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 […]

Why Are Truck Accidents Increasing?

According to federal regulators, the number of accidents, injuries and fatalities involving large trucks continue to occur at historically high levels. In its April 2017 report summarizing crash statistics from 2015 (the most recent year available), the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) concluded that: The number of large trucks involved in fatal crashes increased by 8 percent from 2014. The number of large trucks involved in injury crashes decreased by 1 percent from 2014 (but that small decrease followed a more than 60% increase from 2009 to 2014). The number of buses involved in fatal crashes increased by 11 percent from 2014. The number of vehicle miles traveled by large trucks was basically unchanged from 2014 to 2015. Overall, large truck accidents cause about 4,000 fatalities and 100,000 injuries in the US on an annual basis. As technology continues to improve passenger vehicle safety, why have large trucks become an increasing hazard on Phoenix highways and other US roads over the last decade? Deregulation Trucking industry experts point to various regulatory changes that could improve safety but Congress has consistently resisted imposing additional restrictions on the industry. Even worse, Congress has proposed rolling back some existing trucking company regulations and weakening FMCSA’s oversight abilities, such as: Increasing the maximum permitted workweek for truckers from 70 to 82 hours during every 8-day period. Discouraging FMCSA from investing in wireless technology to improve the monitoring of trucks and drivers. Permitting longer and heavier trucks on the road while lowering the minimum […]

Personal Injury Damages Explained

In any personal injury claim or lawsuit, the plaintiff alleges that the defendant engaged in conduct or took actions (or failed to take actions) that caused injuries and other damages to the plaintiff. The defendant’s conduct is usually characterized in the litigation as negligent, careless, reckless or illegal. The goal of the lawsuit is to obtain compensation for the plaintiff — a monetary award or settlement — so that she is “made whole” for those damages. The damages claimed in a lawsuit can be economic (for example, plaintiff was forced to incur medical expenses) and non-economic (plaintiff experienced pain and suffering). The idea is that the damages should restore the plaintiff to her condition before the injuries took place — or at least appropriately compensate the plaintiff for the permanent changes to her life. The exact mix of damages claimed in any lawsuit depends on the circumstances of the case, the types of injuries sustained and the relevant state law. To ensure that you receive the most up-to-date information that is specific to your situation, we encourage you to contact a Phoenix personal injury lawyer at Hirsch & Lyon today. The following are the most common types of damages claimed in a personal injury case: Medical Expenses This form of damages compensates the plaintiff for the out-of-pocket doctor bills and other medical expenses (testing, treatment, therapy, hospital stays) that she has already incurred and those expenses the plaintiff will need to pay in the future because of the injuries. If […]

Wrongful Death Claims – The Basics

The goal of any personal injury lawsuit is to obtain compensation for the plaintiff — a monetary award or settlement — so that he or she is “made whole” for the damages caused by the injuries. Usually the plaintiff is the injured person, so the damages are those directly suffered by the plaintiff – for example, medical expenses paid by the injured person, pain and suffering endured by the injured person and income lost by the injured person. But what happens if the injured person dies because of the accident caused by the defendant’s negligence or misconduct? In the absence of the injured person, who can file a lawsuit and for what damages? A claim for wrongful death is the law’s answer to this problem. It allows the deceased victim’s estate and his or her family members to bring a lawsuit for the decedent’s damages AND the damages suffered by the family. Contact a skilled Phoenix injury lawyer if you need help with your case. Who can claim damages? In Arizona, wrongful death claims can be brought by the deceased victim’s surviving spouse, children or parents, and by an executor or personal representative on behalf of the victim’s estate. What damages are recoverable? Wrongful death damages can be thought of as falling into 2 categories. The first category compensates the decedent’s estate for the damages the victim suffered, including: Funeral/burial expenses; Medical expenses incurred prior to death; Income lost prior to death; Lost future income (based on the idea that […]

