Single-vehicle crashes occur more often than one might think. These crashes are just what the name implies: they involve just one vehicle. Trucks, SUVs, vans, cars, and motorcycles can be involved in single-vehicle crashes that cause serious injury and even death.
In Arizona in 2019, there were 569 fatalities caused by single-vehicle crashes, which accounted for 58% of the total traffic fatalities in the state, according to data from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and the United States Department of Transportation Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS). Additional data from the IIHS shows that drivers of SUVs and pickup trucks are more likely to die in a single-vehicle crash than drivers of cars.
If you are ever involved in a single-vehicle crash in Phoenix, it’s important to know just how insurance claims work when it comes to injuries, property damage, and other losses.
- What you should know about fault.
- Can a passenger make a claim?
- Can a driver make a claim?
- What you need to make a claim.
What you should know about fault when it comes to single-car crashes
Insurance companies want to assign fault to someone else when it comes to vehicle crashes, because the at-fault driver is liable for the claim. Sometimes, the fault is that of the driver, but sometimes it’s not. Another party may be liable if:
- Another driver was negligent. If another driver is the cause of the crash, even if that driver is not physically involved in the crash, he or she can be held at least partially liable. For example, if debris falls from a truck onto or in front of a car, causing the driver to swerve to avoid it, the truck driver (or trucking company) may be held liable for failing to secure its cargo.
- The road was defective, poorly designed, or poorly maintained: Hidden or missing road signs, broken or missing streetlights, or overgrown landscaping and shrubbery can all lead to an inadvertent accident; so can road erosion and unfixed potholes, and poor road design. The entity responsible for maintaining these roads would be held responsible, which usually means filing a claim against the local government OR a private landowner, depending on circumstances.
- The crash was caused by defective auto parts: When brakes, lights, or the engine fails to work properly, the manufacturer of those parts can be held liable if you are involved in a single-vehicle accident.
- An animal or child ran into the road. If deer, the neighbor’s dog, some livestock, a child, or any living thing runs into the road and the driver takes evasive action, that driver may not be held fully liable for the crash.
It is worth noting that many injuries may be prevented if crash avoidance and other safety tech came standard with every vehicle. Instead, many of these manufacturers make consumers add on safety features, creating an additional expense for drivers. Until we start forcing manufacturers to include crash avoidance technology as part of the base model, we are likely to continue seeing devastating, potentially preventable injuries.
The rules regarding drunk driving liability are different
Arizona’s dram shop laws are pretty lenient, but A.R.S. 4-311 states that an establishment may be held liable if it served or sold alcoholic beverages to a person who was “obviously” intoxicated. As such, if a drunk driver causes you to swerve and hit a stationary object, or cause a rollover event, you can hold the establishment at least partially liable for your injuries.
If you are a passenger in a vehicle with a drunk driver, however, you may face certain legal challenges to your claim. We talk more about this in our initial consultation.
Can a passenger make a claim in a single-vehicle crash?
If you are a passenger in a vehicle, and the driver causes a crash, you can make a claim against the driver’s insurance policy, just as you would if another driver causes the crash. Your medical bills would be handled through MedPay, Arizona’s version of PIP, which is specifically designed to cover passengers in vehicles.
Injury victims have two years to file a claim.
What if the driver is uninsured/underinsured?
As of July 1, 2020, Arizona drivers must carry the following amount of insurance:
- $25,000 for one person sustaining bodily injury or death in an accident
- $50,000 for two or more persons sustaining bodily injury or death in an accident
- $15,000 for damage to another person’s property
However, almost 12% of Arizona drivers don’t have car insurance, which means that you may need to file a claim against your policy. You can use your own UM/UIM coverage to pay for your damages, and your own MedPay to cover your health insurance premiums.
If you file a claim under your own insurance policy when you are not at-fault, your premiums will not go up. You have to be at-fault for the accident in order for the insurance company to raise your rates.
Can I use my own health insurance?
Yes, you can – and you should. That’s why you have health insurance in the first place. And even though the accident wasn’t your fault, you’re still responsible for your own medical bills.
However, the hospital might try to tell you that you have to use your car insurance policy to pay. This is not true. The reason they want your car insurance information is because auto insurers don’t have the same deals with hospitals that medical insurance providers do, so the auto policies pay out more to the hospitals.
When they give you the paperwork for the Assignment of Benefits asking for your auto insurance information, you don’t have to supply it. Hand over your medical insurance information and that is all.
Can a driver make a claim in a single-vehicle crash?
If you are driving a car and sustain injuries in a single-vehicle crash, most of the same rules apply: you can put in a claim through your own insurance company, and use your own health insurance when seeking medical attention. You can use your own MedPay to cover premiums.
If you were driving the car, you really want to talk with an attorney about your options if you get hurt, especially if the cause of your crash was a third party, a road defect, or a defective auto part. Your insurance company may want to raise your premiums if you’re deemed at-fault, so proving that you were not at fault is critical to both seeking compensation from liable parties, and to keeping your premiums low.
What do I need to make a claim after being hurt in a single-vehicle accident?
You’ll want to gather up some paperwork as soon as possible. That documentation should include copies of:
- Your insurance policy
- The police report
- Your medical bills
- Your repair costs
- Your vehicle’s warranty
- Any photos or video evidence of damage to the vehicle(s) and the road
- Any photos or video that shows defects in the road
- Any photos of video of your injuries
If you’re struggling to get this information, we can help you, but bring what you do have to your initial consultation. We can investigate the incident and determine whether or not there was another liable party involved. We promise we’ll be upfront and honest about what we find.
Have you been injured in a single-vehicle crash? Are you unsure whether or not your auto insurance policy will cover damage to your vehicle or other property damage you caused? It’s time to speak with an experienced Phoenix car accident attorney from Plattner Verderame PC about your situation. Call us today at 602-266-2002, or complete the contact form on our website to schedule a consultation. We operate offices in Phoenix and Tempe to better serve you.
I have been active in leadership in the Arizona Association for Justice (lawyers who represent injured folks, and formerly known as the Arizona Trial Lawyers Association) since 1985. I served as President in 1991. I was an active participant in battles to protect the Arizona Constitution from the insurance industry and big business interests in 1986, 1990 and 1994.
Read more about Richard Plattner