Were You Involved in An Auto Accident in the Tucson Area?
Tucson car accident lawyer, Anthony J. Milano, handles all personal injury cases throughout Arizona, including Tucson, Phoenix, Mesa, Chandler, Scottsdale, and Gilbert. We focus on car accidents, truck accidents, pedestrian accidents, motorcycle accidents, slip and falls, wrongful death, and other personal injury cases.
What Should I Do After an Auto Accident in Tucson?
Whether you’ve been injured in a car accident or not, you should take the following steps to protect your rights:
1. Call 911 and Wait for Police to Arrive
You should immediately report your accident to the police and wait for an officer to arrive on scene. It’s not only smart to call the police for your claim, but in many instances, it’s the law.
When you’re involved in an auto accident in Arizona, you have several duties under the law, including:
Driver Duty to Report an Accident
Under A.R.S. § 28-666, the driver of a vehicle involved in an accident resulting in injury or death must give notice immediately to local police, county sheriff, or highway patrol.
The duties do not end there. Officers also have a duty to write a crash report in most instances.
Officer’s Duty to Write a Report
Accidents Resulting in Bodily Injury, Death, Property Damage Exceeding $2,000, or a Citation
Under A.R.S. § 28-667, an officer who investigates a motor vehicle accident resulting in bodily injury, death, or damage to the property of any person in excess of $2,000, or the issuance of a citation must complete a written report of the accident either at the time of and at the scene of the accident or after the accident by interviewing participants or witnesses within 24-hours after completing the investigation.
Accidents Resulting in Property Damage of $2,000 or Less
An officer who investigates a motor vehicle accident resulting in damage to the property of any person in an amount of $2,000 or less, but that does not result in the issuance of a citation or bodily injury or death, must complete a portion of the written report of the accident. The portion of the written report must:
- Be completed either at the time of and at the scene of the accident or after the accident by interviewing participants or witnesses.
- Be completed within twenty-four hours after completing the investigation.
- Include the following minimum information:
(a) The time, day, month and year of the accident.
(b) Information adequate to identify the location of the accident.
(c) Identifying information for all involved parties and witnesses, including name, age, sex, address, telephone number, vehicle ownership and registration and proof of insurance.
(d) A narrative description of the facts of the accident, a simple diagram of the scene of the accident and the investigating officer’s name, agency and identification number.
2. Seek Medical Treatment Immediately
Seeking medical treatment immediately after an accident serves two purposes: one—you’ll likely avoid more serious health consequence by having a doctor immediately evaluate and treat your injuries; and two—you document and legitimize your injury case before the insurance company and/or the court.
Now is not the time to be frugal. Avoiding going to the emergency room after a car accident when you’re injured because you’re worried about paying medical bills, isn’t a good idea. Your health is your number one priority. It’s wise to go to the emergency room to rule out any life-threatening conditions, such as fractures, broken bones, internal bleeding, or traumatic brain injuries.
If you do decide to go to the emergency room after your accident, make sure you thoroughly describe everything that’s bothering you, including aches, pains, tingling, numbness, etc. This is important for two reasons: to let your treating physician know exactly how to treat you; and to document your injury later down the road in your personal injury case.
If you are injured and do not immediately go to the emergency room after your accident, go as soon as possible. If necessary, go to the emergency room, urgent care, or your primary care doctor later that same day or the next day. Don’t wait too long to see a doctor for both your health’s sake and your case’s sake.
3. Do not admit fault
Now is not the time to say “Sorry.” Even if you think you were partially or fully to blame for an accident, do not admit fault. Do not rush to judgement. Facts may come to light moments or days later that implicate the other driver or another party that may have been partially or fully at fault. It’s best to be cordial with other parties involved in the accident but say as little as possible. Get them medical help if that is needed.
Avoid getting into a yelling match with the those involved. That never solves any problems. Now is not the time to get confrontational.
If the police are called and they ask you what happened, it’s important that you be as honest as possible with them. Objectively, tell the officer what happened. Avoid speculating if you don’t know exactly what happened. Remember: it’s completely fine to say, “I don’t know,” when answering the officer’s questions.
4. Gather Evidence
Don’t rely on your memory when trying to gather information after an accident. Use your smartphone to take pictures and take notes. Take pictures of all vehicles involved, their damage, and their position after the accident; take pictures of traffic lights/signs, the road conditions, weather, your injuries, and the other parties’ driver’s license, insurance card, and registration.
