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The Legal Process of Filing an Auto Accident Claim in Arizona

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Mason (Driving Law Expert)
I provide personal attention to my clients with compassion and understanding. As a dedicated driving law lawyer, I handle a range of cases including automobile accidents, trucking accidents, bus accidents, motorcycle accidents, bicycle accidents, pedestrian accidents, and drunk driving accidents. I also specialize in traumatic brain injuries, catastrophic injuries, and wrongful death cases resulting from these incidents. As a proud member of the Colorado Trial Lawyers Association, I am committed to fighting for justice for my clients. Whether you're dealing with a minor crash or a serious injury, I'm here to help you navigate the complexities of driving laws and get the support you need.

As you drive, you never anticipate a life-altering crash. But life is unpredictable, and you don’t know what is about to come the next second. You get in a car crash, and reality comes in, leading to injuries and life-threatening medical conditions.

Filing an Auto Accident Claim in Arizona

First things first, if you’ve been in an accident, make sure everyone is safe and call for medical help if needed. Once that’s taken care of, you’ll want to report the accident to the police. They’ll come to the scene, assess the situation, and create an official accident report. This report will be super important later on when you’re filing your claim, so make sure to get a copy of it.

Next up, you should collect as much information as possible about the accident. This means getting the other driver’s name, contact info, insurance details, and vehicle information. Don’t forget to snap some photos of the damage to both cars and the accident scene if it’s safe to do so. These pics can be really helpful when you’re describing what happened to your insurance company.

Now, it’s time to let your insurance provider know about the accident. Give them a call and provide all the details you’ve gathered. They’ll assign a claims adjuster to your case, who will be your main point of contact throughout the claims process. The adjuster will investigate the accident, assess the damages, and determine who was at fault based on Arizona’s fault determination rules.

In Arizona, the at-fault party’s insurance company is responsible for covering the damages. If the other driver was at fault, their insurance will handle your claim. If you were at fault, your insurance will take care of the damages, depending on your coverage.

The insurance company will likely request a recorded statement from you about the accident. It’s important, to be honest, and clear when providing this statement, but stick to the facts and avoid admitting fault or apologizing, as this could be used against you later.

If the insurance company determines that the other driver was at fault, they’ll typically offer you a settlement to cover your damages, medical expenses, and any other costs related to the accident. Review the offer carefully and don’t be afraid to negotiate if you think it’s not enough. You can also consult with an attorney to help you through this process and ensure you’re getting a fair deal.

If you can’t reach an agreement with the insurance company, you might need to file a lawsuit to seek compensation for your damages. In Arizona, you generally have two years from the date of the accident to file a lawsuit, so keep that deadline in mind.

Remember, throughout this whole process, it’s essential to keep detailed records of all your expenses, medical treatments, and communications with the insurance company. This documentation will be crucial if you need to take legal action.

Filing an Auto Accident Claim in Arizona Without Hiring a Lawyer

let’s say you’ve decided to handle your auto accident claim in Arizona without hiring a lawyer. That’s totally understandable – not everyone wants or needs to go down the legal route. However, there are a few key things you should keep in mind to make sure you’re covering all your bases and protecting your rights.

First up, let’s talk about the Arizona Revised Statutes (ARS). This is basically the big book of laws for the state of Arizona, and there are a few specific sections that could come in handy for your case:

  • ARS § 28-663: This one’s all about your duty to report the accident if there’s any property damage, injury, or death involved. Make sure you notify the police right away to stay on the right side of the law.
  • ARS § 28-4009: Here’s where you’ll find the lowdown on Arizona’s “fault” system for auto accidents. Basically, the person who caused the accident (or their insurance) is responsible for covering the damages.
  • ARS § 12-542: This statute outlines the time limits for filing a lawsuit related to your accident. In most cases, you’ve got two years from the date of the accident to take legal action, so don’t wait too long.

Now, what about dealing with the insurance companies? Well, there are a couple of key things to remember:

  • Stick to the facts: When you’re giving your statement or talking to the insurance adjuster, just focus on what happened. Don’t speculate, admit fault, or apologize – these things could be used against you later.
  • Know your rights: In Arizona, you’re not obligated to give a recorded statement to the other driver’s insurance company. If they pressure you, politely decline and consider seeking legal advice.
  • Read everything carefully: When the insurance company sends you documents or a settlement offer, take your time and read through everything with a fine-tooth comb. Make sure you understand what you’re agreeing to before signing anything.

