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Understanding Arizona Comparative Negligence Law

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How Does Comparative Negligence Affect Your Personal Injury Claim?

Arizona comparative negligence

Arizona comparative negligence is a crucial aspect of personal injury law.

This law can significantly impact your ability to recover damages, so it’s essential to understand how it may apply to your specific case.

Being injured in an accident can be a traumatic and overwhelming experience, leaving you with physical pain, emotional distress, and a multitude of questions about your legal rights and options.

When you’re worried about things like medical bills and lost wages, it’s important to understand how Arizona comparative negligence can affect the compensation you can get for your injuries.

In a nutshell, comparative negligence means two things:

  • You can still recover damages even if you are partially responsible for causing an accident.
  • The amount of damages you can recover is reduced by your percentage of fault.

In this article, we’ll explain Arizona comparative negligence law in detail — how it works, when it applies, and what you need to know to maximize your chances of a successful personal injury claim.

Need help understanding how Arizona comparative negligence might affect your case?

Studnicki Law Firm is here to assist. We understand the challenges you’re facing, and we’re here to provide the compassionate guidance and unwavering support you need.

Contact us 24/7 through our online form or call (480) 361-2442 for a free, no-obligation consultation.

Table of Contents

What is Arizona Comparative Negligence?

Arizona comparative fault (also called comparative fault) is used to allocate fault among multiple parties involved in an accident. The key idea is that more than one party can contribute to an accident, and each party is only responsible for their portion of the blame.

Key point: Each person is only responsible for the percentage of damages that they cause in an accident.

The system in Arizona is known as “pure comparative negligence.” (A.R.S. 12-2506(A)). Under this system, each party’s financial responsibility in an accident is based on their percentage of fault.

A Simple Example

Let’s say there are two person in a car accident — the plaintiff and the defendant. The plaintiff has $100,000 in damages and is found 20% at fault. The defendant is 80% at fault.

Even though the plaintiff was partially at fault, they can still recover 80% of their damages since the defendant was 80% responsible.

In other words, the plaintiff’s recovery is reduced by 20% because the plaintiff was 20% at fault (A.R.S. §12-2505).

In this case, the plaintiff would get $80,000 (80% of $100,000).

Key point: You may be able to get compensation even if you were partly responsible for causing the accident.

Applying Arizona Comparative Fault in Different Scenarios

Here are some examples of situations where Arizona comparative fault rules comes into play:

  • Traffic Accidents: If one driver runs a red light and hits another car that was speeding, both drivers contributed to the crash. Comparative negligence determines the recovery amount based on their respective degrees of fault.
  • Slip and Fall Cases: If someone slips on an unmarked spill in a store but they were texting and not paying attention, both parties may share some blame. 
  • Product Liability: Say a consumer buys a blender with a manufacturing defect that causes it to overheat. But the consumer also didn’t read the instructions on proper use. One day the blender overheats and causes a fire. Both the defect and improper use played a role.

Understanding Comparative Fault for Your Personal Injury Claim

Knowing about Arizona’s comparative negligence law is crucial if you’re pursuing a personal injury claim. It helps in:

  • Setting Realistic Expectations: Knowing that your compensation can be reduced by your share of fault helps set realistic expectations about your potential financial recovery.
  • Preparing for Negotiations: When negotiating a settlement, understanding your level of fault can guide your strategy for reaching a fair agreement
  • Legal Strategy: Your attorney can build a stronger case by focusing on minimizing your percentage of fault, thereby maximizing your potential compensation.

Multiple Parties and Arizona Comparative Negligence

Analyzing comparative fault gets very complicated when there are multiple parties potentially at fault, such as:

Arizona comparative negligence multi car crash 350
  • Multi-car accidents.
  • Construction accidents.
  • Product liability cases involving manufacturers, suppliers, and distributors.

How Fault is Apportioned with Multiple Parties

When there are multiple defendants, you have to assess the fault of each party, including the plaintiff (A.R.S. §12-2506). Each party’s liability for damages corresponds to their percentage of fault. The total combined fault must equal 100%.

The reason for Arizona comparative negligence is so that each defendant is only responsible for their direct portion of the damages based on their specific contribution to the harm.

Example with Multiple Parties

Imagine a four-car pile-up where:

  • Car A suddenly stops due to a distraction
  • Car B crashes into Car A because it was following too closely
  • Car C is speeding and hits Car B
  • Car D is unable to maneuver away in time and crashes into Car C

Using Arizona comparative negligence, the fault of all drivers is compared. Let’s say the driver of Car D makes claims against the other three drivers, the driver of Car D’s damages are $100,000, and the fault is:

  • Car A: 10%
  • Car B: 30%
  • Car C: 50%
  • Car D: 10%

In this scenario:

  • The driver of car D can only recover $90,000 (90% of total damages) because they were 10% at fault.
  • The driver of car A is responsible for $10,000 (10% of total damages).
  • The driver of car B is responsible for $30,000 (30% of total damages).
  • The driver of car C is responsible for $50,000 (50% of total damages)

As you can see, each driver is responsible for paying the portion of total damages that reflects their fault percentage in causing the accident.