Take notes of how the accident happened, the names and contact information, if possible, of parties involved and any witnesses that may have seen the accident. Note whether the accident happened in a construction or school zone, whether you think the other driver was impaired, or any other relevant information.
5. Get Your Arizona Traffic Crash Report
Hopefully the police arrived, and an officer filled out a crash report. If so, it’s very important to get a copy of the accident report as soon as it’s available.
You can download your Arizona crash report here for $5.
A crash report is usually not required in order to file a claim with the insurance company, but it will help in identifying important information that you’ll need for your claim, such as parties involved, insurance policy information, and who, according to the officer, may have been at fault for the accident.
6. Consult With a Tucson Car Accident Lawyer
If you are injured, it’s crucial to call a Tucson personal injury lawyer that focuses on automobile accidents as soon as possible. Definitely contact a lawyer before talking to ANY insurance company, including your own. Talking to the insurance company about your case can be disastrous. Most car accident lawyers offer free consultations, even if you decide not to hire them.
7. File a Claim With the Insurance Company
If you’ve decided to handle your case on your own, you should be extremely careful whenever you talk to the insurance company. They record most of your conversations and will gladly use them against you.
Be prepared whenever you are calling the insurance company. Thoroughly review the crash report. Refer back to the notes and photos that you took after the accident to refresh your memory. Try to be consistent with the facts. Try not to contradict yourself. Choose your words wisely. Avoid using words indicating that you weren’t paying attention or that there was a possibility you could have avoided the accident.
8. Do Not Agree To Any Early Settlements
Adjusters are very skilled at attempting to settle your bodily injury case as quickly as possible before a lawyer gets involved. They will try to offer what’s called a “nuisance” offer, which is a nominal settlement amount to get you to sign your rights away. Usually, if the injuries are soft tissue (e.g., whiplash) only, they will offer something like $1,000 or $1,500 and might offer to pay some of your medical bills. Do not accept it. Hire a lawyer, get your injuries thoroughly evaluated, and be completely released from any and all reasonable medical treatment before you ever think about settling your case.
When Should I Hire a Tucson Car Accident Lawyer?
If you weren’t injured or there is minimal property damage, you may be able to handle your case on your own. However, if you were injured, even minimally, do yourself a favor and discuss your case with a lawyer. Most car accident lawyers offer free consultations and work on a pure contingency fee basis, meaning you pay them nothing out of pocket.
Specifically, there are some instances when you should not attempt to handle your case on your own:
LIABILITY IS IN DISPUTE
If the insurance company hasn’t accepted liability, it’s best to hire a car accident lawyer. An attorney will be able to expedite a liability decision. They will also be able to more effectively gather evidence and present it in the most favorable light to benefit your case.
COMMERCIAL VEHICLE ACCIDENTS
Accidents involving commercial vehicles, such as large trucks, vans, or 18-wheelers, adds additional layers of complexity to your case that require the expertise of an experienced auto accident attorney. Many times, these cases require filing a lawsuit and strategies in order to preserve and obtain evidence.
INSURANCE COMPANY DENIED YOUR CLAIM
Insurance companies will do their best to avoid paying on a claim. They often use the “Three D’s” strategy to do this: “Deny, Delay, and Defend.” When the insurance company denies your claim, you will need to hire a car accident lawyer. The most common reasons why an insurance company may deny your claim are:
Minor Impact Involving Soft Tissue Injury (M.I.S.T.)
Cases involving minimal damage to the vehicles involved with only soft tissue injuries (e.g., muscle sprains/strains) are often put in a category of claims called M.I.S.T. Once your claim is categorized as a M.I.S.T. case by the insurance company, it’s quite common that they will refuse to pay you anything for your bodily injury claim.
Word Against Word
Whenever the facts of the accident make it difficult to determine who is at fault in an accident, the insurance company may completely deny liability altogether.
An example of a “word against word” accident is an intersection accident where both parties claim that their light was green. If there are no independent witnesses and no other evidence suggesting one party was at fault, the insurance company may completely deny liability.
At-Fault Driver was not Covered
There are many reasons why the at-fault driver would not be covered under their insurance policy at the time of the accident. The most common reasons are the at-fault driver was excluded from the policy or was driving a stolen vehicle; or the policy lapsed, expired, or was cancelled before the date of the accident.
