Recommended Arizona Car Insurance Coverage

Car insurance coverages vary in Arizona depending on how much you want to pay, but there are specific minimum coverages required. These can cover property damage, uninsured motorist coverage, medical payments coverage and more.

In the event of an accident, $5,000 is the amount advised for medical payments coverage. If you were to pay more, the money would be reimbursable to the insurance company. You must be insured for liability in Arizona in the amounts of at least $15,000 per person, or $30,000 per crash.

Liability insurance is required to show “financial responsibility” that can stem from an accident. Financial responsibility is proving you can pay if you are involved in an accident where you are at fault. All that is needed is proof of having car insurance in the state. Otherwise, the DMV says you can be forced to pay $250 or have your license suspended for up to three months the first time you fail to show proof.

The property damage minimum is $10,000 in Arizona for car coverage in an auto accident. However, as most cars are worth much more than ten thousand dollars today, we recommend having $25,000 to $50,000.

If you have important and more expensive assets, it is recommended to have more coverage. This way, you are adequately protected. It is possible to obtain high limits, even at $500,000, as well as what is known as an umbrella policy. The umbrella policy is a term for having more insurance, or additional liability, and can be cheaper to have than you think.

You also need to have uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage, which can cover medical expenses and lost money when you are involved in an accident with an uninsured driver or vehicle. Many people choose not to insure at a rate of up to 10.6% of drivers in Arizona as of 2012. The national average is higher at 12.6%, or about one out of every seven people. This average is steadily growing, so it is important to have your own insurance.

Ultimately, what kinds of coverage to have and the limits of that coverage are a personal decision based on your needs and the amount you can afford to pay for insurance.  Remember to shop around, check lots of different auto insurance companies and ask for rate quotes that include uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage to see if it is affordable for you.


Changes to the Rules of Lawsuits

2017 has brought about some of the most sweeping changes to the way Arizona civil lawsuits are handled since the Zlaket rules were introduced. Some of the most significant changes were an attempt to make the process quicker and more efficient to account for all the new technology available to lawyers today.

Time to Serve Summons

Some of the changes are likely to be unpopular, such as the shortened time to serve the Summons which is now 90 days rather than the previous 120. This puts additional pressure on attorneys and process servers to get Defendants served when those Defendants might be dodging service, may be out of town or may have moved multiple times since their last known address.  Since service by publication takes a full 30 day cycle and getting publication started take a bit longer, the window to attempt in person service will be somewhere in the neighborhood of 75 days.

Substitution of Counsel

The rules also require lawyers in the same firm to file a formal Substitution of Counsel with the court if one lawyer takes over the case from another.  In the past, law firms would regularly add and delete lawyer’s names from the pleadings when an associate attorney started working on the case or left the firm.  This change is likely to both make it easier for judges to figure out whom to yell at if something goes sideways and also to generate a bit of revenue for the court system.  It will affect larger firms much more than it will affect Fite Law Group, as we don’t have the same kind of turnover.


Another rule change designed to force lawyers to play nicely with one another is the new requirements to file a Motion for Sanctions.  Such motions must now be separate from other pleadings – no more Motions that also request sanctions at the end.  They must also include certification of a good faith consultation, essentially asserting that you talked to the other guy and told him what he was doing was wrong and tried to figure out a way to fix the situation before you filed the motion.  Finally, and this is an important one, you must serve written notice on the other lawyer indicating the specific conduct that will support your request for sanctions 10 business days before you file the motion.  This last step will likely trip up a lot of uninformed lawyers.  It will give the offending party time to decide whether it’s worth it to continue the bad action or if they think the lawyer who intends to file is off his rocker.  It also gives a two week “cooling down” period to ensure that the Motion for Sanctions isn’t just a hothead response to something he or she didn’t like.

Proportional Discovery

Very important to smaller personal injury cases (car and pedestrian accidents, slip and falls, etc. with under $50,000 in monetary damages) is the change to the discovery rules.  Under the previous rules, the parties could engage in all of the discovery mechanisms available to them under the rules in every case (depositions, sending written interrogatories and requests for admission and production, issuing subpoenas and conducting medical exams).  The new rule says that discovery must be “proportional to the needs of the case.”  This is not clearly defined and there will likely be a lot of litigation over what is proportional, but it may be some relief to the chiropractors and doctors that have been deposed for four hours over a matter that involved soft tissue injuries and minor amounts of treatment and received only a $12 check for their time.

