What is the Difference Between a Mistake and Negligence in Arizona?

In a motor vehicle accident — or any other personal injury scenario, for that matter — it can be rather difficult for the injured victim to determine whether the defendant simply made an understandable mistake, or whether the defendant acted negligently, thus exposing them to potential damages liability.  In fact, this uncertainty often discourages injury victims from bringing a lawsuit against the defendant and thereby securing damages to compensate them for their various injuries. If you have been injured due to the conduct of another person (or entity), and you believe that the defendant’s conduct violated the standard of care — given the circumstances — then you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries.  Injury claims often seem simple upon first impression.  In reality, however, your injury lawsuit can be complicated by a number of issues, such as the presence of multiple hostile defendants, evidentiary challenges, and more.  Make sure to consult with an experienced Arizona personal injury attorney for assistance. If simple mistakes do not give rise to liability (except in product defect litigation, and other limited circumstances), and negligence does, wherein lies the difference between these two concepts?  At what point does a mistake “become” negligence and grant the injured party a right to sue and recover damages? The answer to these difficult questions is embedded in the concept of “standard of care,” so let’s consider some of the fundamentals of the standard of care and how negligent conduct is borne from the violation of applicable standards. […]

How Settlements Can Work to Your Benefit

In Arizona, and elsewhere in the United States, most cases never make it through to trial litigation.  Instead, a settlement is negotiated between the parties.  In fact, legal industry observers estimate that more than 95 percent of cases are resolved before trial litigation can begin.  For those unfamiliar with the process of litigating an injury claim, the fact that trial litigation is relatively uncommon (and seen as a “last resort” option) can come as something of a surprise. Have you been injured in an accident that was caused by the negligent, reckless, or intentional conduct of another person?  Trial litigation may enable you to recover damages as compensation for your injuries, but it can be time consuming, expensive, and full of uncertainty.  Negotiating a settlement can save you a great deal of trouble in the long run, and secure you a favorable result — in some cases, a settlement can even ensure a level of amicability that might not otherwise be possible.  Get connected to an Arizona personal injury attorney who has extensive experience settling claims. Many plaintiffs may be unaware of the value in negotiating a settlement.  Let’s take a quick peek at how settlements can work to your benefit, and then we’ll explore how a favorable settlement is negotiated. Benefits of Settlement Settlements are often said to be a win-win for both parties.  In our adversarial legal system, this can be a confounding result.  It’s actually quite simple to understand, however.  When the plaintiff and defendant negotiate a […]

Breaking the Chain of Causation

In Arizona, a motor vehicle accident negligence claim — same as any other negligence claim brought pursuant to personal injury law — must satisfy certain elements. More specifically, if you have suffered an injury due to the fault of another, in order to successfully recover damages in an Arizona court, you must prove that: a) you were injured; b) the defendant was negligent; and c) the defendant’s negligence caused your injuries.  Only once all these elements have been satisfied will you receive compensation for your injuries in a court of law. Have you been injured due to the negligence, recklessness, or intentional misconduct of another person or entity?  Arizona law may give you the right to litigate your claims and receive compensation.  Injury claims do not last forever, so make sure to get connected to an experienced Arizona personal injury attorney as soon as possible, before your claims expire. Causation is therefore a critical aspect of personal injury litigation.  To put it in very simple terms: you cannot hold a defendant liable for your injuries unless the defendant’s negligent acts actually “caused” your injuries. Not all cases are simple, however, and oftentimes, the defendant will use muddy, complicated circumstances to argue that they are not responsible for your injuries.  They will claim that there was some intervening cause that actually led to your injuries.  When the “chain of causation” is broken by an intervening cause, then the defendant may avoid liability. Let’s take a look at how the chain of […]

Uninsured/Underinsured Motorists and Strategies for Recovery

Uninsured and underinsured motorists pose a serious risk to others on the road — drivers, passengers, pedestrians, cyclists, etc. — as their injured victims may, in many cases, be left without adequate financial recourse for obtaining a full recovery.  Perhaps more concerning are the statistics.  It is not at all uncommon to encounter an uninsured or underinsured motorist on the roads.  According to a 2015 study conducted by the Insurance Information Institute, 12 percent of Arizona drivers are uninsured, and many more are likely to have minimal insurance coverage (the state of Arizona only requires minimum liability insurance coverage of $15,000 per person) that is inadequate for accidents resulting in serious injuries. If you have been injured by an uninsured or underinsured motorist, you may be concerned that the defendant-driver does not have the resources necessary to adequately cover your damages.  Depending on the particular circumstances of your case, however, you may have alternative avenues for recovery that are worth considering.  Consult with an experienced Arizona motor vehicle accident attorney as soon as possible for further guidance on how to pursue a claim against an uninsured or underinsured motorist. When the defendant-driver lacks sufficient insurance coverage, then you — the plaintiff — are put in an unenviable position.  For example, if you have $250,000 in damages, but the defendant has only $30,000 in liability insurance, then you will have to look elsewhere to ensure that your damages are covered. Consider the following strategies for securing a fuller, more adequate recovery. […]

