Proving the Legal Elements of an Arizona Personal Injury Claim

Even when a person suffers injuries in an accident that someone else caused, the accident victim still has the burden of proof in the case. Ordinarily, the accident victim must demonstrate, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the at-fault person or entity violated the duty of care and that, as a result, the accident occurred. Finally, the accident victim must show that the injuries and damages they suffered resulted from the accident.

In the case of a car accident claim, for example, the accident victim would need to show that the at-fault driver deviated from the prevailing standard of care in some manner. The driver might have violated a road rule, such as by speeding or failing to use a turn signal, and the accident occurred as a result. In clear cases of drunk driving accidents, the at-fault driver’s insurance company might go so far as to concede fault for the accident.

In addition to proving a violation of the standard of care, the accident victim must show that this negligence led to the accident—and that the accident led to the resulting injuries.

In a personal injury case, expert testimony often becomes necessary. In cases where the insurance company is disputing fault for the accident, the accident victim’s lawyer might need to retain a qualified accident reconstructionist who can piece together exactly how the accident happened. Moreover, in many personal injury cases, medical experts are necessary. A medical provider, such as a doctor, would need to state—to a reasonable degree of medical certainty—that an accident victim’s injuries are related to the accident and causally flow from the accident.

A knowledgeable Arizona personal injury attorney at Zanes Law Injury Lawyers can retain the necessary experts to try to prove the legal elements of your claim. Proving these legal elements puts you in a position to be eligible for monetary compensation in the form of damages.

The experienced team of Arizona personal injury lawyers at Zanes Law Injury Lawyers can handle all of the legal aspects of your claim while you concentrate on recovering from your injuries. Our legal team will help you file a claim or lawsuit against the person or entity at fault for your accident. We can then help you pursue the compensation that you need for your injuries by way of a favorable financial settlement, arbitration award, or jury verdict. What follows are the answers to some common questions that often arise in the context of Arizona personal injury cases.

How long do I have to file a personal injury claim or lawsuit and what happens if I fail to file on time?

The statute of limitations—or the deadline for filing a lawsuit—in Arizona personal injury cases is relatively short. To be exact, most victims of car accidents, slip and falls, and similar accidents only have two years from the accident date to file a lawsuit arising from their injuries. This statute of limitations is very unforgiving, and if you fail to sue within this deadline, you can no longer seek monetary compensation and damages for all of the injuries resulting from your accident. Therefore, you must file your lawsuit on time in the Arizona state court system.

This short personal injury statute of limitations is one reason why you should retain experienced legal counsel to represent you in your case as promptly as possible. A knowledgeable attorney can file a lawsuit well in advance of the two-year statute of limitations deadline. Even after you file the lawsuit, your attorney can continue working on your behalf to pursue a favorable settlement offer in your case.

What happens after I file a personal injury claim with the at-fault party’s insurance company?

If you sustain injuries in an accident that happened due to someone else’s negligence, you should usually file a claim with the at-fault person’s insurance company. Assuming the insurance company accepts liability for the case, you can begin the settlement process by submitting a demand letter to the insurance company adjuster handling your particular claim.

As part of a demand package, your attorney will likely include:

  • Demand letter – The demand letter discusses how the accident occurred and makes an opening demand for settlement. If the accident victim suffers serious injuries in the accident—or if the accident brought about a fatality—then the initial demand might be for the full available limits of the insurance policy. In any case, the demand should fully and fairly compensate the accident victim—not only for economic damages (medical expenses, lost earnings, and other out-of-pocket costs), but also for all of the pain, inconvenience, and suffering that the accident victim had to endure following the accident.
  • Pertinent documentation – Along with a demand letter, the settlement demand package should include copies of all pertinent documentation in the case. Important pieces of documentation include all related medical records, medical bills, lost wage documentation from the accident victim’s employer, and a copy of the police report or other investigative report. The insurance company will use all of this documentation to assess the value of the case and likely make an offer to settle.
  • Photographs of property damage and injuries – When the insurance company observes significant property damage on one or more vehicles, adjusters tend to assume that the case is valuable from a settlement standpoint. Consequently, any property damage photos should accompany the settlement demand package. Moreover, if the accident victim has photographs of their injuries, such as bruises, scars, or abrasions, they should also include those to help the insurance company adjuster assess the damages in the case.
  • Victim impact statement – In some instances, a victim impact statement becomes important to a personal injury case—especially when the accident victim is alleging that they sustained permanent injuries and damages in the accident. The victim impact statement, which the accident victim prepares with their attorney’s assistance, usually contains a narrative description of the accident and how it occurred, along with information about the impact that the accident had on the person’s overall quality of life and well-being. For example, injuries that the accident victim sustained might prohibit them from playing with children or grandchildren.