Other Changes

Among the other changes are shortened amounts of time to respond to discovery requests (30 days rather than 40), the requirement to “promptly” provide a privilege log when documents are not being produced and now the insurance companies are required to produce a copy of any applicable insurance policy rather than just disclosing policy limits and a change to the form of subpoenas.

We lawyers have a lot of learning to do this year and the curve is steep.  If you have questions about your case and whether litigation is right for you, call Fite Law Group at (602) 368-1869.

Dressing for Your Deposition

If you have taken the time to search the internet for “how to dress for a deposition,” then you are likely already half-way there to getting it right.

There are cultural and regional variations to this advice, of course. In the bible belt, a lawyer often tells his client to dress as though they are going to church. That may be good advice, but here in Arizona we have a lot of casual churches that accept golf shorts and jeans as acceptable attire.

The best advice I can give is to dress to impress your audience. The people you will see at a deposition include attorneys, sometimes an adjuster, the court reporter and possibly the opposing party or, if the opposing party is a corporation, a representative of theirs. If your deposition will be videotaped, which your attorney should advise you of in advance, there will also be a videographer and a camera.
While you must strive to be polite to everyone in the room, you are not trying to impress the court reporter or videographer. You want the attorneys and others in the room to have a good impression of you. Most often, that means going with a conservative appearance.

If you work at an office with a “business casual” dress code, then your wardrobe already contains what you likely need to look good. For men, a suit and tie would be good. For women, a suit, dress, slacks and a blazer or similar clothes would work.

But here’s the extra trick: go one more. If you are wearing a skirt suit, for instance, wear pantyhose, heels and a scarf or a brooch or a substantial piece of jewelry. If you are wearing a dress, make it a little more elegant with a sweater , jacket or shrug and heels. Try to take whatever outfit you think works well and add one more piece to the mix. If your lawyer doesn’t care for it, he or she can gently advise you to remove it before the deposition; but you won’t be able to add anything after you’ve arrived.

Avoid super bright colors – which give off a happy vibe that may contrast with the somber testimony you will be providing. But do wear colors that look good on you and that make you feel comfortable and confident.

You can also treat your deposition preparation session as a dress rehearsal. Wear what you are planning to wear to the deposition and check in with your lawyer to see if you are hitting the right tone.

Although it technically doesn’t fall into the category of wardrobe, I should make a passing note about piercings and tattoos. If you have tattoos that can be easily hidden with your wardrobe, do it. If you have extra piercings (beyond one hole per ear)that can be removed and replaced after the deposition, do it. If you have large gauge piercings that cannot be hidden, try to wear the most benign piece of jewelry you can find – think hider plug rather than tapers or spirals.

Finally, even if you have to do it only temporarily, you are best off having a hair color that is typically found in nature. It doesn’t have to be your natural color, but should be a natural tone. If you are unable to modify an unusual hair color, style it in the most conservative way possible.

Remember that the attorney deposing you and the adjuster, if there is one, are the people deciding whether and how much of an offer to make. They will base that opinion, in part, on whether they think a jury will like and respect you and want to award you money. Time and again, I’ve heard jurors complain “why didn’t she dress up?” and “didn’t he realize he was coming to court?”. Jeans and t-shirts may work in your everyday life, but depositions are a court proceeding that take place outside a courtroom and they require some extra wardrobe attention.

Star Client Tip #6: Ask lots of questions. If you aren’t sure how to dress for your deposition, ask your lawyer or her staff to help you.

Giving a Statement to the Insurance Company

When filing a claim and giving a statement to the insurance company, it is crucial to think before you speak.

Insurance adjusters and lawyers alike are trained to pick up on key words or phrases that may shift the determination of blame during an open case.