Finally, let’s talk about documentation. Keeping detailed records is going to be your best friend throughout this process. Some key things to document are:

  • Medical expenses: Keep track of all your doctor’s visits, medications, and any other costs related to your injuries from the accident.
  • Property damage: Hang onto repair bills, rental car receipts, and any other expenses you incur due to the damage to your vehicle.
  • Communication: Whenever you talk to the insurance companies or anyone else involved in your case, jot down the date, time, and a brief summary of what was discussed.

Remember, even if you’re not hiring a lawyer, you can still consult with one if you have questions or need advice. Many attorneys offer free initial consultations, so don’t be afraid to reach out if you’re feeling overwhelmed or unsure about something.

Evaluate the Need for Legal Aid

You don’t need legal aid for minor injuries like bruises and scratches. You may get a fair settlement with a few negotiations with the insurance company or responsible parties. 

However, many times, the underlying injuries resurface after days of the accident. Hence, seeing a doctor as soon as possible is critical. If the doctor diagnoses you with serious injuries like fractures, burns, or brain trauma, you need to seek legal assistance to start proceedings for fair settlement. 

Timing is the Key: Know The Statute of Limitations

In Arizona, the statute of limitations for most auto accident claims is two years. This means you have two years from the date of the accident to file a lawsuit against the at-fault party. You’ll find this time limit spelled out in Arizona Revised Statutes (ARS) § 12-542.

Now, you might be thinking, “Two years? That’s plenty of time!” But trust me, it can fly by faster than you think, especially if you’re dealing with injuries, medical treatments, and negotiations with insurance companies. It’s always better to start the process sooner rather than later, so you don’t find yourself scrambling at the last minute.

There are a few exceptions to the two-year rule that are worth noting:

  1. If the at-fault party is a government entity (like a city, county, or state agency), you’ll need to file a formal claim with the appropriate agency within 180 days of the accident (ARS § 12-821.01). If your claim is denied, you’ll then have one year from the denial date to file a lawsuit (ARS § 12-821).
  2. If the at-fault driver leaves the scene of the accident without providing their information (a.k.a. a hit-and-run), you’ll have three years from the date of the accident to file a lawsuit (ARS § 12-543).
  3. If the injured person is a minor (under 18 years old), the two-year clock doesn’t start ticking until their 18th birthday (ARS § 12-502).

You have a two-year window after your accident to file a court case in Arizona. Insurance companies might delay processing your claim and push you to exceed this timeframe. If you miss this deadline, you may not recover the compensation. So, be mindful of the barring period.

The Critical Role of Evidence in Auto Accident Claim

Insurance companies work on the proof. And, of course, on their investigation. Hence, collecting evidence from the accident site to medical records is critical. It will help you strengthen your claim process. 

Some of the important evidence that matters in the claiming process are.

  • Pictures: Take photographs of the accident location, damaged vehicles, injuries endured, and other contributing factors, such as weather conditions, road conditions (like potholes, cracks, speed bumps), or traffic signals.
  • Police Report: Get in touch with the police as soon as the accident happens to ensure the timely filing of an accident report. This report works as an official record of the accident, consisting of the details of the involved parties and charges issued.
  • Witness Statements: If the accident happened in a public place, try to talk to the witnesses present at the scene, get their contact details, and request a statement for documentation detailing what they saw, heard, or felt.
  • Documented Medical Records: If you have endured severe injuries in a car accident, keep copies of all medical records, from diagnosis to treatment and expense bills.

Fill a Claim with Your Insurance Company

Inform your insurance company about the accident without a delay. Be careful while providing them with details about the accident. Keep it detailed, factual and accurate. Refrain from discussing who is at fault or disclosing any liability, as this can fall against you in the claims process. 

