Hastings & Hastings Post-Accident Survival Guide

Here at Hastings & Hastings, we are intimately familiar with the accident world. Our firm has been defending the rights of accident victims for over 35 years. Our team of legal professionals has 150 years of combined legal experience. In short, we have seen a lot of accidents, and in that time, we have learned more than a thing or two.

Accidents are always tragic and often avoidable. Experiencing an accident is a shocking, traumatic, and stressful event. Unfortunately, the accident itself is often only the beginning of things. After an accident, you have to prepare to deal with law enforcement officers, insurance adjusters, mechanics, and the other individuals involved in the accident. Who among this long list of individuals have your best interests at heart? Navigating these choppy post-accident waters can seem nearly impossible, which is why Hastings & Hastings is here, ready to throw you a life raft with our post-accident survival guide.

As an accident victim, you have the right to compensation. Our post-accident survival guide will be one tool among many to help ensure that happens.

What to do at the Scene of the Accident

Your health, safety, and well-being should always be your number one priority at the scene of an accident. Before you do ANYTHING else, you should make sure you are okay. If you do not require any immediate emergency medical attention, then you can move on to the next steps of the post-accident survival guide.

Begin Documentation of the Accident Scene

Getting the most out of an accident claim typically comes down to three things: persistence, patience, and documentation. Unfortunately, without the proper documentation, the other two will not yet you very far. Documentation and strong evidence are key to winning a personal injury claim.

  1. Contact the Authorities: You should always contact the authorities following an accident, regardless of the severity. Other parties involved in the accident may attempt to tell you that there is no need to involve the authorities, but this is incorrect. A police report is an essential piece of documentation. It carries an immense amount of weight and authority in any accident proceedings. In fact, a clearly written police report may be THE BEST way to establish fault.

Ask the police for their name and badge number. Write these details down. Ask where you can obtain a copy of the accident report.

  1. Photograph the Scene of the Accident: In our modern world, almost everyone has a smartphone with a camera. This is a fantastic tool to use following an accident. Photographic evidence could play a key role in winning an accident case.

Take a wide and a narrow approach to photographing the accident. Start by taking multiple pictures, from multiple angles, of the accident scene as a whole. You want to be able to paint a clear picture of what happened at the accident scene.

Pictures of skid marks, stop signs, traffic lights, crosswalks, or anything else could help in establishing liability and fault. You should also take pictures of the individual vehicles and the damage they sustained. Accident professionals can often tell the story of an accident using just these details.

  1. Speak with Witnesses: When it comes to documentation, more is always better. Redundancies in documentation will only serve to support your argument and strengthen your position. As part of obtaining additional documentation, speak with witnesses at the scene of the accident. Ask them what they saw. Write down their names and their contact information.
  2. Write down Specific Details: For your own documentation, write down as many details as you can. Relevant details include the make and model of each vehicle involve as well as their license plate numbers. When speaking to other individuals involved in the accident ask for their name, driver’s license number and insurance ID card.

As an important caution:Avoid immediately contacting insurance providers. Especially avoid making any statements on the record. Your next step is to seek medical attention. You may also wish to consider hiring a lawyer.

After the Accident

The accident is over, you don’t seem to have any major injuries, and you have properly documented the accident scene, now what to do you?

Seek Medical Attention

It is important to seek medical attention if you are feeling any pain or discomfort, even if you do not believe you have been severely injured. Following a car accident, your body will be full of adrenaline. Adrenaline has the ability to mask pain, which could cause you to overlook injuries you did in fact sustain. Some injuries, such as soft tissue injuries, may take several days to manifest. For this reason, you MUST see a medical professional.

Mitigation of Damages: This is an important term to become familiar with. It is also one of the reasons you need to seek medical attention even if you do not initially believe you are injured badly enough to see a doctor. If you do not receive medical attention and your condition worsens, insurance providers may attempt to claim you did not do everything to could to fully mitigate your damages. This means you could have lessened the severity of your condition, if you had sought out medical attention. Going to the doctor right after the accident will help you prevent this from happening.

Document Everything: Again, documentation is very important. Make sure you save medical bills, treatment records, doctor’s notes, and prescription records.