Though it is common to want to thoroughly explain every detail when giving a statement, try to stick to declarative statements regarding only the facts. As explained in number two of Yahoo’s post “9 Things Never to Say to Your Insurance Company”, describing your injury as whiplash after an accident instead of explaining you have neck pain can make a huge difference. “Whiplash” will put an insurance company on high alert and cause them to prepare for legal counsel. Declaring neck pain, however, leaves room to be fully diagnosed by a medical professional. Being aware of these key words or phrases can be the difference between an easy claims process and having to deal with litigation. By only disclosing what is necessary, you will protect yourself against giving someone a reason to fight or deny your claim.

Providing a recorded statement is equally fraught with peril.  As attorneys, we have rarely seen or heard a recorded statement where every word that a client spoke can be understood.  Some adjusters or attorneys who handle recorded statements will also ask leading questions, suggest answers and generally direct the way the conversation is going to go without giving you an opportunity to explain everything – or worse, you might inadvertently say something that is not accurate because you are still under stress.

Hiring an attorney often shields you from giving a recorded statement and may make the difference between a very small settlement and a much better one.

The New Driver’s Guide to Car Accidents

Did you know that car accidents are the number one cause of death among new drivers 16-19 years old? You can help change this statistic.

Although one person’s choices may seem small, that one person may wear off on someone around them and then that person may wear off on someone else and then you have suddenly stretched out to reach hundreds and thousands of people.

Of course, it’s terrifying to see one of these statistics come to life. Often times our generation comes out of high school with at least one person they knew dead from a car accident. However, there are some ways that you can make sure that one person isn’t you:

  1. Don’t text and drive. We all hear it over and over but just one moment of distraction could cause an accident. Even if it is because of someone else’s careless driving, your being distracted could take away that crucial moment you needed to react and avoid an accident.
  2. Don’t drive across the lines marking parking spots in a parking lot. Stick to the marked path of travel and don’t speed. The most common place to get in a wreck is in a parking lot. There is always the risk that you will come out of a parking spot and get hit, even if you’re looking. But it would still seem like the safest place, right? Wrong. You never know who will suddenly go 60 mph across the lot because it’s fairly empty.
  3. Keep the radio turned down enough that you will be able to hear emergency vehicles. Believe it or not, you aren’t a superhero. There is no guarantee that you will see the lights in the mirror every time. Especially if you’re trying to multitask and drive.
  4. It is best to always stay focused on the road when you’re driving but if you are doing something with your phone or the radio while stopped at a stop light and see the traffic on your left begin to move: look up to see if you have a green light before moving. Don’t just assume you have one!
  5. Do not put on your make-up in the car. Either put it on before you get into the car or after you arrive at your destination. If you have a mirror down in front of your face it is difficult, if not impossible, to see the road well.
  6. Figure out how much you are capable of doing while you drive. If talking takes away your focus when you’re driving: it is okay to ask your friend in the car with you not to talk to you while you drive. If they argue, you can always tell them to find another ride because YOU want to stay alive.
  7. Don’t assume you are going to be capable of talking on the phone while you drive, especially if you have to hold the phone in your hand. It is never a good idea to have your hands off the wheel if driving isn’t second nature to you.
  8. Don’t allow your friends to distract you while you drive. If they succeed, you could end up in an accident.

Though no one wants to be in an accident, you have to be prepared if you ever are in one. It is very easy to react out of panic or shock but when in an accident you will have to push through it and clear your thoughts.

Things to remember:

  • Remain calm.
  • Check on the condition of your own body and, if others are in the car with you, theirs’. Your health is what matters. Don’t worry about your car until you have worried about yourself.
  • Do not exit your vehicle into a busy location, unless it is safe to do so.
    Call the police and, if you are able, get the license plate number of the other person in the accident. Exchange insurance information with the other driver but don’t argue with them or try to prove fault at the accident scene.
  • Wait and provide a statement to the police. No matter how minor the collision seems, you need to wait for a police report to be written or you might be cheated out of insurance money. Never drive off: not out of panic and not even if the other person does. You could end up losing your license.
  • Know that just because you aren’t in pain doesn’t mean you aren’t hurt. It is in your best interest to allow someone to examine you, just in case.
  • Soft tissue injuries: whiplash, back pain, and bruising for example, often don’t show any signs at the time of the injury. Take it easy for a few days to see if you have any unexplained pain.
  • Do not hesitate to receive medical care, be it going to the Emergency Room at the time of the injury or seeing a specialist after the injury. Not everything will simply go away over time; especially if you are in no position to take it easy for a while. If you find you hurt after the accident, at least have it checked out to be certain it isn’t long term damage.
  • Consider hiring a lawyer to help you with the claim process.
  • Call the at-fault driver’s insurance company to open a claim, but don’t give a recorded statement if you plan to hire a lawyer. Let the lawyer handle how the insurance company gets information.
  • Don’t accept a quick payout! Many insurance companies offer a quick $500 payout to release all claims against the other driver. This is almost never a good idea. Talk to a professional about what your claim is worth- Take into consideration whether you were injured, what your medical bills will be, how long it will take you to recover and the things you won’t be able to do.

When you’re young and broke, one of the huge concerns is how an accident will affect your insurance rates. Obviously, if you are at fault they will go up. But what if you’re not at fault? In Arizona, insurance companies can’t raise your rates for being in an accident that wasn’t your fault.

What is a Personal Injury Lawyer?

What is Personal Injury?

Personal injury means injury to a person as opposed to injury to property.  It is a term that covers many kinds of injury from a ligament strain to a fatality.  It can be caused by a car or truck accident, falling down, a medical mistake or any other kind of incident in which you are injured.  Not every injury requires a lawyer, though.  Typically, a person who has been injured seeks out the services of a lawyer when he or she has been injured due to someone else’s wrongdoing.

What Does a Personal Injury Lawyer Do?

When you hire a lawyer to assist with your personal injury claim, they take on the role of gathering information, presenting the information in an organized manner with supporting documents and case law to the responsible party and negotiating a resolution to your claim.  In cases where the offer is insufficient to fairly compensate you for your medical bills, pain and suffering and other damages, the lawyer may file a lawsuit on your behalf.  Then the lawyer must exchange information with the other side, advocate on your behalf, continue to negotiate and, if necessary, take your case to trial.  A lawyer can help you express yourself clearly, streamline the process and protect you from unfair questions or impositions by the other side.  Lawyers with experience in personal injury are also generally familiar with the results of other similar cases within the community, what juries are willing to award for similar damages and can help you evaluate whether the offer presented is reasonable under the circumstances.

Do You Need to Hire a Personal Injury Lawyer?

Most people injured due to the negligence of another would benefit from the advice and experience of a lawyer to help them through the process.  Arizona does not recognize a claim for third party bad faith of insurance carriers – which is a fancy way of saying that the insurance company has very few responsibilities to claimants.  While they must treat their own insureds fairly, they may perform activities during their investigation that will adversely affect your claim.  Because insurance is a business, one that makes lots of money.  How they do that is by brining in insurance premiums and paying out as little in claims as possible.  One expert with whom this firm has worked has called the process the law of big numbers.  Out of 1000 claims, if an insurance carrier makes a low offer on all of them a certain high percentage will settle right away.  Sometimes they outright deny a claim, knowing that many will go away without any recovery.  Of those that continue on, possibly 100, the insurance carrier has nothing but time and resources to fight a claim – two things that the average injured person does not have.  Having a lawyer in your corner doesn’t guarantee a positive outcome, but it does mean that you have someone to do the work for you.  Someone to listen to all the reasons the adjuster thinks a claim is not worth much, and carry on.  Someone to present the information and hear the arguments in response, and carry on.  Someone to fight for the recovery you are entitled to and carry on with your claim so you can keep doing the things that are important in your life:  working, spending time with family, getting medical treatment and just recovering.

How Does a Personal Injury Lawyer Get Paid?

That depends on the case and the firm, but typically lawyers take on a personal injury claim on a contingency basis.  Contingency means that the lawyer’s payment is contingent on (depends upon) your recovery.  The contingency is usually a percentage of the total recovery and separate from the costs spent to obtain that recovery.  The lawyer receives a settlement check or check in satisfaction of any judgment and retrieves his or her fee at the same time you receive your portion of the recovery.