If the insurance company thinks the claim is not valid due to fraud, they may refer the claim to their Special Investigative Unit (S.I.U.) department. Common reasons for a claim to be referred to S.I.U. may be when injuries are exaggerated, the claimant has filed several claims in the past, or when the facts of the accident just don’t add up.
If your claim is, in fact, valid, you should hire a lawyer immediately, to navigate through the S.I.U. process. Of course, if your claim is fraudulent, it’s best to avoid criminal liability and drop your case immediately.
Insurance Company Gave You a Low-Ball Offer
When you are handling your own bodily injury claim, it is common to receive premature settlement offers from the adjuster, known as “nuisance” offers, to resolve your case as quickly as possible before an attorney is involved. Do not be hasty. Adjusters are trained to be crafty in convincing you your claim isn’t worth much. Don’t accept any offers until you talk to a lawyer.
When you’re involved in a hit-and-run accident, you may not even know the identity of the other driver who caused the accident or you may only have limited information, such as their license plate number. An attorney will thoroughly investigate your case, attempting to find sources of insurance to cover your loss.
At-Fault Driver is Uninsured
When hit by an uninsured driver, an attorney has the know-how to investigate and examine all liable parties and any available insurance policies. Although you may have received word from the at-fault driver’s insurance company that he/she is uninsured, let an attorney take over and dig deeper. Many times, there will be an available insurance policy that may cover the loss.
What is the Average Car Accident Settlement in Arizona?
In Arizona, a majority of all auto accidents are minor in nature with minimal property damage and involving only soft tissue injuries, such as muscle sprains, strains, and bruises.
For many years, the auto insurance liability limits in Arizona were extremely low at $15,000 per person and $30,000 per accident for bodily injury and $10,000 for property damage. This put the liability insurance requirements for Arizona at one of the lowest in the country.
This definitely had an effect on average settlements in Arizona, since there were many cases where the injured party was limited to $15,000 in total bodily injury and $10,000 in total property damage recovery.
Then on July 1st, 2020, the Arizona law on liability insurance requirements changed and required $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident for bodily injury and $15,000 for property damage. This change will no doubt have an effect on the average car accident settlement amounts in Arizona.
AVERAGE BODILY INJURY SETTLEMENTS
From our own data, we see most soft tissue injury cases settle for around $15,000 to $30,000. If the injuries are more severe, the settlement amounts tend to be very injury and fact specific.
This average is further confirmed by nationwide insurance claims data. According to a study conducted in 2020 by the Insurance Information Institute, average bodily injury claims cost insurance companies $20,235. This is in line with our data and the fact that most auto accidents are relatively minor.
AVERAGE PROPERTY DAMAGE SETTLEMENTS
In this same Insurance Information Institute study, average property damage claims cost insurance companies $4,711. Again, this confirms the fact that most automobile accidents are minor.
How Much Is My Car Accident Claim Worth?
This is a very common question asked by car accident victims. Like many legal questions, the answer really depends. There are several factors involved when valuing a car accident victim’s case.
Of course, when valuing the property damage part of the case, that’s relatively black and white. The at-fault party is responsible for paying for reasonable repair or replacement costs of the damaged vehicle and/or property, including paying for diminished value, storage fees, towing, and a rental car/loss-of-use for a reasonable amount of time.
As for the bodily injury part of the claim, the calculation is a quite a bit more involved.
First, let’s discuss the factors that go into valuing a bodily injury claim.
In car accident cases and in all cases brought under Negligence, Arizona law requires that you prove your losses. These losses are called “damages.” Damages include the following:
PAST AND FUTURE MEDICAL EXPENSES
Past medical expenses include any out-of-pocket, or unpaid and outstanding medical expenses, or any medical expenses paid by a collateral source on your behalf, such as by a health insurance company, AHCCCS, or Medicare. Medical bills and receipts will help prove your past medical expenses.
Future medical expenses include any reasonable expenses of necessary medical care reasonably probable to be incurred in the future. Either your treating physician or another medical expert can provide an estimate of what your future medical expenses will be.
PAST LOST EARNINGS
Past lost earnings include any loss of earnings to date that occurred as a result of the accident. You can prove your lost earnings with tax returns, pay stubs, or bank statements.
FUTURE LOST EARNING CAPACITY
Future lost earnings capacity are damages for those accident victims with a serious impairment or disability that will affect their ability to earn a living in the future. You’ll usually need an expert, such as an economist to forecast your future lost earning capacity.
