What happens with Car Insurance after an Accident?

Car insurance is certain to play a part in any claim that’s made after a car accident. Arizona, like most states, requires the owner of a motor vehicle to maintain a certain amount of insurance coverage in order to operate the vehicle legally on the state’s roads and highways. So, understanding the Arizona auto insurance rules is essential to any potential car accident case. Arizona is a fault based state, thi means an accident victim has to prove fault on the person that caused an accident and their injuries. Proving fault includes several elements:

  1. You have to prove the other person owed you a duty of reasonable care (ie: if driving, one has a duty to drive carefully and obey traffic laws)
  2. You must prove the other person breached that duty (ie: they were negligent by rnning a stop sign or red light)
  3. You were injured and incurred damages as a result of their negligence

Fault can also be split among several people or entities, which each defendant liable/responsible only for their level of fault in causing an accident or one’s injuries: Arizona is also a state of comparative negligence, which means if you act negligently and such actions contribute to your own injuries, your potential recovery will be reduced by the percentage of fault attributed to you.

-If the at-fault driver has no auto insurance, the injured party can make an injury claim against their own auto insurance carrier, providing they purchased uninsured motorist (UM) coverage.  

-If the at-fault driver’s auto insurance coverage is insufficient to compensate a victim for their injuries or damages, the injured person can make a subsequent claim against their own carrier under their  underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage. However, UM or UIM coverage is not mandatory under Arizona Law. It is an optional coverage that one must purchase if so desired.

After any kind of traffic accident in Arizona, if you’ve been injured or incurred damage to your vehicle, you probably want to understand your options for getting compensated for your losses.

The Arizona Car Accident Statute of Limitations

A “statute of limitations” is a state law that sets a strict time limit on the right to bring a lawsuit. These deadlines vary depending on the kind of harm you suffered or the kind of case you want to file.

(Note: the statute of limitations does not apply to a car insurance claim. Any insurance company, whether your own or the other driver’s, is going to require you to make a claim – or at least give the insurer notice of an incident that could trigger a claim – “promptly” or “within a reasonable time” after the accident. That usually means a matter of days, or a few weeks at most.)

In Arizona, the statute of limitations that affects car accident lawsuits is the same as the larger one that applies to all personal injury cases. Specifically, Arizona Revised Statutes section 12-542 sets a two-year deadline for the filing of any civil case seeking a remedy for “injuries done to the person of another,” for “trespass for injury done to the estate or the property of another,” and for “injuries done to the person of another when death ensues from such injuries.”

So, after a car accident, the same two-year time limit would apply regardless of whether the legal remedy being sought is for injury, vehicle damage, or wrongful death.

If anyone was injured or had their property damaged in the crash – whether a driver, passenger, motorcycle rider, bicyclist, or pedestrian – they must get their lawsuit filed within two years of the date of the accident.

If you try to file your lawsuit after the two-year time window has closed, the court will almost certainly refuse to consider it, so it’s important to understand how the statute of limitations applies to your situation. Even if you’re confident that your case will be resolved through the car insurance claim process, you’ll want to leave yourself plenty of time to file a lawsuit in case you need to – if for no other reason than that you’ll have more leverage during settlement talks. If you think you might be running up against the two-year deadline, it may be time to contact an experienced Arizona car accident attorney.

If the other driver was entirely at fault for your car accident, he (through their insurance carrier) will pay to compensate you for medical bills, lost wages, and other losses you suffered. But what happens if you were partly at fault? Arizona follows a “pure comparative fault” rule when both parties are found to share blame for an accident. In most car accident cases, the jury is asked to calculate two things based on the evidence: the total dollar amount of the plaintiff’s damages, and the percentage of fault that belongs to each party. Under the pure comparative fault rule, the plaintiff’s damages award is reduced by a percentage equal to his or her share of fault. The comparative fault rule in Arizona applies even if you are found to be more responsible for the accident than the other driver. For instance, if the jury decides you are 90 percent at fault, you are still technically entitled to 10 percent of your total damages, but of course the other side of the coin is that you’ll be on the hook for 90 percent of the other driver’s damages.