Car Accidents Article

Legal Issues and Insurance

Negligence. In a case involving an accident the key legal issue is negligence. The law of negligence is complicated and full of nuance. Put simply, negligence simply means the failure to act as a reasonable person should under the unique circumstances of the case, and those actions lead to injury or damages. As you may have noticed, this is a vague standard and leaves a lot of room for insurance adjusters (and attorneys) to argue.

In the context of driving, everyone operating a motor vehicle has a legal duty to drive safely and follow the rules of the road. Even once you prove that someone acted negligently, you still have to prove that their negligent actions caused damage or injury. This is known as “causation.” Causation is more complicated than it sounds. For example, if you negligently crashed into someone who had a heart condition, your negligent act did not cause or give rise to that person’s heart condition. It may have made things worse, but you can’t be held responsible for the condition in the first place. Similarly, if the damage or injury was inevitable no matter what you did, your negligence may not be considered the true cause.

Damage and Injuries. Another difficult issue is damage and injuries and how to put a monetary value on them. The law entitles victims of negligence to be made whole or paid so that they are in the same position that they were before the accident. There are several types of damages and injuries. For example, most accidents cause physical damage to the vehicles involved. If your vehicle is stuck in a repair shop for weeks, you suffer from a type of damage called “loss of use,” which is the hassle and expense of obtaining a rental or otherwise being without your vehicle. If the vehicle gets repaired the owner will likely take a hit if he decides to sell it; this type of damage is known as “diminished value.” Many accidents involve damages in the form of medical injuries to drivers, passengers, or pedestrians. This type of damage is known as “bodily injury.” Bodily injury is often the most complicated issue in an accident case.

Bodily injury involves not just medical issues about the nature and severity of an injury, but also pain and suffering. How can you put a monetary value on pain and suffering? How much money will compensate you for a broken leg, a scar, low back pain, a broken figure, or a bruise? There is no precise answer, which is why figuring out the true value of your claim requires experience and training.

Settlement and Recovery. Sometimes an insurance company will offer you a settlement payment in exchange for you signing a release. Releases are often complicated, but they boil down to this: if you sign it you will have no right to any further recovery for the accident or your injuries. In other words, you give up the right to file a lawsuit or seek additional money if your injuries turn out to be more serious than they seemed. This is why it is important to seek legal advice if you have any questions or concerns about a release. Most people do not have sufficient experience with accidents or legal issues involved to accurately determine the value of their case or what it is really worth. Some insurance companies will try to get you to settle quickly, offering you prompt payment in order to end the case. Even if you think the amount is fair, your medical providers may have recorded a “healthcare provider lien” that entitles them to payment of some or all of the money you get from the insurance company. A reputable attorney should be willing to give you free advice on whether the settlement offer seems fair or not under the circumstances of your case. Often it is valuable to have a second opinion to know that you and your family are protected.

This article is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or establish an attorney/client relationship.

Contributing Attorney: Sam Saks. Sam is the founder of Legal Aid of Arizona and a partner at the law firm of Guidant Law




  • This question does not exactly have to do with car accidents,though the situation arose from one.I cannot find adivse on this anywhere-A chiropracter placed a medical lein when someone rear ended me.The insurance company should have paid,chiropracter cooresponded with them 2yrs later which was past the statute of limitations and I guess just dropped it.This was 2002.The lein now sits at the county recorder and cannot be revoked unless by the Dr. who no longer practices.This is now interfering with my house buying process.I have called everywhere and get nothing but brick walls.Please help
  • Car accident where both parties are found at fault, me 30%, them 70%. They are NOW (6 months later) suing for 28 grand of injury present and future costs. Their insurance paid me very little but did pay 5 grand for my totaled truck worth about 15 grand. I only had liability and their lawyers letter states they are suing me personally since my insurance wont help cover anything. He had no injuries at all at the accident, walked around waiting for police, talking on his cell. He went to the doctor 2 days later according to his lawyer. Can I really be liable for 28 grand? Do I need lawyer?
  • Can a UIM claim be offset by another Insurance policy if a s small portion of the claim was already paid out by secondary insurance company? So let's say I was paid out $50,000 by my personal policy but my claim is worth 100,000. Can the other Insurance offset the 50,000 I've already been paid leaving them to only pay me another 50,000 or can I collect the full 100,000 from them?
  • Had a car pulled out in front of me and I hit him broadsided and totaled my motorcycle and have injuries. He was cited and I found out 3 weeks later he has no insurance. What can I do?
  • I was in a auto accident(rear ended)insured resides in Az. His Insurance company is located in Ca. I want to take his insurance co. to a Small Claims Court in Az. How do I serve summons to the Insurance Co. since Insurance is located in CA. but it does business in Az.(out of venue)
  • If I bring a letter from my insurance company stating all claims have been satisfied to the district attorney will this help reducing my fine
  • I was involved in a very minor collision resulting in minimal vehicle damage & no bodily harm. Accident occurred on a private parking lot which cops would not respond to so there is no reports or documentation of either parties accounts an recollection leading up to accident. Insurance information was exchanged and both parties drove away upon learning no police report would be taken. Months following were an unstable time for me and incident slipped my mind. Until this week even I received a collection letter which to the best of my knowledge is a subrogation notice. With my brief research on this, it's my understanding that I've been deemed at fault. And the insurer of other party has issued a payment covering their damage. Which they are now seeking reimbursement through me. Can I dispute or appeal an how is this done? I firmly believe that the fault is that of the other driver or at least not solely of my own, based on design and layout of parkway's as well as location of impact and damage indicated on both vehicles.
  • I need some help to understand if I have a case to pursue legal action: I was in an accident 9/26/15: my car was hit by a truck. The driver of the truck was not the owner of the truck. It has been a struggle to navigate through the insurance(s). I did get my car fixed and owner of the truck's insurance paid for repairs, and my chiropractor bills are pending... my insurance paid for the $500 we paid out of pocket, and my rental car. The remaining item open is "diminished value" - they offered $250 for my 2008 Lexus ES350 (under 50K miles), but I need advice to settle or pursue legal action
  • My ex wife was in a car accident in my vehicle and she was at fault. the car had no auto insurance during the accident, now the other parties insurance is suing us. I lend her my car while we where going through a divorce so she could drive our son around. her and i agreed verbal she would cover the insurance (she only did it for a few months apparently and let it laps), i was not aware she did not pay the insurance and was driving with a suspended licence. She is saying i am responsible for the fees is this true?
  • My dad was killed by a drunk driver 2 years ago and I heard that I can get $5000




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