Assessing Property Damage

Insurance providers typically have body shops, garages, and dealerships they work closely with. They will tell you to bring your vehicle into one of their partners for an estimate. You should begin collecting multiple independent estimates on your own.

Compare your independent estimate to the one provided by their partners. If it dramatically different, attain more estimates. If you have 3-4 estimates that report a dramatically different number than that provided by the insurance provider’s partner, you will have a powerful argument supporting your larger estimate.

Never feel pressured to give into the insurance adjuster’s first offer.

Consider Hiring a Personal Injury Lawyer

As you can see, it is not easy to swim through these murky post-accident waters. You are going to be swimming with the sharks.

Hiring a personal injury attorney can make this entire process much easier. It will also help ensure that you receive the compensation you deserve. At Hastings & Hastings, we take a personal approach to personal injury. We keep you closely informed regarding the status of your case, while not bothering you with all the behind the scenes complexities.

We also offer free, no obligation consultations. If you are ready to learn about your rights as an accident victim contact us at: (480)706-1100

Click HERE to schedule your FREE consultation.

The Essential Guide to Car Insurance: Terminology

Insurance is mandatory. Under Arizona law, drivers are required to carry bodily liability insurance worth $15,000 per person or $30,000 per accident in which more than one person suffers an injury. Additionally, they must carry $10,000 of coverage for property damage. This coverage must be offered by an insurance provider authorized to do business here in Arizona. Of course, opting for the minimum coverage may put you at risk. But what are the alternatives? Today, in the Hastings & Hastings blog, we will look closely at the wide range of coverage options available to you in a car insurance policy.

Types of Coverage:

Liability Coverage: Liability coverage is the type of coverage that is required by the state of Arizona. It pays for the damages incurred in an accident YOU caused. Liability coverage has set individual limits for bodily injury and property damage depending on the size of the policy. If these limits fall short of covering the full extent of the damages, the at-fault motorist may be subjected to lawsuits seeking further financial compensation.

The two types of liability coverage are:

  • Property Damage Coverage: Pays for the damage caused to another person’s property. In an accident, this is almost always their vehicle. Every state has a required minimum limit for property damage coverage.
  • Bodily Injury Coverage: Pays for the treatment of injuries caused by the accident. Every state has required minimum limits for bodily injury coverage. Typically, there are two numbers associated with this limit. The lower number will be the coverage per person in the accident. The higher number will be for the accident in total. This number cannot be exceeded regardless of the number of individuals in the accident.

Medical Payments Coverage &Personal Injury Protection: Medical payments coverage and personal injury protection (PIP) will pay for the treatment of injuries suffered as a result of an accident for the driver and any passengers in the policy holder’s car. Unlike liability coverage, PIP will assist in the payment of medical bills regardless of who is found at-fault for the accident.

PIP is also known as “no-fault” insurance. Currently, there are 12 states that require PIP protection. These are also the only states in which this type of coverage is available. For the other 38 states, standard medical payments coverage is available.

As Arizona is not a no-fault state, it is not required to hold medical payments coverage. The importance of doing so is largely influenced by an individual’s medical insurance coverage.

While standard medical payments coverage pays for the treatment of injuries to the driver and passenger, some policies may also cover lost wages, funeral expenses, in addition to the cost of replacing services normally performed by an injured party.

Collision Coverage: Remember, liability coverage pays for the damages inflicted upon another driver’s car in an accident in which you are at fault. But what about the damages to YOUR car? Collision coverage pays for the damages suffered by your vehicle in a collision with another vehicle, an object, or as a result of flipping over. Collision coverage protects in you in worst case scenarios. When using collision coverage, you will have to pay the value of your deductible, and your insurance provider will cover the rest. The size of the deductible will be inversely in proportion to the size of your premium.

Comprehensive Coverage: This type of coverage will protect you from damages caused by anything that is NOT a collision. Such damages could be caused by theft, vandalism, fire, hail, flood, earthquake, or any other number of things. Some comprehensive coverages will also offer repair for cracked or shattered windshields. As with collision coverage, when using comprehensive coverage, you must first pay for your deductible before your insurance provider will shoulder the costs.

Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage: This coverage protects you if you are involved in an accident with an at-fault driver who does not carry any insurance coverage, or whose insurance coverages are not large enough to fully pay for the extent of the damages. This coverage will also protect you if you are the victim of a hit-and-run. If you DO NOT carry uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage and are the victim of an accident with an at-fault driver who is uninsured, you will be left without support to cover any damages.

Coverage Add-Ons: Beyond these primary pillars of coverage, many insurance providers will offer you a catalog of potential insurance add-ons which can be used to enhance your policy in some ways. The options offered by each insurance provider may vary, but these are a few common add-ons which may be available to you:

  • Roadside Assistance: Every roadside assistance policy is different, so to find out exactly what you are being offered, you need to speak with your insurance agent. Typically, motorists opt for roadside assistance if they do not already utilize a service such as AAA. Roadside assistance may offer any of the following services: towing, battery jumping, flat tire changing, emergency fuel, or locksmith services.
  • Rental Car Reimbursement: This add-on will pay for you to use a rental car while your own vehicle is being repaired. The necessity of this add-on will depend on your specific life situation.
  • Gap Insurance: When paying out damages, insurance providers use standard valuation measures in determining the worth of a car. It is possible that you may owe more than your vehicle is worth. There may be a gap between what you still owe as a car payment and what your provider will offer you as the value of the vehicle. Gap insurance pays for the difference.
  • Vanishing Deductible: The vanishing deductible is a type of premium insurance add-on that is offered by many insurance providers as support of maintaining a clean driving record. With vanishing deductible, the size of your deductible will be reduced by a set amount on an annual basis for every year you avoid traffic citations or accidents.

How to Determine the Value of an Accident Related Personal Injury Lawsuits

At Hastings & Hastings, we understand that experiencing an accident is one of the most confusing, stressful, and difficult things you can go through in life. It is something we hope never happens. Or if it does happen, it happens very rarely. Unfortunately, this is just not the case. Every day, thousands of accidents occur. In 2014, 32,675 people were killed in automobile accidents. Even when every precaution is taken, accidents may be unavoidable.

If you have been involved in an accident, you have rights to financial compensation. We always recommend speaking with a qualified, experienced, legal professional before you begin any dialog with an insurance company. Insurance providers WILL want to minimize any payments they may have to make. At Hastings & Hastings, we fight to make sure you receive every bit of compensation you deserve. In our blog today, we will discuss many of the factors that may play a role in determining the value of your personal injury claim.

Determining the Nature and Extent of Injuries

The most important thing to consider following an accident is your personal health. It is vital that you seek out medical attention immediately, even if you do not believe you have suffered major injuries. Every dollar you spend having your injuries diagnosed, assessed and treated will be categorized as medical special damages.

Beyond the direct expenses associated with caring for your injuries, you deserve compensation for any pain or suffering you have incurred. Calculating the value of pain and suffering is not as straight forward as adding up all the expenses associated with diagnosing and treating your injuries.

Typically, an insurance adjuster will place your injuries into a category with which they have associated a certain amount of pain and suffering. This could have a massive impact on the value of your personal injury settlement.

Having your injuries categorized as “major” will work in your favor, however, often injuries which have been categorized as less serious can still result in major pain and suffering, and thus deserve an appropriate degree of compensation!

Injury Categories

Insurance adjusters typically place injuries into one of two major categories: hard injuries, and soft tissue injuries.

Soft tissue injuries are inflicted on muscles or soft connective tissues (ligaments, tendons, etc). These are considered less severe by insurance adjusters even if they are extremely painful. This is in part because they may be less permanent or because the severity of pain may be difficult to prove in court.

Hard injuries are considered to be more serious and may be valued four or five higher than soft tissue injuries. A hard injury could be a broken bone, a separation, a dislocation or tear, an open wound, or an injury to your head, neck or spine. Essentially, hard injuries are much easier to prove than soft injuries, because there is observable damage.

Special Damages and General Damages

Damages are separated into two major categories, special damages, and general damages. Special damages are sometimes termed economic losses. Special and general damages are differentiated by one major idea – money is considered a reasonable, or direct substitute for what was lost with special damages while money is only considered a rough substitute, or an approximate substitute for general damages. Typically, the value of general damages is higher than the value of special damages.

Special Damages

Standard special damages include property damage, lost wages, loss of earning capacity, medical expenses (which we have discussed), funeral/burial expenses.

