What is the Statute of Limitations for Car Accident Cases in Arizona?
You or a loved one have recently been in a car crash. There is presumably a lot you are dealing with right now, including the prospect of financial ruin.
Foremost in your mind is how to pay medical expenses from surgeries, therapy, or medication down the line. If it was not a serious accident, and there were no serious injuries, then you are likely thinking of the damage to your property and the added costs of fixing it.
Where the other driver bears all or some of the fault for the crash, chances are you’re mulling over obtaining remedy in court. Somehow, for one reason or the other, the entire process of bringing an action to court starts to look to you like more uncertainty you can’t deal with right now.
Without a doubt, you should think thoroughly about the decision to seek compensation in court. But timing is also important. The statute of limitations in Arizona sets a critical time limit within which you must file your lawsuit. Failing to bring an action within this time frame, could effectively extinguish your chances of ever recovering damages.
Car Wreck Claims in Arizona.
Auto accidents are often caused by the recklessness and negligence of drivers, but may also be caused by factors out of the control of the parties. What is certain, is that at least one party (or their survivors) leave the encounter feeling very wronged and desirous of compensation.
For context, auto accidents are a leading cause of death and injuries in the United States. In Arizona, over 120,000 such accidents occurred in 2018 alone. In 2020, the numbers remained nearly as high, despite that there were fewer cars on the road due to covid 19 lockdowns.
As is expected, the number of lawsuits that spring from these accidents tend to be just as many. There is also a range of claims that can arise from an auto accident including but not limited to;
- Personal Injury,
- Wrongful death,
- Negligence, and
- Product liability.
Under Arizona law, a car wreck victim can allege any of these in a lawsuit to obtain compensation. Whatever the case, it is always best to file that lawsuit as soon as it is pertinent to do so because, as civil actions, they are almost always subject to statutes of limitations. And delay may certainly amount to denial.
These time limits may not mean much for lawsuits that tend to settle out of court anyway. But settlement negotiations are notorious for breaking down or being delayed. And it’s not uncommon that claimants find themselves rushing to file a lawsuit to avoid missing the deadline.
Of course, general rules apply along with specific rules that vary across states. There may also be different exceptions for each case.
What is the Law in Arizona?: Key Statutes and Key rules.
A statute of limitations is simply a law that prescribes or sets the time within which a claim can be brought to court. Failure to meet this time limit will generally result in a potential claimant losing his right of action.
In Arizona, the statute of limitations for an auto accident claim is generally two (2) years. However, depending on the nature and circumstances surrounding the car wreck claim, that number can change. Read on for a breakdown of how this works.
Personal Injury and/or Wrongful Death.
Under Arizona Revised Statute (ARS) Section 12-542, auto-accident claims alleging personal injury (aka the vast majority of Car wreck claims) the statute of limitations is pegged at two (2)-years. A wrongful death suit brought by the family of a person who’s been in a fatal car wreck also has to be brought to court within the same length of time ARS Section 12-542(2).
Product Liability and Negligence
Where the accident was the fault of the manufacturer (product liability), the suit (where death does not ensue) must be filed within two (2) years after the injury [ARS Section 12-551, 12-542 (1)]. The statute of limitations for an auto accident claim alleging Negligence is also two (2) years [A.R.S. § 12-542].
Exceptions and Qualifying Circumstances
The time limit may start to count from the day of the accident or the day the damage or injury was discovered. In Arizona, certain situations can create exceptions which can make the time limit as short as six (6) months, or as long as three (3) years.
For example, where the at-fault driver was uninsured or under-insured, that time limit becomes three (3) years. If the at-fault driver was a public official (like a police officer or AZDOT employee), A.R.S. § 12-821.01 says that notice of claims must be filed with the person authorized to accept service for the public entity or public employee within 180 DAYS (or 6 months) after the injury or damage is discovered.
By A.R.S. § 12-821, the claim itself (against a public official or entity) must be brought within 1 year after the accident.
In addition, children under 18 may not be subject to the statute of limitations in Arizona [A.R.S. § 12-502]. The general rule is that children under 18 (or minors) suffer legal disability. So, the statute of limitation does not begin to run for an injury until the child turns eighteen (18). Once the child turns 18, the time limit begins to run for 2 years or as the case may be.
The rule changes in a car accident lawsuit alleging wrongful death. It’s been mentioned that the family of the deceased must bring the action within two (2) years from the date of death. However, the age of the deceased does not apply here, and time clocks down even if the victim is a minor.
The Discovery Rule
It is possible that the injuries are not discovered until after the statute of limitations has already expired. For example, with brain trauma, doctors may find a new condition linked to the accident, a year or more after the first diagnosis. The Discovery rule allows victims to seek remedy, as long as the late discovery of a new condition or injury is within a reasonable time.
The rule does this by extending the original time limit from the date of the accident to the day on which the new injuries are discovered. The rule applies in wrongful death cases if a new (formerly undiscovered) injury is found to have caused the victim’s death.
It is important to know the statute of limitations that apply to your car accident case. This helps you properly file your lawsuit and prevents you from unintentionally giving up or losing out on your rights. You should contact Experienced Arizona Auto Accident Lawyers
As you may have surmised by now, the law regarding the statute of limitations for car wreck claims in Arizona may be somewhat tricky, which is why it is always in your best interest to seek the expertise of an Arizona Car Wreck Attorney to help you pursue a valid claim.
Arizona courts devotedly follow statutes of limitations, so without expert help, you always run the risk of missing your filing deadline.