Arizona Motor Vehicle Accident Laws and Safety Requirements

Arizona state law governs many of the issues that may come into play in a personal injury lawsuit arising out of an auto accident. Although in some cases local laws become involved, they are normally of peripheral relevance at best.

Statute of Limitations: The Arizona statute of limitations allows an auto accident victim to file a lawsuit within two years of the accident, seeking compensation for personal injury and/or property damage.

Shared Liability: When the victim is partially at fault, Arizona applies the principle of pure comparative fault, by which a victim’s damages are reduced in proportion to his degree of fault. If he is 25 percent at fault, for example, he will receive only 75 percent of his damages. A victim can recover damages even if he was mostly at fault.

Fault/No Fault Rule: Since Arizona is a “fault” state, an accident victim is not barred from directly filing a lawsuit against the other driver or filing a claim against the other driver’s insurance coverage.

Minimum Insurance Coverage: Arizona drivers are required to carry liability insurance coverage with policy limits of at least 15/30/10 — $15,000 per victim, $30,000 per accident and $10,000 for property damage.

Types of Damages Available: Standard compensatory damages are available, including intangible damages such as pain and suffering. In Arizona, punitive damages can be claimed for insurance company bad faith or for “reckless and outrageous conduct”. There is no statutory limitation on the amount of punitive damages.

Uninsured/Underinsured Drivers: Arizona does not require its drivers to purchase coverage for uninsured or underinsured motorists, although such coverage is available.

Product Liability for Defective Vehicles: To win a product liability lawsuit in Arizona, the plaintiff must prove that the manufacturer acted unreasonably in the design or manufacture of the product, in light of the foreseeable risk of injury. A victim can sue a distributor even if the defect in the vehicle or component was the fault of the manufacturer.

Suing the Government over Defective Roadways (Sovereign Immunity): Although Arizona recognizes the general principle of sovereign immunity (immunity of the government from lawsuits), the Arizona Tort Claims Act has carved out broad exceptions, including an exception that applies to lawsuits filed by victims of defective state roadways (under many circumstances, anyway). You must comply with strict procedural requirements and timeframes. These restrictions do not apply to private contractors hired by the state government.

Motorcycle Helmet Laws: Minors under 18 are required to wear a helmet. There are no restrictions on adults, although failure to wear a helmet might matter in a lawsuit in which comparative fault an issue.

Seat Belt Laws: Arizona’s seat belt law makes failure to wear a seat belt a secondary offense. This means that you cannot be ticketed for this offense unless the officer pulled you over for a separate offense, such as running a stop light. As a secondary offense, it requires children aged 8 to 15 to wear seat belt, and children under 8 must wear seat belts if they sit in the front seat. The fine for a first offense is $10.

Dram Shop Law: Dram shop laws apply when an intoxicated person, such as a drunk driver, injures someone else – the victim can sue the party who served alcohol to the intoxicated person. Arizona’s version exempts social hosts from liability. It imposes liability only on licensed alcohol establishments that serve underage or obviously intoxicated patrons.

DUI/DWI Laws: The legal BAC limit in Arizona is 0.08% for adults and 0.0% for minors (under 21). Increased penalties apply if the driver’s BAC equals or exceeds 0.15%. The minimum jail term is 24 hours, the minimum fine is $250 and the minimum license suspension period is 90 days for a first offense.

Distracted Driving (texting while driving, etc.): In Arizona, school bus drivers are prohibited from using cell phones while driving on duty. Although texting while driving is still legal in Arizona at the time of this writing, this statutory oversight could be corrected at any time. Texting while driving might still amount to negligence in certain civil lawsuits.