To further subdivide things, when considering special damages, we must consider past losses and future losses.

It is important to keep detailed records of every cost or damage following an accident. These documents will be used to establish all past losses. This is the easy part. It is harder to establish future losses.

If your ability to work has been negatively impacted by the accident, potential damages will be calculated with a number of factors in mind, including life expectancy, retirement age, tax returns, projected income, and even the state of the economy and your industry.

General Damages

Standard general damages are more abstract than special damages, and may include: emotional distress, loss of reputation, shock and mental anguish, humiliation, and pain and suffering.

As you can see, the division we previously made, between hard injuries, and pain and suffering come into play here. Hard injuries fall into the special damages category while pain and suffering falls into general damages.

General damages have to potential to be valued at 1.5 – 5 times as much as special damages. They are also harder to establish. When it comes establishing general damages, you almost always need an experienced attorney by your side, helping you establish your case.

When it comes to proving general damages, documentation again becomes important. If you are experiencing emotional distress, make sure you speak with your doctor about it. They may encourage you keep a daily journal documenting how you feel, and citing what impact the accident has had on you.

The same is true for pain and suffering. Document how you are feeling. Write down details regarding your pain. Open up a dialog with your healthcare provider. Be consistent in the way you speak about your pain.

Additional Factors

Finally, a few additional factors may play a role in determining the final value of your claim. Known these factors can help you maximize your settlement.

In Arizona, liability plays a factors with the comparative negligence rule. Your compensation can be adjusted if you are found to be partially liable for the accident. For example, if you are found to be 30 percent liable, your settlement could be reduced by 30 percent.

Additionally, mitigating damage may be a factor. If you did not seek out the proper medical treatment and your injuries are worse because of that, the size of the claim may be reduced.

Putting it in the Hands of the Professionals

As you can see, personal injury lawsuits are often very complicated. For this reason, you almost always need a professional to help you coordinate, organize, and manage your case. Getting the highest level of compensation possible takes experience.

If you have been involved in an accident, contact Hastings & Hastings today to schedule free consultation and begin exploring your legal options.


Personal Injury Areas of Practice: Dog and Animal Bites

Welcome back to our four-part series on a few of the primary areas of practice in personal injury law. It is important to note that representation at Hastings & Hastings is by no means limited to these four specific areas of practice. Simply, these are four areas of practice from which people often ask us questions.

So far, we have discussed three areas of personal injury law: slip and falls, car accidents, and wrongful death lawsuits. To learn more about each of these topics, simply visit the blogs that we have already posted.

Today, we are going to be moving into new territory. We are going to be discussing the legal implications of dog and animal bites and what your rights are as a bite victim.

Strict Liability v. “One Bite”

Depending on what state you live in, dog bites are typically ruled under one of two different ways: by strict liability, or by the “one bite” rule. Under the “one bite” rule, owners will not be held liable for an injury caused by their dog the FIRST time their dog hurts someone IF they had no reason to believe their dog was dangerous. Arizona is a strict liability state. With strict liability, the owner is held responsible for the dog’s actions even if they never had reason to believe it was dangerous. The statute reads as follow:

The owner of a dog which bites a person when the person is in or on a public place or lawfully in or on a private place, including the property of the owner of the dog, is liable for damages suffered by the person bitten, regardless of the former viciousness of the dog or the owner’s knowledge of its viciousness.”

– Ariz. Rev. Stat. §11-1025

Of course, there are always caveats. The one exception to strict liability would come into play if the plaintiff provoked the dog or animal in any way. Provocation could include teasing, touching or harming the dog in any way. In some cases, provocation has been found to be unintentional. If a plaintiff accidentally steps on a dog’s paw, causing the dog to bite, this could be considering unintentional provocation.

Hiring a Legal Professional

Hiring a legal professional for support in a dog bite case is often very important. In many dog bite cases, the plaintiff will be asked to establish that provocation did not occur. Without in-depth legal knowledge and experience, this can often be difficult. A legal professional can help clearly establish the case, and illustrate the exact circumstances surrounding the dog bite.

Personal Injury Areas of Practice: Slips and Falls

Welcome back to our four-part series on a few of the primary areas of practice in personal injury law. It is important to note that representation at Hastings & Hastings is by no means limited to these four specific areas of practice. Simply, these are four areas of practice in which we are often asked questions.

