A simple mistake while driving can result in an accident. If you caused an accident in Arizona, your insurance company will likely be responsible for paying the other driver’s damages from your at-fault accident.
For car, truck, and motorcycle accidents, Arizona is a fault or tort state. This means a driver involved in an at-fault car accident will use his or her insurance coverage to cover the other involved driver’s losses. Depending on the type of coverage you have, your insurance might also reimburse you for your losses after an at-fault car accident.
Even when you think that an “accident is my fault,” you should not admit responsibility at the accident scene. Drivers can share fault for causing a collision, and something might have happened that you are not aware of. Arizona follows a pure comparative negligence rule, which means that you could recover a portion of your damages even if you were partially at fault.
The car accident attorney at Hutzler Law can help you to understand whether you might have a claim for damages if you were injured in an at-fault car accident.
What does it Mean that Arizona is an “at Fault State?”
Some states have no-fault insurance systems. In those states, people submit car accident claims to their own insurers regardless of who was at fault. Arizona, by contrast, has a fault system for accidents. In Arizona, people who are injured in accidents file claims with the at-fault drivers’ insurance policies instead of their own. Coverage for medical expenses will only be provided after the fault for the accident has been determined.
Because of the fault system, auto insurance is usually cheaper than insurance costs in no-fault insurance systems. The at-fault party can be sued by others for nearly any type of loss in an accident, including hospital bills, emotional distress, lost wages, and other damages that exceed the policy limits of the at-fault driver’s insurance policy.
If you cause an at-fault car accident in which someone is injured because of your negligence, there are several things that you should do and things you should avoid to protect your financial and legal interests.
What to do if You Think an Accident is Your Fault
The first thing you should do when you think an “accident is my fault” is to stay at the scene and call the police. By leaving the scene of an accident, it will be considered a hit and run, which is a criminal offense! The officers that come to the scene will take statements and write a report. A police report can be useful if the other driver later changes what he or she originally said or tries to exaggerate what happened.
You should also cooperate with all emergency responders who come to the scene. Try to stay out of their way while they are trying to provide care to any injured victims. Give the police officer your statement about what happened, but do not admit fault.
You are required to exchange your information with the other people involved in your accident. Give your name, driver’s license number, address, insurance information, and registration information for your vehicle. You should also get the same information from the other individuals. If anyone saw what happened, try to get the names and contact information of each witness.
Tip: Use your smartphone to take as many photographs as possible, or try to have someone take photos for you. You should take pictures of the damage to both vehicles and any injuries. You should also photograph the entire scene and relevant details such as the weather, road conditions, skid marks, traffic control devices, or speed limit signs.
You should also see your doctor after an accident for an examination. If you have obvious injuries, you should go to the hospital for treatment. This can help to prevent any injuries you suffered from worsening and can protect any claim that you might file after your accident.
Make sure to call your insurance company to report your accident. If you fail to notify your insurance company in a timely manner, your coverage could be canceled.
Finally, it is a good idea to talk to an experienced personal injury lawyer. This is especially important if your insurance company does not defend you against a claim. A lawyer can help you through the process while fighting to protect your rights.
What Not to Do After Causing an Accident
You should never leave the scene of an accident before the police arrive. This could result in a hit-and-run accident criminal charge. Remain at the scene and exchange your information with the other driver. The responding officers will tell you when you are allowed to leave.
Do not move your car after an accident if at all possible. You should leave it in place so that the police can investigate what happened. You should only move your vehicle if it is causing a hazard to the safety of others. If it must be moved, move it to the nearest safe spot to the accident scene.
Do not discard anything related to the accident. You must preserve all evidence of an accident or injury. Destroying evidence could cause problems when a case is filed against you.
Finally, avoid talking about your accident with other people. You should not talk about what happened with the other driver’s attorney or the other driver’s insurance company. If you hire a lawyer, your attorney can handle the communications for you.
At-fault Car Accident with Car Insurance vs. Without Car Insurance
If you have insurance and cause an accident, the other motorist can file a claim with your insurance company. Most insurance companies include provisions in their policies that require their insureds to report their accidents. Make sure to report the accident to your insurance company promptly. They will then work to determine liability and determine whether to pay any claim filed by the other motorist. If you have collision coverage, you can also file a claim with your insurance company to pay for your losses minus your deductible.
If you cause an accident in which someone was injured and do not have insurance, you can get into serious trouble. Your vehicle might be impounded, and you could be charged with a crime. Your driving privileges may also be suspended. The other driver could file a lawsuit against you for all of the losses he or she suffered in the accident.
If you do not have insurance, you will be personally liable to pay the injured victim’s damages. If the other driver obtains a judgment against you after a trial, he or she could pursue multiple avenues to collect on the judgment, including liens, bank levies, wage garnishments, and others.
At-fault Car Accident in a Company Vehicle
If you cause an accident while driving a company vehicle, your employer might be liable to pay damages to the other motorist. Companies carry liability insurance that covers their employees when they drive company cars for work purposes. Your employer might have to pay the other motorist’s damages, including medical expenses, income losses, property losses, and non-economic losses.
Your employer’s insurance coverage will also protect you from being sued by the other driver. This means that you will not be responsible for paying the damages. If the other party files a lawsuit against you, your employer’s insurance company will also likely cover your legal fees. If you are determined to not be at fault, you can recover damages from the other driver’s policy.
If you suffered injuries in an accident when you were driving a company car, you can also file a claim with your employer’s worker’s compensation insurance provider. Worker’s compensation provides coverage for medical care and related costs for workers who are injured while working within the course and scope of their jobs. If your injuries left you with temporary or permanent disabilities, you might also recover benefits for your temporary or permanent disability.
At-Fault Car Accident in a Rental Car
If you caused an accident while driving a rental vehicle, you are responsible for any loss or damage to the rental vehicle since you are the renter. When you rent a car, you sign a contract obligating you to return it in the same condition it was in at the time that you picked it up.
When you rent a vehicle, the rental company will offer you a liability policy. This policy should cover you if you are in an accident. Your own insurance can also pay for damages caused to the rental vehicle and suffered by the other driver.
Finally, the rental car company might charge the credit card that you used to pay the rental fee for damages to the rental vehicle. Be sure to read any agreement you signed very thoroughly to know what you are liable for.
At-Fault Multi-Vehicle Accident
The fault in a multi-vehicle accident is often unclear. One or more parties might share fault for causing the accident and any resulting injuries. Arizona has a comparative negligence law found in ARS 12-2505. Under the state’s comparative negligence rule, a jury will apportion fault after an accident in which both drivers are to blame.
You will be responsible for paying the portion of damages that are allocated to you. For example, if you are found to be 60% at fault, you will be responsible for paying 60% of the damages awarded to the other driver. If that driver is found to be 40% at fault, his or her damages will be reduced by 40%.
Under ARS 12-2501, the state also has a contributory negligence law. Under this statute, all parties found to have contributed fault to an accident share responsibility for paying for the victim’s injuries and losses.
Get Help from an Experienced Car Accident Attorney
Even if you believe that you are solely to blame for an accident, the situation could be more complicated than you realize. It is a good idea to talk to an experienced car accident attorney for help with determining fault.
With the state’s comparative negligence law, you might be entitled to pursue compensation for your injuries even if you shared fault. Contact Hutzler Law today by calling us at (602) 730-4530.