Once the accident victim’s lawyer submits the demand package to the insurance company, the adjuster will review the demand letter along with the other documents that make up the settlement demand package. The adjuster may then make an initial offer to settle the personal injury case.

Accident victims should be very wary about accepting initial settlement offers from insurance companies. This is because initial offers do not typically compensate accident victims for the full measure of their damages. In most cases, the amount of the initial settlement offer won’t cover all of your expenses. Keep in mind that insurance companies are big businesses, and they will do everything in their power to settle a personal injury case for as little money as possible. By offering a small initial settlement amount, the insurance company is trying to entice accident victims who are in a hurry to settle and are willing to accept anything to resolve the case.

An experienced Arizona personal injury attorney can negotiate with the insurance company adjuster. In many cases, it will take several rounds of negotiation between the accident victim’s lawyer and the insurance company adjuster before an injured claimant receives a reasonable settlement offer.

However, at other times, the insurance company adjuster might refuse to offer full and fair compensation to resolve the personal injury case. When that happens, the accident victim might elect to have their attorney file a lawsuit in the matter. Filing a lawsuit does not prevent the person’s injury case from settling. Rather, filing suit gets the ball rolling on litigation and keeps the case moving forward to a conclusion.

The knowledgeable Arizona personal injury attorneys at Zanes Law Injury Lawyers can help you determine whether or not a pending personal injury settlement offer is worth accepting in your case. Your attorney can also let you know your approximate net compensation if you decide to accept a settlement offer from the insurance company. If you decide that a particular offer is not worth accepting, your attorney can assist you throughout the litigation process by filing suit and moving the matter forward to a favorable conclusion.

Will my personal injury legal matter need to proceed all the way to a jury trial? What are some other options?

Even if you decide to file a lawsuit in your personal injury case, you can still reach a favorable settlement. In fact, the vast majority of Arizona personal injury cases settle before trial. Therefore, just because you file a lawsuit in your case does not mean that you will need to go to a jury trial to resolve the case.

First of all, by filing a lawsuit in your case, the court will typically schedule a settlement conference with the court. Settlement conferences usually take place after the conclusion of written and oral discovery, including depositions. At a court settlement conference, both attorneys and their clients meet with a judge or settlement officer to see if the case can reach a favorable resolution. The judge or settlement officer will usually meet with everyone together and then have individual breakout sessions with the lawyers and their clients. The goal of a settlement conference is to see if the parties can reach a settlement number that they both can live with.

As an alternative to taking an Arizona personal injury case to a jury trial in state court, the parties might consider some form of alternative dispute resolution, such as mediation or binding arbitration. A mediation proceeds much in the same way a settlement conference does. The parties meet with a neutral, third-party mediator who helps the parties see if they can reach a favorable settlement number in the case.

At arbitration, the parties put on their case much as they would at a jury trial. However, a pre-appointed neutral arbitrator decides the outcome of any disputed issues. At most binding arbitration proceedings, the only disputed issue is that of damages. In binding arbitration, the arbitrator’s decision is final and you generally cannot appeal it in court.

The experienced Arizona personal injury lawyers at Zanes Law Injury Lawyers can explore potential alternative dispute resolution options with you and explain the pros and cons of each.