Understanding Arizona comparative negligence with multiple parties is crucial during settlement negotiations. Parties often negotiate based on the estimated fault percentages to reach an agreement avoiding a lengthy trial.

An experienced personal injury attorney leverages this understanding to negotiate favorable terms ensuring you get the compensation you deserve.

Proving Comparative Fault

Under Arizona comparative negligence law, proving the degree of fault for each party is essential for resolving personal injury claims properly.

Who has the Burden of Proof?

  • Plaintiff’s Burden: The plaintiff must prove the fault of each defendant.
  • Defendant’s Burden: If a defendant claims the plaintiff was at fault, the defendant must prove this to reduce their own liability.

How is Fault Proved?

Proving fault in Arizona comparative negligence cases typically requires substantial evidence, such as:

  • Physical evidence from the accident scene.
  • Police and accident reports.
  • Medical records documenting injuries.
  • Surveillance footage, if available.
  • Accident reconstruction experts.
  • Witnesses testimony.

Special Consideration: Indivisible Injury Cases

In some cases, it’s very difficult for a plaintiff to determine precisely how much each defendant contributed to their injury.

This is known as an indivisible injury case.

It occurs when multiple defendants’ actions collectively cause injury, but it’s hard to pinpoint exactly how much harm each one specifically caused.

Assigning percentages becomes complex since the injury doesn’t correspond clearly to just one party’s actions.

Examples of Indivisible Injury Cases

Here are two examples of indivisible injury cases in Arizona:

  • Piner v. Superior Court: The plaintiff suffered multiple injuries from two separate car accidents that occurred on the same day. His doctors were unable to attribute which injuries came from which accident.
  • Salica v. Tucson Heart Hospital: A man died from complications following surgery. The complications were caused by a series of medical oversights by multiple healthcare providers. Given the complex sequence of actions, it was difficult to pinpoint how much each action contributed to the death.

These scenarios demonstrate the challenge of determining causation in indivisible injury cases.

What Happens in Indivisible Injury Cases?

In cases of indivisible injury, Arizona comparative negligence does not apply to the plaintiff. Instead, the plaintiff prove two things:

  • Each defendant acted negligently, and
  • Each defendant’s actions were a “substantial factor” in causing the injury.

After the plaintiff proves these two items, the burden then shifts to the defendants to prove their respective percentages of fault.

This often results in the defendants blaming each other for the accident.

Special Consideration: Non-Parties at Fault

Arizona comparative negligence law (A.R.S. §12-2506(B)) allows for fault to be allocated to persons or entities who contributed to the accident, even though they are not parties to the case.

These persons or entities are referred to as non-parties at fault.

This allocation is significant because any fault assigned to non-parties reduces the total damages the plaintiff can recover from the named defendants.

Some examples of non-parties who may be partially at fault include:

  • Parties who settled before trial
  • Parties with legal immunity (like government agencies for certain types of claims)
  • Bankrupt parties
  • Unknown parties (like hit-and-run drivers)
  • Parties excluded from the case due to jurisdictional issues (like companies or persons in other countries)

Example of Case Involving a Non-Party at Fault

Consider a car accident case where Driver A sues Drivers B and C for negligence, with total damages claimed at $100,000. Driver A settles with Driver B for $50,000 before trial, making Driver B a non-party at fault for the rest of the case.

Let’s look at two different potential trial results involving Arizona comparative negligence law:

  • Suppose Driver B is found to be 40% at fault and Driver C is 60% at fault. In this scenario, Driver A would recover a total of $110,000 ($50,000 from Driver B and $60,000 from Driver C).
  • Now suppose Driver B is found to be 90% at fault and Driver C is 10% at fault. In this scenario, Driver A would recover a total of $60,000 ($50,000 from Driver B and $10,000 from Driver C).

As you can see, the presence of non-parties can significantly affect the money a plaintiff can recover as a result of Arizona comparative negligence.

That is why it’s so important to work with an experienced personal injury lawyer that understands the legal and strategic considerations, so that you can recover all the compensation you deserve.

Exceptions to Arizona Comparative Negligence: Creating Joint and Several Liability

In some personal injury cases with multiple defendants, the defendants cannot use comparative negligence to reduce their liability based on others’ fault.

Instead, all defendants are fully responsible for the total damages caused – this is known as “joint and several liability.”

Key point: In some cases, all defendants can be responsible for all damages caused in an accident.

Here’s a closer look at these exceptions:

Acting in Concert

This exception tp Arizona comparative negligence applies when two or more people intentionally collaborate to commit a harmful act (A.R.S. §12-2506 (D)(1)). When this happens, they can all be held equally responsible. This doesn’t even need a spoken agreement — it can be shown just from their actions.

Vicarious Liability in Employer-Employee Relationships

In Arizona, vicarious liability (also known as “respondeat superior”) comes into play in employer-employee relationships (A.R.S. §12-2506 (D)(2)). In these situations, an employer can be held liable for the negligent acts of an employee when those acts occur within the scope of employment.

