If you’re injured by a careless driver, by a faulty consumer item, or on someone’s private property, and if your Phoenix personal injury attorney can prove that someone else’s negligence caused the injury, you may be compensated for medical expenses and related losses.
What compensation is available to injured negligence victims who prevail with personal injury claims in Arizona? What are “economic” damages and “noneconomic” damages? What are “punitive” damages? Is there a limit on what personal injury victims can recover in this state?
If you’ll read this short introduction to accidents, injuries, compensation, and the law, these questions will be answered, but if you’ve actually been injured because someone else was negligent, you will also need an injury lawyer’s personal services and advice.
Who May File an Injury Claim?
Should someone else’s negligence injure you in the Phoenix area, seek medical attention first, and then arrange to discuss your case with a Phoenix personal injury lawyer. Most of these cases are prompted by vehicle accidents, but you also may file a claim if you are injured because:
- The owner of a property didn’t repair a hazard on the property.
- Someone’s dog or other pet bit you or otherwise injured you.
- A commercial product failed when you used it, and you were injured.
- Someone else was negligent in some other situation, and you were injured.
How Are Personal Injury Claims Handled in Arizona?
In Arizona, an injured victim of negligence can usually recover damages without a trial. The majority of personal injury cases in Arizona conclude when the lawyers for both sides negotiate a private settlement – outside of the courtroom – that is agreeable to everyone who’s involved.
But if liability for the accident that injured you is in dispute, or if an acceptable settlement offer is not forthcoming in the out-of-court negotiations, your Arizona personal injury attorney will take your personal injury claim to trial.
How Are Personal Injury Victims Compensated?
At trial, your lawyer will explain to the jurors how your injuries happened and how extensive those injuries are. Your lawyer will then ask the jury to find in your favor and order the payment of your damages.
Three kinds of damages (compensation) are available to personal injury victims whose lawsuits prevail in Arizona:
- Economic: These are “quantifiable” damages that may be documented with pay stubs, receipts, medical bills, and other documents. Make copies of these documents, store them securely, and bring these items to your first meeting with your attorney.
- Noneconomic: These are the damages that compensate negligence victims for trauma, pain, and emotional distress. Insurance companies and courts use standard, widely-accepted formulas for calculating noneconomic damages.
- Punitive: These damages are meant to punish intentional wrongdoing or egregious negligence and to prevent it in the future. Punitive damages are imposed as punishment, not compensation, but when punitive damages are ordered, they are paid to the victim.
Punitive damages are less likely to be awarded in personal injury trials because a liable party’s behavior is rarely egregious or intentional. Punitive damages are awarded only in situations where defendants acted knowingly and intentionally or with egregious, reckless behavior such as driving while impaired on drugs or alcohol..
Is There a Limit on What Injury Victims May Receive?
Exactly how much may personal injury victims recover? Your compensation will depend on the nature and extent of your injury, how much and what type of liability insurance the negligent party carries, and whether the injury claim is eventually settled out-of-court or at a civil trial.
An Arizona personal injury attorney cannot even give you a ballpark estimate of the damages you may receive until that attorney meets with you personally, investigates your claim, and identifies the party or parties liable for your injury.
Although some states have established limits or “caps” on the amount of damages that personal injury victims may receive, the Arizona Constitution provides that no limit or cap on damages is permitted in Arizona – with the following qualifications:
- While Arizona places no cap on punitive damages in claims against private businesses or individuals, the U.S. Supreme Court held in 2003 that a ratio of punitive damages to economic/noneconomic damages that exceeds 9 to 1 will be considered unconstitutional.
- Arizona prohibits punitive damage awards in personal injury cases brought against governmental agencies and their employees who were acting within the “course and scope” of their job duties.
When Should You Call an Attorney?
If you are injured in an accident that wasn’t your fault, immediately after you’ve been treated by a health care provider, take your case to a Phoenix personal injury lawyer. There is a two-year statute of limitations in Arizona for bringing personal injury claims.
If you have already missed the two-year deadline, your claim may qualify as one of the rare exceptions to the deadline, so speak with an injury lawyer. But if your injury is recent, or if someone else’s negligence injures you in the future, reach out to an injury lawyer immediately.
A personal injury claim is always stronger and more likely to succeed if your lawyer reviews the evidence while it’s still fresh and talks with any witnesses before their memories fade.
What Will Justice Cost?
If you’ve been injured by negligence and you’re not able to work, your medical expenses may be piling up alongside your regular monthly obligations, but you don’t have to let financial worries keep you from seeking the justice you need.
Personal injury attorneys in Arizona represent their clients on a contingent fee basis, so you pay an injury attorney nothing upfront, and you’ll pay no lawyer’s fee unless until your lawyer obtains your monetary compensation with an out-of-court settlement or a jury verdict.
At the conclusion of the process, if for any reason you do not prevail with your personal injury claim, you will not owe any attorney’s fee.
What Else Should a Negligence Victim Know?
Your first legal consultation with a personal injury attorney is free with no obligation or cost. Injured negligence victims should take this opportunity to obtain personalized advice and learn how Arizona’s personal injury laws will apply in their own situations.
If your attorney shows that someone else was responsible for your personal injury, you will receive the compensation you are entitled to by law, but you must take the first step – and reach out to an Arizona personal injury lawyer – in order to put the law to work for you.