How Responsibility Is Assessed In A Traffic Accident

How Responsibility Is Assessed In A Traffic Accident

Traffic accidents are a stressful experience for everyone involved, and when there is damage to the vehicles involved or injuries to the drivers or others in the vicinity, that stress only multiplies. Of course, the first question to ask is, “Is everyone okay?”, but after that, it’s time to determine fault. In Phoenix, Arizona there is a lot to consider when determining who is responsible for a traffic accident, and to what extent.

Understanding Comparative Fault

Arizona is a comparative fault state, so whoever is at fault for an accident is the one that is held financially responsible for paying for any costs connected to the accident. Liability, however, isn’t necessarily given to just one driver. Many factors come into play when an auto accident happens, and those involved may be assigned a percentage of fault, which can affect how much of an insurance settlement that person qualifies for.

When you are involved in a traffic accident, it can appear at the time that the fault lies completely, or nearly completely with one individual, but further investigation may reveal that both parties played a role, or there may even be some other factor that adjusts fault in a particular case. Police reports and insurance companies often look at an incident from a different perspective, and it is best not to assume anything or be overly anxious to take all the blame. 

When you are at the scene of an accident, it is natural to be concerned about anyone who might be hurt, but it is important not to use this as a reason to blame yourself, at least not openly. Liability can be affected by many different factors. You don’t know what was going on inside the other car. 

Once the full story is out, you may feel completely different about the accident, and by that time it will be too late to take back anything you may have admitted to. It can even cause the insurance company or others involved in the accident to accuse you of perjury. 

Emotions run high after a car accident, but having a steady professional, such as a car accident attorney to help you can help clarify what happened and prevent you from taking too much blame or help make sure your own compensation is fair as well. 

Rarely is One Person Entirely to Blame

One of the reasons why Arizona is a comparative fault state is because it is rare that one person is completely at fault. Even if something seems obvious, like hitting someone when turning on a red light, it can have a varying fault level if the other driver was going too fast or was distracted while behind the wheel. It may seem cold, but don’t state that the incident is your fault, even if you believe it to be. Be as straightforward as possible when reporting the incident to police but resist the urge to fill in the blanks when you come across information you don’t understand or remember. Talking to an attorney as soon as possible can help many of those questions get answered and give you peace of mind that someone is on your side looking after your interests.

There’s a good chance that both your own insurance company and the insurance company of the other driver will try to get you to admit to a larger share of the blame than you really deserve. This can be done by asking direct questions, or more subtly through small talk. You need to sort things out in your own head, with your own attorney before making official declarations. It is also best to consult an attorney before releasing any rights to your medical information. 

The Difference of Pure Comparative Fault

In Arizona, Comparative Fault is assessed as a “pure comparative fault.” It looks at how much the plaintiff’s damages cost in dollars and assigns a percentage of fault to each party involved. If it is determined that your accident “costs” $100,000, (including medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other expenses), and you are 30% responsible your portion of the payout from the insurance company will be reduced to $70,000. 


Because of the “pure” comparative value, you may be entitled to compensation even if it is determined that you are the one who is 70% responsible, but your payout would be just 30% of the assessed costs. This is different than other states with comparative fault rules, that don’t allow for a payout if fault is more than 50%.

At Petersen Johnson, our accident attorneys understand that traffic accidents are hard on everyone involved. Situations arise while driving that drivers don’t always have complete control over, and whether you are in Phoenix, Scottsdale, Glendale, Avondale, or Paradise Valley you deserve a thorough examination of your personal injuries, damage to your vehicle, as well as the proper assignment of fault percentage so that you can get the compensation you deserve, while minimizing any increase to insurance premiums going forward. To learn more, contact our Phoenix location at 602-910-4223 or our West Valley location in Avondale at 602-910-4223 to schedule a free consultation.

Posted in