Exceptions in Employer-Independent Contractor Relationships

When dealing with independent contractors, the general rule is that employers are not liable for the contractors’ negligence. However, there are three key exceptions:

  • Inherently dangerous work
  • Non-delegable duties (for example, the duty of an Arizona city to maintain its highways in a reasonably safe condition)
  • Direct negligence in selecting and instructing the independent contractor

Joint Ventures

In both social settings and business, people who enter into joint ventures can be jointly liable. This means if a group forms a temporary partnership for a project and something goes wrong, they can all be held responsible for the actions of one person.

Aiding and Abetting

If someone helps another person commit a wrongful act, they can be held liable. This applies even if they weren’t the one who directly caused the harm.

Negligent Entrustment

This occurs when someone gives something dangerous, like a car, to another person who they know isn’t capable of handling it safely. If that person causes an accident, the one who provided the car can also be liable.

Family Purpose Doctrine

This legal principle applies when a vehicle owner provides a car for family use. If any family member causes an accident while using the car, the owner can be held responsible.

Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA)

There is an exception to Arizona comparative negligence if a party’s liability for the fault of another person arises out of a duty created by the Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA) (45 U.S. Code § 51).

Limitations on Recovery Under Arizona Comparative Negligence Law

There are some situations where Arizona’s comparative negligence law does not allow people to recover damages:

Intentional, Willful, or Wanton Conduct

If someone intentionally, willfully, or wantonly caused or contributed to an injury, they are barred from using Arizona comparative negligence in their favor (A.R.S. § 12-2505(A)).

Influence of Alcohol or Drugs

If someone was under the influence of alcohol or drugs and was at least fifty percent (50%) responsible, they cannot recover damages for the accident (A.R.S. § 12-711).

Involvement in Criminal Activities

If someone is engaged in a felony or misdemeanor and was at least fifty percent (50%) at fault for causing their injury, they cannot recover damages (A.R.S. § 12-712).

Frequently Asked Questions

Understanding Arizona’s comparative negligence law can be confusing, especially when you’re already dealing with the aftermath of a personal injury accident. You likely have many questions about how this law may affect your ability to recover damages.

To help provide clarity, we’ve compiled the following frequently asked questions (FAQs) about Arizona comparative negligence and personal injury claims. Our goal is to address your concerns and empower you with the information you need to make informed decisions.

If I was partially at fault for the accident, can I still file a personal injury claim?

Yes. Arizona’s comparative negligence law allows you to recover damages even if you share some blame for the accident. However, the amount you receive will be reduced by your percentage of fault.

What if the other driver’s insurance company is blaming me for the crash?

Insurance companies often try to avoid paying out by blaming the injured person. But their initial assessment could be wrong or biased. Even if they say you were partially at fault, you may still be able to get compensation under Arizona’s law.

An experienced personal injury attorney can thoroughly investigate the accident — thoroughly – look at witness statements, expert analysis, accident reports, and more. This evidence could prove the insurance company was incorrect about your level of fault.

Your lawyer will work to minimize the percentage of blame assigned to you, maximizing the money you can recover.

Can I recover damages if my percentage of fault is higher than the other party’s?

Generally speaking, yes. There are a few exceptions, but typically Arizona comparative negligence law allows you to recover damages regardless of your percentage of fault, as long as others share some responsibility for the accident. However, your compensation will be reduced proportionally based on your level of fault.

How are percentages of fault determined under Arizona comparative negligence?

During the legal process, evidence from the accident scene, police reports, medical records, surveillance videos, expert analysis, and witness testimony will all be examined. This will be used to calculate each party’s percentage of fault, which directly impacts how much compensation you get.

How does Arizona comparative negligence work when multiple people were involved?

Things get more complicated. Each party’s percentage of fault will be assessed, and they are only liable for their portion of the damages based on their role in causing the accident. A skilled lawyer can ensure you get full and fair compensation in these complex scenarios.

What if my injuries resulted from a combination of multiple negligent acts?

In some cases with multiple parties, it’s very difficult to pinpoint exactly how much each party’s actions contributed to your specific injuries. This is known as an “indivisible injury.” In these situations, you have to prove each defendant was negligent and their actions were substantial factor in causing your harm. Then the burden shifts to them to prove their percentage of fault. It’s crucial to have an expert lawyer help with these cases.

Protect Your Rights

Understanding all the nuances of Arizona’s comparative negligence law and its exceptions can be overwhelming, especially when you’re already dealing with the physical, emotional, and financial impacts of an injury.

Getting professional legal advice is essential to protect your rights and maximize your compensation during this difficult time.

We understand how stressful and confusing this process can be. That’s why our team has significant experience skillfully navigating Arizona comparative negligence laws in personal injury cases.

We’ll be by your side, compassionately guiding you through each step while tirelessly advocating for the justice and fair compensation you deserve.

Learn more about our firm’s client-focused approach and the reasons why so many have trusted us with their cases. Read through our success stories and reviews from others who have been in your shoes. When you’re ready, we’re here to listen to your story and discuss your options in a free, no-obligation consultation.

Contact us 24/7 for a free, no-obligation consultation by calling (480) 361-2442 or filling out our online contact form.

We’re ready to provide the empathetic support and unwavering legal representation you need during this challenging chapter. You don’t have to face this alone.

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