In 2019, 129,750 car accidents occurred on Arizona roads, resulting in 53,809 injuries and 982 fatalities. Even good drivers can have a car accident, and a crash can happen at any time. One serious event may lead to significant losses, including missed time at work and physical and mental health issues.
Knowing what to do after a car accident is critical, no matter how serious the crash is. If you don’t follow the proper procedures, you risk your chances to recover your losses and receive compensation in a personal injury claim. This guide provides you with all the information you need to handle a crash in Arizona.
Arizona Laws on What To Do After a Car Accident
Before diving into the steps to take following a traffic accident, there are a few relevant Arizona laws every driver should know about. These statutes can impact the outcome of insurance and personal injury claims.
Car Insurance Law
Arizona law requires all drivers to demonstrate proof that they can cover the costs of a car accident when they bear responsibility for the damages. In most cases, people purchase insurance to meet their legal obligation. Liability coverage is mandatory, and the minimum limits for coverage are:
- $25,000 per accident to cover the costs for a single individual who sustains injuries or dies in the accident
- $50,000 per accident to pay the expenses for two or more victims who sustain injuries or die in the crash
- $15,000 per accident to cover third-party property damage
Though not a legal requirement, the state recommends that drivers purchase uninsured and underinsured coverage. This type of insurance pays for the damages to your vehicle and your medical bills if you get into a collision with a driver who doesn’t have sufficient coverage.
Arizona is a tort state for car accidents. If another driver is at fault, you have the right to receive compensation for your losses from the at-fault driver, whether from that individual’s liability insurance or through a personal injury legal claim. More than one driver can contribute to an accident. Claims adjusters conduct their own accident investigations and may conclude that their client was not entirely responsible, reducing the amount they offer in a settlement.
Accident Report Requirements
An Arizona law that regulates accident report filing requirements has an immediate impact on what to do after a car accident. As a driver, you don’t need to file an accident report if you are in a crash, but you do have to call law enforcement to the scene if the collision results in serious injury, death or property damage exceeding $2,000. Under any of these conditions, law enforcement must file an accident report. Officers are also legally required to file a report if they issue a citation at the scene.
Comparative Negligence Law
If you have an accident resulting in personal injury, you can file a legal claim against the other driver. Often, when someone is seriously injured in a car crash, the at-fault driver does not have sufficient insurance to cover all current and anticipated medical expenses, missed work or reduced work capacity and other related costs. The at-fault driver’s insurance provider may also refuse to accept your claim or offer a low-ball settlement. Furthermore, insurance does not pay for pain and suffering.
Knowing what to do after a car accident can improve your chances of receiving fair compensation in a legal claim. A personal injury attorney who has experience with car accident cases can help you obtain the evidence and documentation you need when pursuing a personal injury case. Should you file a lawsuit, Arizona’s pure comparative negligence law comes into play. When a case goes before a judge and jury, they hear the evidence presented and determine each driver’s level of negligence.
The court may decide that the claimant is partially responsible for the crash, thereby reducing the victim’s compensation. For example, if the court says that your damages amount to $100,000, but it determines you were 30% responsible for the accident, you only receive $70,000 (the total, less the percentage of your contribution to the collision).
When you understand what to do after a car accident, you can take the steps that may provide you with a stronger claim in court. An experienced Arizona car accident lawyer can help you build a case that may improve the likelihood of receiving fair compensation.
Healing from injuries and dealing with car insurance companies can take time, but you need to keep track of that time. Arizona’s statute of limitations for filing a personal injury lawsuit is two years. While this may seem long enough, you’d be surprised at how fast it can go by. The clock starts on the date the accident occurs.
The Procedure for What To Do After a Car Accident
Though many drivers have general ideas about what they should do after a collision, they often don’t have the complete picture. Additionally, the stress of the situation frequently makes it harder for people to think clearly. The more familiar you are with what steps you need to take, the easier it will be to recall them if you have an accident.
1. Keep Calm
Having an auto accident can induce a panic response. Sometimes people feel the urge to flee the scene, even if the crash wasn’t their fault. It’s essential to keep calm. It helps you to think more clearly and assess your situation more accurately. Collisions can be traumatic, but if you can remain calm in the aftermath, you are less likely to make a decision that ultimately reduces your ability to obtain fair compensation.
2. Check for Injuries
This may seem an obvious first step in what to do after a car accident, but make sure you check for injuries, starting with yourself. If you don’t have any serious injuries, ensure the others involved in the collision are safe as well. Before you exit your vehicle, make sure you turn on your emergency flashers. If any people are hurt, do not attempt to move them. Don’t try to move or get out of your car if you have injuries.
