259.01. UM/UIM coverage is optional, but it is something you should purchase. The way that UM/UIM coverage works is that when an uninsured driver causes your collision, you can file a claim with your insurance company to pay for your losses under your UM/UIM policy. Similarly, if you are seriously injured and find that the underinsured motorist’s coverage is insufficient to cover your losses, you can file a claim under your UM/UIM policy. Your company will then pay the difference between the coverage provided by the underinsured driver’s policy and your losses up to your UM/UIM policy limits.
In some cases, there won’t be enough coverage to pay for a car accident victim’s losses between the insurance policy of the negligent motorist and the victim’s UM/UIM policy. Because of this, an experienced Scottsdale car accident lawyer at Lamber Goodnow will investigate your case to identify all of the parties that might be potentially liable. If more than one party contributed to your accident, you might then have additional sources of recovery for your claim.
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FAQs: Car Accidents in Scottsdale
Most people who are injured in car accidents or who lose loved ones find the situation overwhelming. Our Scottsdale car accident lawyers regularly receive questions from car crash victims about their rights and what they should do. Here are a few of the common questions we receive to help you understand your potential case.
Q: What if I Think I’m Partly to Blame for My Accident?
A: Even if you think you might be partly to blame for your car accident, you shouldn’t apologize or accept blame from the other driver. Something might have occurred that you aren’t aware of, and making statements right after your accident that you think it was your fault can harm your claim. Instead, don’t engage in discussions about who was at fault, and let your attorney handle the determination of liability for you.
Under Arizona law, the state follows a system of pure comparative negligence found in ARS § 12-2505. This statute means that each person is responsible for their negligence, which means that even if you were partially at fault, you can still recover compensation. However, the total recoverable amount will be reduced based on the percentage of fault the jury attributes to you. For example, if you were 20% at fault, your gross award would be reduced by 20%.
While you can still pursue a claim to recover damages even if you were 99% at fault, it wouldn’t make financial sense to file a lawsuit in that type of situation. Lawyers will generally want to see that the other motorist was at least primarily at fault before they will accept a case.
Q: What if a Failed Part Caused My Accident?
A: Some accidents are caused by defective parts instead of the negligence of either motorist. For example, Taketa airbags that were installed in millions of vehicles have been found to contain defects that can cause them to explode and result in collisions. If a defective part caused your accident and injuries, you have the right to pursue a product liability claim against the manufacturer and others involved in the process of bringing the part to the market.
Q: Can I Sue if My Loved One Was Killed in a Collision?
A: Whether you can file a lawsuit against the other motorist in a collision that killed your loved one depends on your relationship with the victim. Under ARS § 12-612, the state restricts the people who can file wrongful death lawsuits to those with the following relationships with the deceased victims:
- Surviving spouse
- Surviving child
- Surviving parent
- Legal guardian
- Estate’s personal representative/executor
These parties are in descending order of priority, meaning that if a surviving spouse remains, they have the right to file the claim. If you are not one of these parties, and none of them remain, the personal representative or the executor of your loved one’s estate can file a lawsuit. The proceeds will then be paid into the estate to be distributed to your loved one’s heirs or the beneficiaries of their will.
Q: When Should I Contact a Lawyer?
A: Arizona has a few statutes of limitations you should know about for car accident claims. Under ARS § 12-542, people who are injured in car accidents must file lawsuits no later than two years after their accidents. If your loved one died, you must file a lawsuit no later than two years after the date of their death.
If the person who caused your accident was a city, state, or federal employee who was working at the time of the collision, your deadline for filing a lawsuit will be much shorter. Under the Arizona Tort Claims Act, claims against government agencies must be filed within 180 days of when the accident occurred.
In practice, you should contact a lawyer as soon as you can after you receive medical treatment. Retaining a lawyer quickly can help you to avoid making mistakes while also allowing your attorney more time to investigate your case and preserve critical evidence.
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