PAST AND FUTURE PAIN AND SUFFERING
Pain and suffering is the physical and mental manifestation of pain that an accident victim experiences as a result of their injury. As you guessed, pain and suffering damages are difficult to quantify. To prove them, you can show photos of your injury, diagnostic tests results—such as from an MRI, or testimony from you, your doctor, your family, or your co-workers as to your complaints of pain.
PAST AND FUTURE MENTAL OR EMOTIONAL PAIN/ANGUISH
Mental or emotional pain or anguish is the psychological effects that the injury has on the accident victim. The stress that comes with not being able to walk again is an example of mental anguish. Again, just as pain and suffering damages, mental pain/anguish is difficult to quantify in dollars. Medical records or testimony from a mental health professional is a great way to prove this type of damages.
If your accident injured you so severely that you now have a permanent disability, you can recover additional compensation. Proving a permanent disability will require medical records or testimony from your treating physician or another medical expert as to the nature and extent of your permanent disability.
If you received burns, scars, or any permanent marks on your body as a result of your injury, you are entitled to receive additional compensation. Photos of the disfigurement can be used to prove this type of damages.
LOSS OF CONSORTIUM
Loss of consortium is a “piggy-back” claim for spouses and children of accident victims for the loss of love, care, affection, companionship, and other pleasure of the relationship that occurs as a result of the accident. Recovering loss of consortium will require a “serious, permanent, and disabling injury so severe that the relationship is nearly or completely destroyed.” Proving these damages will usually require establishing that the relationship before the accident was stable and loving.
LOSS OF ENJOYMENT OF LIFE
Loss of enjoyment of life compensates the accident victim for the loss of participation of life’s activities to the quality and extent normally enjoyed before the injury. An example of this would be where the injury resulted in not being able to play with your children.
Punitive damages are intended to punish the at-fault party for their intentional, reckless, or grossly negligent conduct.
In order to prove punitive damages in Arizona, the at-fault party’s conduct must be outrageous, malicious, or fraudulent.
Also, you’ll need to prove the mental state of the defendant by “clear and convincing” evidence, a burden of proof beyond what is usually necessary in civil court. For reference, the “clear and convincing” standard is only one step below the highest burden of proof needed in our justice system—“proof beyond a reasonable doubt.”
CASE VALUE CALCULATION
Now that we know the elements of damages that are recoverable in an Arizona car accident injury case, let’s look at how to actually calculate the case value.
Calculating your case value usually starts with adding your most easily quantifiable components together, which are referred to as your “economic damages” and include your medical expenses and lost wages. This figure will give you a good starting point to calculate your case value.
The next part of the calculation is bit more complex. Pain and suffering, mental and emotional pain/anguish, and the rest of the recognizable damages explained above are what are called your “non-economic” damages. Calculating these types of damages will take some experience.
Insurance adjusters and attorneys use several sources in order to place a value on the non-economic damages portion of an accident victim’s case. Prior claims, jury verdicts, and claims software are frequently used to arrive at an amount for non-economic damages component of a case. The economic and non-economic damages are then added together to arrive at a total case value.
Next, if you shared some fault for the accident, you would need to adjust the total case value by your percentage of fault.
For example, if you were determined to be 40% at fault for the accident, you would multiply your total case value by 60%, or .6—the amount of damages for which the at-fault party is responsible.
So, if your medical bills, lost wages, and other damages totaled $50,000, your case value would be reduced to $30,000 according to Arizona’s Pure Comparative Negligence rule.
To summarize, here is the case value formula:
[(Economic Damages + Non-economic Damages) x (1 – Your Comparative Fault)] = Total Case Value
Should I Hire a Lawyer for A Minor Car Accident?
In cases where you were not injured and there was minimal property damage, you will likely not need to hire an attorney. However, even if you think the damage to your car is minimal, you can still be injured. Newer vehicles are designed and built with energy absorbing bumpers and body parts. So, even if the impact was enough to cause an injury, your vehicle may not have much damage.
Newton’s First Law of Motion says that an object in motion stays in motion at the same speed and direction unless acted upon by an external force. That means when you’re in an accident, your body is still traveling at the rate of speed that your car was traveling prior to the impact. Your body will be stopped, hopefully, by your seatbelt or airbag, or by other interior components such as the windshield, steering wheel, or dashboard.
The vehicle in which you were driving also matters when evaluating a minor impact case. If you were in a truck and rear-ended by a car, its likely there will be little, if any, damage to your rear bumper. Trucks sit up higher than a car and much of the impact will be distributed differently than a car-on-car accident. A good idea is to not only look at your vehicle as to the severity of the impact but, also, look at the other driver’s vehicle to evaluate the impact.