Here are some clever tips and tricks to keep in mind, along with some sneaky moves insurance companies might try to pull:

Clever Tips:

  • 🚗 Take advantage of technology: Use your smartphone to document everything! Snap photos of the damage, the accident scene, and any visible injuries. Record a voice memo describing what happened while it’s still fresh in your mind.
  • 📅 Mark your calendar: As soon as you file your claim, set reminders for yourself to follow up with the insurance company regularly. Don’t let them forget about you!
  • 🕵️‍♀️ Channel your inner detective: Gather as much evidence as possible to support your claim. Think police reports, witness statements, medical records, and repair estimates. The more documentation you have, the stronger your case will be.
  • 🗣️ Be assertive, but polite: When you’re talking to the insurance adjuster, stand your ground and don’t let them push you around. At the same time, remember that honey catches more flies than vinegar. Be firm but friendly, and you’ll be more likely to get what you want.
  • 💰 Know your worth: Don’t just accept the first settlement offer the insurance company throws at you. Do your research and make sure you’re getting fair compensation for your damages. If the offer seems low, don’t be afraid to negotiate.

Insurance Company Tricks:

  • ⏰ The waiting game: Insurance companies might drag their feet when processing your claim, hoping you’ll get frustrated and accept a lowball settlement. Don’t fall for it! Stay persistent and keep following up until you get a fair offer.
  • 🎭 The blame game: The insurance adjuster might try to shift some of the blame onto you, even if the other driver was clearly at fault. Don’t let them twist your words or make you doubt yourself. Stick to the facts and don’t admit fault.
  • 🔍 The fine print: When the insurance company sends you documents to sign, read them carefully. They might try to sneak in language that limits your rights or reduces your payout. If anything seems fishy, ask for clarification or consult with an attorney.
  • 🤐 The recorded statement trap: The other driver’s insurance company might ask you to give a recorded statement about the accident. Be careful! They’re looking for ways to poke holes in your story and minimize their payout. Politely decline and direct them to your own insurance company instead.
  • 💸 The lowball offer: Insurance companies are in the business of making money, so they’ll often start with a low settlement offer in hopes that you’ll just accept it and go away. Don’t be afraid to push back and demand what you deserve.

If you are worried you can consider hiring an Arizona auto accident lawyer to present on your behalf. Expert lawyers can handle your case from start to finish. They understand your rights and put them to better use during claim negotiations. Keep in mind it costs money.

Understanding the Legal Journey of Auto Accident Claim

  • Legal Filing Process and Summoning

Your lawyer will document all the nuances, including the details about the incident, who is involved, and who you consider responsible. Alongside this, the document will outline all the damage requests from your end. Once done, the document is submitted to the court for further proceedings. The court then summons the defender, informing them about the action taken against you. 

  • Defendant Response Process

The defendant is the one you have taken action against. They now have the chance to accept or deny the accusations indicated in the complaint by filing a written response to the court, with or without the support of their lawyer. 

  • Discovery Process Dynamics

Once the defender submits the answers before the court, both sides initiate a process known as discovery. It involves gathering information. 

Depositions are conducted. You and the defender are required to present supporting documents and written or verbal responses under official oath. 

During this time, your lawyer may also showcase supportive proof, like pictures of the accident site and interviews of witnesses, with their specific timelines, convincing the judge to take action. 

  • Settlement and Negotiation

Approximately more than 80% of cases lead to out-of-court settlements. But in legal claims, the judge sets a settlement conference for both parties.

You and the defender can also engage in a mediator to lead the discussions of the accident and decide on the appropriate damage amount as compensation.  

  • Trial Considerations

A few cases go to trial. But, if yours does, you’ll be put on the calendar and required to testify before the court jury on the scheduled date.

The jury will make the final decisions based on evidence from both parties (you and the defender). However, trials are riskier as either side can win. One cannot predict the results, and you may have to settle for less for damages.  

Ending Note: Claim Your Deserving Rights Rightfully!

Being a victim of an auto accident should not be a hurdle to claiming what you deserve. Get in contact with an experienced team of auto accident lawyers for personal injury, who are committed to guiding you through every aspect of your claim, ensuring a smooth and stress-free process. If you or a loved one has been injured, you can even get a free consultation in Scottsdale for a complete case evaluation.

If you or a loved one succumbed to injuries in a car accident, the last thing you want to do is accept a low settlement offer from an auto insurance company. Ensure righteous justice for yourself. Consider filing an auto accident lawsuit by hiring an auto accident lawyer. Here’s how to get started.

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