3. Call 911 or Law Enforcement
If anyone at the scene appears to have any injuries, call 911 right away. If you can’t make the call yourself, ask someone else to do it. When medical personnel arrives at the scene, they often assist the most seriously injured first. If they offer you medical assistance, you should accept it, even if you think you only have minor injuries. Refusing help can give the other party’s insurance company or lawyers leverage to argue that your injuries were not caused by the car accident.
When a collision results in severe injury, death or more than $2,000 in damage, you must contact the police. However, if you aren’t sure about whether this step for what to do after a car accident is necessary, you should err on the side of caution. When law enforcement officers arrive at the scene, they take statements, assess the situation and may issue citations. A police report is valuable evidence when filing an insurance claim or a lawsuit.
4. Protect Your Rights
Your instinct may be to apologize to the other driver, but it’s essential that you refrain from doing so. You may think you’re just being polite; however, the insurance company will see it otherwise and use it against you when determining fault. Even if you think you share some responsibility for the accident, don’t admit fault, whether talking to the other driver or giving your statement to the police.
5. Take Photos
The next step for what to do after a car accident is to take photos of the scene as soon as possible if it is safe for you to do so. At this stage, snap a few shots of the vehicles from a broad perspective and a couple from closer in. Taking a quick video is also a good idea. You can take more closeups photos and videos of the damage after moving your car from the road.
6. Move Vehicles From the Road
According to Arizona law, drivers must move their vehicles from the main traffic lanes if the following conditions are met:
- There are no deaths or serious injuries.
- It is safe to move the vehicles.
- The vehicles are in drivable condition.
Moving your car to a safe location does not alter the facts of the case, so the other driver or their insurer cannot use it against you when deciding fault.
7. Exchange Information
After you, the others involved and the cars are safe, the next step in what to do after a car accident is to exchange information with any other drivers. Make sure you get their contact information (including physical addresses), driver’s license number, insurance provider and policy number, license plate number and car make, model and year. If there are witnesses, you should also get their contact information. A car accident lawyer can get in touch with them to gather information for your claim.
8. Seek Medical Attention
If an ambulance is not called to the scene, you should make an appointment to see your doctor or visit a medical facility right away. Some common car accident injuries — such as concussions — are not always immediately apparent. The longer you wait, the higher your risks for more serious outcomes. Additionally, obtaining immediate medical care is crucial if you pursue a personal injury case. You may significantly improve your claim outcomes when you know what to do after a car accident and when to do it.
9. Contact Your Insurance Provider
Don’t wait too long to contact your insurance provider about the collision. Again, do not admit fault. The insurance company will need accident details. The agent may ask you questions on the phone or ask you to complete a form online. Often, insurers send out a claims adjuster to investigate the accident scene. Even if the other driver was at fault, it’s usually a good idea to report the collision to your provider. Otherwise, the other driver or that individual’s insurance company may contact your provider to file a claim against you.
10. Consult With an Attorney
Contacting a car accident attorney for a consultation is your next step in what to do after a car accident. A lawyer who has experience handling collision and personal injury cases can provide you with options for proceeding with your claim. Likely, the insurance company’s settlement offer will not be sufficient to cover your losses. It will also not cover non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering or loss of enjoyment. A car accident attorney can evaluate your case and calculate your economic and non-economic losses to help you decide whether to pursue a legal claim.
11. Maintain Accurate Records
Maintaining complete and accurate records is essential from immediately following the accident until you settle your claim. Get copies of police reports, damage estimates for your vehicle and medical records. You may need to request medical records multiple times. An attorney can help you obtain the documents you need. You should also keep all your payment receipts and track the miles you travel to and from doctor’s appointments.
12. Don’t Accept a Quick Settlement
This last step in what to do after a car accident is more about what not to do. You may be tempted to accept a quick settlement offer from the insurance company, but if you do, you won’t be able to go back later and ask for a larger amount. The insurance company is not likely to offer you a fair settlement at first. Insurers do what they can to lower their payouts. Wait until you speak to an attorney and get a clearer idea of what kind of settlement you deserve.
What To Do After a Car Accident: Contact Sargon Law Group
The car accident attorneys at Sargon Law Group understand how traumatic collisions can be. When you want to know what to do after a car accident, we’re here to help. We provide our clients with personalized assistance, developing relationships based on trust and transparency. If you sustain injuries in a car crash, contact our offices to schedule a free consultation.