The Most Dangerous Car Models in Accidents

Car safety ratings have become a big deciding factor for most people when they buy a new car. The federal government produces safety ratings through the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, the insurance industry’s Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has its 5-star safety scale, and various nonprofits like Consumer Reports and Informed for Life conduct their own safety tests or aggregate test results from other sources. But even with the increased focus on vehicle safety, nearly 40,000 Americans die in car accidents each year and the insurance industry estimates that the annual number of car accident injuries exceeds 2 million. The list of most dangerous car models depends on who you ask. Our Phoenix accident lawyer has found these lowest-ranked vehicles listed in various sources: IIHS List of Vehicles with Highest Death Rates (2014 model year and equivalent models 2012-15) Hyundai Accent Sedan Kia Rio Sedan Scion tC Chevrolet Spark Nissan Versa Ford Fiesta Sedan Kia Soul Dodge Challenger Nissan Titan Crew Cab short bed (4WD) Ford Focus Sedan IIHS List of Vehicles Generating Most Personal Injury Claims (Model Years 2013-15) Mitsubishi Mirage Mitsubishi Lancer 2WD Nissan Versa Kia Forte Dodge Charger 2WD Chrysler 200 2WD Hyundai Accent Chevrolet Sonic Kia Rio Mitsubishi Outlander Sport 4dr 2WD IIHS List of Vehicles Generating Most Medical Payment Claims (Model Years 2013-15) Mitsubishi Mirage Mitsubishi Lancer 2WD Nissan Versa Chevrolet Sonic Chrysler 200 2WD Chevrolet Spark Kia Forte Nissan Sentra Hyundai Accent Dodge Charger 2WD IIHS List of Vehicles Generating Most Bodily […]

Dealing With the Other Driver After a Car Accident

A car accident is an inherently upsetting experience. It is usually sudden, surprising, loud and scary. Your vehicle has sustained some sort of damage and you may be injured – even if you initially don’t think you are. But if you do your best to remain calm and rational, you can have a civil, constructive conversation with the other driver and avoid making an already bad incident even worse with poorly chosen words and actions that can lead to a protracted battle with the insurance companies (yours and the other driver’s). So, in the immediate aftermath of a car accident, how should you deal with the other driver? Keep Conversation to a Minimum Try to speak with the other driver only to the extent necessary. People often react to an awkward social situation by filling the silence with idle chatter. But the last thing you want to do is mistakenly admit that the accident was your fault or minimize your injuries or the damage to your car. Simply put: After asking if everyone is okay, any Phoenix car accident lawyer will tell you that your best course of action is to say as little as possible. Don’t Argue and Don’t Apologize Don’t argue with the other driver about who was at fault. If the other driver caused the accident, you may be mad and want to yell, but a calm demeanor will keep you from saying something at the scene that can damage your legal rights. Rather than making accusations, […]

Things You Need to Know Before Your Deposition

If you are the plaintiff in a personal injury case, you will eventually be asked to testify in a deposition taken by opposing counsel. Depositions are part of the discovery process that parties to a lawsuit conduct before trial to learn about the facts, legal theories and claims of the other parties. A deposition typically takes place in a law firm conference room and consists of a witness (you) being asked questions under oath by opposing counsel (i.e. the lawyers for the parties you have sued). Your lawyer will attend the deposition for the purpose of protecting you from unfair, misleading, unclear or irrelevant questions (your lawyer will object to those questions). Your lawyer will also ask you some questions to correct, expand upon or clarify the answers you’ve given to opposing counsel. All of the questions and answers in a deposition are transcribed by a court reporter and the transcript becomes part of the discovery material produced by the parties before trial. So, what do you need to know before testifying at a deposition? Why are depositions taken? Depositions can be used to impeach your credibility at trial so it is important to relay the same facts and give the same answers that you intend to give at the trial in your case. If you change your story at trial, the inconsistencies with your pretrial deposition will be used against you. A deposition is not your opportunity to tell “your story.” You are there to answer the questions asked […]

Steps to Take After a Car Accident

Car accidents are inherently stressful. After an accident — even a minor one — you’re probably shaken up, you might be injured, and you may be angry at yourself or the other driver (or both). So, what should you do if you’re involved in an accident? Focus on Your Safety You first need to ensure the safety of yourself and your passengers. If your car is movable, drive onto the road’s shoulder and out of the way of moving traffic. If your car is disabled, you and your passengers should exit your vehicle and move away from the road. If you or any passengers are injured, call 911 for an ambulance. If any of the injuries are serious, use your judgment about the safety of moving anyone — it may make sense to remain in the car and wait for first responders. Choose Your Words Carefully What you say to the other driver, the police and your insurance company can be used against you when you file an insurance claim or seek compensation for injuries. Don’t argue with the other driver about who was at fault — let the police and insurance companies sort that out. Try not to apologize to anyone or say that the accident was your fault — just give a neutral, truthful version of facts of the accident to the police and insurance company without admitting that you were careless or negligent. Don’t tell anyone you’re weren’t injured in the accident — injuries can take time […]

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