Punitive Damages in Auto Accident Cases

In Arizona, as in other states, punitive damages are awarded only rarely in auto accident lawsuits, though when a punitive damages award is granted by the court, it tends to make a splash in the media.  Punitive damages are awarded on the basis of the compensatory damages in a given lawsuit.  If the compensatory damages amount is significant, the punitive damages award can push the total damages up to a degree that is shocking to some.  Many injury lawsuits that have entered pop-culture have done so on the basis of punitive damage awards that capture the imagination of observers. For example, suppose that you are injured in a serious auto accident, and your total compensatory damages add up to $500,000.  If the court awards punitive damages in your case (say, three times the compensatory damages), then the total damages will be $2,000,000.  Oftentimes, “million dollar” injury lawsuits involve a punitive damages award. Punitive damages are quite unlike other forms of damages, so it’s important to understand that a claim for punitive damages is not made on the same basis as a claim for lost wages, or medical expenses. Punitive Damages Are Unique Punitive damages function differently than compensatory damages. A claim for compensatory damages (i.e., pain and suffering, past and future medical expenses, lost earnings, loss of earning capacity, loss of enjoyment of life, etc.) is put forth on the basis that you — the plaintiff — are entitled to financial compensation for your injuries.  Compensatory damages are an attempt […]

Understanding the Comparative Fault Doctrine

In Arizona, those who suffer injuries due to the negligent acts of another are entitled to recover damages as compensation for their injuries, even when they have contributed in some way to their own injuries.  Unfortunately, many potential claimants in Arizona are not aware that they may recover in situations where they were negligent — an injury claimant might avoid consulting with an attorney despite having a legitimate claim for damages.  It’s important that accident victims in Arizona understand that their claims may be legitimate even if they were partially at-fault in the circumstances. For example, if you were injured in a car accident, but you were also speeding at the time (and the speeding contributed to your injuries), you would not be barred from litigating your claims and obtaining compensation. Arizona allocates fault to different parties in an injury lawsuit based on their proportional contribution of fault.  To better understand how this system works, let’s go through some of the basics of the comparative fault doctrine. Comparative Fault Basics Arizona implements the doctrine of pure comparative fault, also known as pure comparative negligence.  The pure comparative fault doctrine is particularly beneficial for personal injury claimants, such as those who have been injured in a car accident, truck accident, or motorcycle accident. How does comparative fault work? The principle of comparative fault is actually rather straightforward.  Essentially, in a comparative fault system such as the one that Arizona adheres to, each party involved in an accident is assigned a percentage […]

Injuries Suffered as the Result of a Defective Airbag — Are You Entitled to Sue?

Airbags are critical to the safety of both drivers and passengers in the event of an accident (and in fact, some motorcycles even provide frontal airbags as an option when purchasing).  The introduction of airbags to American automotive culture has generally been considered a net positive, despite some hiccups along the way.  According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), reported by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), 44,869 lives have been saved by frontal airbags as of 2015, while 2,252 lives have been saved by side airbags as of 2012. Though airbags are a safety device, the potential for injury caused by or exacerbated by a defective airbag is significant.  For maximum effectiveness, an airbag must deploy in a very particular manner during a very narrow window of time.  The NHTSA estimates that — in low speed crashes alone — there were 290 fatalities caused by frontal airbag deployment from 1990 to 2008.  Many of fatalities and serious injuries associated with frontal airbags during that period were due to the excessive force of airbag deployment, though there were (and continue to be) many other reasons for airbag-related injuries. If you have been injured due to an airbag deploying in a hazardous manner, or perhaps because an airbag simply failed to deploy, then Arizona law may entitle you to compensation for your injuries pursuant to a defective product claim.  Product liability law in Arizona operates somewhat similarly to that of other states.  Let’s take a brief look at […]