Other Types of Arizona Personal Injury Cases

There are many other types of personal injury legal matters that arise in Arizona besides motor vehicle accidents involving cars and trucks.

Other common types of Arizona personal injury cases involve:

  • Slip and fall and other premises accidents – Premises owners have a duty to maintain their premises for the benefit of their guests. This is especially true for owners of business premises. In most cases, property owners have a duty to warn about or quickly repair known dangerous conditions on their premises that a visitor is unlikely to discover on their own. In a business premises case, property owners also have a duty to inspect the premises regularly for unknown dangerous conditions. If a slip and fall or another premises accident victim can show that the property owner did little or nothing to rectify a hazardous condition on the premises, then they could bring a claim for damages.
  • Negligent security incidents – In addition to cleaning up spills promptly and taking other measures to avoid accidents, premises owners also have a duty to ensure that the areas both inside and outside the premises are safe—most especially for business guests. Business owners are responsible for ensuring that the area is under constant surveillance and that adequate security personnel are on duty at a given time to respond to any incident that might arise. If an assault or other incident occurred on business premises because of a business owner’s neglect, the owner could bear liability for any injuries or damages that the victim suffers in the incident.
  • Construction accidents – Construction sites are dangerous places where there is often dangerous machinery and equipment nearby. Other equipment, like ladders and scaffolding, can become dangerous when improperly put together or maintained. When accident victims sustain injuries while they are on the job, they must ordinarily file a workers’ compensation claim for benefits with their employer’s insurance company. However, an injured construction worker might still assert a third-party claim against a supervisor, project manager, or equipment/machinery manufacturer for carelessness or negligence.
  • Swimming pool accidents – Property owners also have a duty to maintain swimming pools located on their premises. This is especially true if the pool is a public swimming facility. Swimming pool operators must keep pool decks free from spills, and otherwise keep pools clean and well-maintained. Pool manufacturers must ensure that they manufacture and design parts carefully. When a swimming pool accident happens due to a pool owner or product manufacturer’s negligence, the injured accident victim could bring a claim against the appropriate at-fault person or entity.
  • Pedestrian accidents – Pedestrian accidents can occur at traffic intersections where crosswalks are present, near sidewalks, in parking lots and parking garages, and in any other locations where pedestrians tend to be present. These accidents typically occur when motor vehicle operators are speeding, violating traffic laws, and not giving proper care and attention to the roadway in front of them. When a motor vehicle collides with a pedestrian, the pedestrian could fall to the ground and suffer serious injuries, including a serious head injury or a broken bone that requires intensive medical treatment. In some cases, these accidents can be fatal, in which case, the decedent’s surviving family members could pursue a wrongful death claim or lawsuit.
  • Public transport and bus accidents – Motor vehicle accidents involving public transport vehicles, like buses, are also common. In some instances, these accidents occur because the public transport operator behaves in a reckless, negligent, or careless manner. At other times, these accidents happen because another driver is behaving negligently. If the accident happened because of a bus driver or public transport operator’s negligence, then you might pursue a claim against the driver and/or the transport company that employs the driver.
  • Bicycle and motorcycle accidents – Bicyclists and motorcyclists are limited in that they do not have an outer covering or shell surrounding them at the time of an accident. If a motor vehicle collides with their bicycle or motorcycle, they can be knocked to the ground and suffer serious injuries. Even though the cyclist may be wearing a helmet at the time of the accident, helmets can crack. When that happens, the cyclist could suffer a serious head injury that leads to further complications. In many cases, bicycle and motorcycle accidents happen due to overzealous drivers who violate the rules of the road. At other times, road defects—such as potholes and large cracks—can be fully or partially to blame for the accident.

If you or a family member suffered injuries in an accident due to the negligence of another, the knowledgeable and experienced personal injury attorneys at Zanes Law Injury Lawyers are here to help. Our legal team can investigate the circumstances of your accident and help you develop a plan for moving forward with your case. We can pursue favorable monetary compensation from the at-fault person’s insurance company, seeking the damages that you need.