Suing the Defendant for an Injury-Causing Property Hazard

In the stereotypical case, motor vehicle accident claims are associated with negligent or reckless operation of a vehicle by a driver.  For example, the injured plaintiff may have a legitimate claim to bring against the defendant-driver for distracted driving, or excessive speeding (which caused the accident at-issue).  There are certainly situations that call for unique liabilities, however. In some cases, you may find yourself in a situation where you have a claim against a property owner or possessor of land.  More specifically, the defendant may have contributed to your injuries by having failed to maintain their property in a reasonably safe condition (thereby exposing you to a dangerous condition of their property, or in other words, a hazard), or by failing to warn drivers of latent dangers existing on such property. Premises Liability Basics In Arizona, the rules of premises liability are quite simple (and they are readily applied to such defendants in motor vehicle accident scenarios).  Essentially, you may have a claim against the defendant property owner or possessor if the defendant fails to maintain their premises in a reasonably safe condition, or if the defendant fails to warn or otherwise give notice to premises entrants of non-obvious, dangerous hazards. All this legal terminology can be fairly confusing to the untrained reader, so for the purpose of clarity, let’s run through a quick and basic example. Suppose that you are involved in an accident in the parking lot of a major retailer.  You were driving and a non-obvious pit […]

The Value of Expert Witness Testimony in an Injury Lawsuit

Those unfamiliar with or new to the process of litigation may not realize the importance of expert witnesses in helping to construct an effective claim.  Depending on the circumstances of the case, the testimony of an expert witness can substantially affect the outcome of the lawsuit itself. What Makes an Expert Witness Different Than a Fact Witness? An expert witness is a witness with specialized knowledge, training, or proficiency who is brought in to testify in the form of an opinion as to matters related to their specialty — for example, an expert witness (qualified orthopedic surgeon) might be retained to provide their opinion on the extent of damage caused by a botched orthopedic surgery, and to discuss the standard of care that would normally apply to a surgeon in the circumstances. Critically, expert witnesses provide opinion testimony.  They do not offer direct, observational testimony as to the facts of the case. By contrast, a factual witness is an individual who is brought in to testify as to the particular facts of the case, based on their personal knowledge and observation thereof.  For example, a factual witness who observed a car accident occurring at an intersection (in other words, an eyewitness) would testify as to the sequence of events and how it played out in front of them, to the best of their knowledge.  They would not be entitled to provide their opinion on case-related matters. How Expert Testimony Helps Expert testimony can be used in a variety of ways.  […]

Suing the Employer of a Commercial Driver

In Arizona, if you have been injured in a car accident (or any other accident) due to the negligence of a defendant-driver who is an employee acting within the course and scope of their employment at the time of the accident, then you may be entitled to sue and recover damages from their employer.  This is known as the doctrine of vicarious liability. What is Vicarious Liability? Vicarious liability — also known as respondeat superior — is a doctrine implemented by the state of Arizona (and many other states) that holds employers liable for the negligence committed by their employees.  A claim brought against an employer pursuant to vicarious liability is not separate or distinct in any way from the claim that you would otherwise bring against the driver.  If you are bringing a claim against the employer for contributing to your injuries (i.e., asserting that the employer negligently hired or supervised the employee driver), then that will be separate and distinct from your vicarious liability claim. This can all be rather complicated to understand, at first glance, so let’s go through a quick example for clarification. Imagine that you suffer injuries in a car accident involving a pizza delivery driver.  The driver was operating their vehicle negligently at the time of the accident, and was on their way to delivering pizzas to customers.  You could ostensibly sue and recover damages from both the driver and their pizzeria employer. In some cases, the employer may contribute to the accident by […]

How Negligence Per Se Works

If you have been injured in a motor vehicle accident due to the negligence of another person or entity, you may be entitled to recover damages as compensation for your injuries.  Proving that the defendant was acting negligently can be quite difficult, but in some cases, negligence may be proven if you can show that the defendant violated certain laws in causing the accident at-issue. When a statutory violation leads to an automatic finding of negligence, that is known as “negligence per se.”  In the Arizona motor vehicle accident context, negligence per se is a legal doctrine that can significantly strengthen your case. What is negligence per se? Stated simply, negligence per se is automatic negligence.  In a standard negligence situation, you would have to establish a standard of care, and prove that the defendant failed to adhere to that standard of care.  With negligence per se, the defendant’s law-breaking behavior serves as automatic proof of negligence. Arizona imposes a few requirements on plaintiffs attempting to prove negligence per se, however.  Violation of a law only serves as proof of negligence if: The law must be enacted for the protection and safety of the public; and The law expresses rules of conduct in specific and concrete terms. In other words, the law must be related to public safety and must be explicit (and specific) about what behavior is prohibited.  Generally speaking, traffic violations tend to fall within the category of laws that qualify for a negligence per se finding. For […]

Dangerous Crosswalks Can Lead to Pedestrian Injuries

If you have been injured due to a pedestrian accident at a crosswalk, you may not only be entitled to recover damages from the defendant-driver who collided with you — you may also be entitled to recover damages from the person/entity that owns or otherwise controls the crosswalk on which you were injured.  Crosswalks attract pedestrian traffic, as they are intended to be “safe zones” for pedestrians.  When crosswalks represent a hazard to pedestrians, however, with no adequate warning of the dangers therein, then the defendant who owns or controls the crosswalk may be held liable. Crosswalk injuries fall under the premises liability framework.  What this means is that you’ll have to show that the crosswalk was unreasonably dangerous for those making use of the property.  By introducing evidence that the crosswalk was designed or maintained in such a way that it presented a danger to pedestrians, you can more effectively litigate your injury claim. There are a number of factors that contribute towards making a crosswalk dangerous.  Let’s explore a few common ones. Visibility Issues Crosswalks must be reasonably visible to oncoming traffic at all times.  There are a number of visibility issues that can crop up: vegetation growing in adjacent property may be poorly trimmed and may therefore interfere with sight-lines, or there may be inadequate street lighting.  If visibility of the crosswalk is a serious concern even after certain measures have been implemented, signs should be installed to give drivers warning of the crosswalk ahead. Traffic Flow […]

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 […]

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