As mentioned above, if the insurance company thinks your accident was a minor impact accident with only soft tissue injuries (e.g., whiplash), they may categorize it as a M.I.S.T. case and either offer you an extremely low settlement offer or deny your claim completely. If that happens to you, it’s a good idea to get an opinion of an experienced car accident lawyer.
What Will an Attorney Do for Me?
Being represented by a Tucson car accident lawyer will provide you with many benefits, some of which are:
PROVIDE LEGAL COUNSEL
The law is very complicated, especially in personal injury cases. To know the ins-and-outs of the law, it takes years of legal education and experience. An experienced car accident lawyer will help you navigate through the insurance claims and legal process to achieve a favorable result.
ACT AS YOUR ADVOCATE
It’s an attorney’s main priority to fight for their clients as zealous advocates. Attorneys have a duty to act in the best interest of their clients and they will do their best to tirelessly argue your case before an insurance company or a jury.
DEAL WITH THE INSURANCE COMPANY
After you hire an attorney for your injury case, the insurance company no longer has the right to contact you. All communication with the insurance company will go through your attorney’s office. This is a huge relief not having to deal with the shenanigans of the insurance company.
HELP YOU OBTAIN MEDICAL TREATMENT
Unfortunately, there are many folks who do not have health insurance or have the funds to obtain medical treatment after an accident. A personal injury attorney can remedy this situation by using a “Letter of Protection” or medical lien to obtain medical treatment for their clients.
A Letter of Protection is sent to a medical provider and agrees to protect any settlement funds attained in a client’s case. Once the case settles, the attorney pays the medical provider with the proceeds of the client’s settlement.
NEGOTIATE YOUR SETTLEMENT
Negotiating is one of the most useful skills that an attorney possesses. An attorney will use their skills, experience, and education to properly evaluate your case and negotiate a settlement at the top range of an insurance adjuster’s settlement authority.
NEGOTIATE YOUR MEDICAL BILLS
Injury victims usually will have tens of thousands of dollars in medical bills that need to be paid once their case settles. Even if your health insurance, AHCCCS, or Medicare paid your medical bills, they will even have a right to some of your settlement funds. An attorney will negotiate these bills and liens down to a manageable amount to afford you with the maximum cash in your pocket.
FILE A LAWSUIT
If you are unable to reach a reasonable settlement with the insurance company, you may need to file a lawsuit against the responsible party or your own insurance company. The litigation process is extremely complex and non-lawyers would be doing themselves a disservice to ever attempt to do this on their own. Don’t take any chances handling a personal injury lawsuit without an experienced car accident lawyer.
How Much Does a Tucson Car Accident Lawyer Charge?
Most personal injury lawyers work on a pure contingency fee basis, meaning that you don’t pay them anything out of pocket and they are only paid when they obtain a favorable outcome for you.
The typical contingency fee is 33 1/3% of the total gross settlement for the bodily injury part of your case, if your case settles before a lawsuit is filed. If a lawsuit is needed to resolve your case, the contingency fee can go up from there, but it usually starts at 40% of the total gross settlement.
As for a fee for the property damage portion of your case, it will depend on the attorney whether they charge a fee. However, we do not charge any fees on our clients’ property damage claims. This is a courtesy service offered to all our clients.
How Long Do You Have to Get a Lawyer After a Car Accident?
In most cases, you will have two years from the date of accident to either settle your case or file a lawsuit against the liable party. Of course, you shouldn’t wait too long to hire a lawyer, especially when injuries are involved. Time is of the essence. Talk to a lawyer as quickly as you can after the accident.
How Long Will It Take to Settle My Auto Accident Case?
In our experience, it typically takes six months to resolve a bodily injury case. Of course, the time in which it takes to settle will depend on many factors, including when you will be completely released from all medical treatment.
You should not settle your case until you are completely done treating with your doctors, since you can’t go back and ask the insurance company for more money when you have already settled your case.
Contact Experienced Tucson Car Accident Lawyers Today
If you were injured in an Arizona car accident, it is critical to contact a firm with experienced Tucson car accident lawyers who can help you seek compensation for your losses.
To speak with an experienced Tucson auto accident attorney about recovering compensation for your own collision-related injuries, please contact Milano Legal Group Accident Attorneys via phone or online message today.