So far, we have gone over wrongful death lawsuits and car accidents. Sometimes, these areas of practice overlap. Wrongful deaths can be caused by car accidents, among many other things. Of course, accidents are always tragic. Accident victims need someone by their side. There is little you can do to prepare for an accident other than arming yourself with knowledge. To learn more about wrongful death lawsuits, click HERE. To learn more about why you need a lawyer following a car accident, click HERE.

Today, we will be learning about slip and fall accidents.

What is a Slip and Fall case?

A slip and fall case happens when someone experiences a slip or fall accident on private or public property and injures themselves. The owner of the private property, or the group/party/individual responsible for managing the public property have a duty to maintain the property and ensure it is safe.

Slip and fall cases are often divided into three major categories: slips on foreign surfaces, falls on stairs/ramps/elevated surfaces, slips/trips on floors or thresholds.

The type of slip and fall experienced by the individual will shape the case. Different types of accidents require different types of evidence.

Proving Liability in a Slip and Fall

To win a slip and fall case, we need to establish that the owner or manager of the property was liable for the accident. What does it mean to be liable? Liability means “the state of being held responsible for something, especially by law.”

To prove liability, we have to prove that the owner, proprietor or manager was in some way responsible for the slip and fall. Establishing liability often comes down to proving one of these two major ideas:

  1. The owner/manager should have been aware of and addressed hazardous conditions.

In this instance, the owner/manager should have been aware of a hazardous condition such as torn carpet, a broken banister, a worn surface, a cracked floorboard or anything else that could cause a slip, trip, or fall, and taken steps to address the situation.

  1. An owner/manager/employee cause the hazardous situation.

In this second situation, the responsible parties directly caused the hazardous situation. Often, this involved spilling something on the floor or failing to clean a spill, although there are many other causes.


Personal Injury Areas of Practice: Car Accidents

Welcome back to our four-part series on a few of the primary areas of practice in personal injury law. It is important to note, that representation at Hastings & Hastings is by no means limited to these four specific areas of practice. Simply, these are four areas of practice in which we are often asked questions.

In our last post, we looked closely at wrongful death lawsuits. We answered what a wrongful death lawsuit is, how we go about proving fault/liability, and what damages are associated with wrongful death lawsuits. To take a more in-depth look, just click HERE.

Today, we will be taking a closer look at one of the most common areas of personal injury law – car accidents.

Why do I Need a Personal Injury Lawyer if I Have Been in a Car Accident?

Car accidents are unfortunately frequent and often car accident victims believe they do not need legal representation. They believe that matters following the accident will be straightforward and that their insurance provider will manage everything. Unfortunately, this is rarely the case.

Car accident victims almost always suffer injuries ranging from broken bones, concussions, whiplash, soft tissue injuries, and even open wounds. Accident victims deserve to receive financial compensation for their pain, suffering, and hardship.

The resolution of the events following a car accident involve a large number of parties and quickly become complex. Just at the scene of the accident, the parties involved will include everyone involved in the accident, law enforcement officials, medical professionals, witnesses, and more. Soon, multiple insurance adjusters may become involved, not to mention mechanics, doctors and more.

The primary reason to retain the services of a personal injury lawyer following a car accident is to have someone on your side, fighting for your rights as you move through all of this mess. A personal injury lawyer will help you navigate the legal process, protect your rights, and see that you receive the compensation you deserve.

How do I Begin the Process of Retaining a Lawyer?

The first step in retaining a lawyer following an accident is to receive a legal consultation. At Hasting & Hastings, we offer free legal consultations. During your consultation, we will go over the specifics of your case. We will then determine the best course of action dependent on your unique and specific situation. Your best interests are always our primary concern.

Start the process and schedule your free legal consultation by clicking HERE.

Personal Injury Areas of Practice: Wrongful Deaths

Here at Hastings &Hastings, we have been practicing personal injury law in Arizona for over 35 years. Our highly qualified legal team has extensive experience handling complex and often overwhelming personal injury cases. We like to offer out experience and expertise to the people of Arizona.

We are often asked, “What is personal injury law? Does my situation fall under the realm of personal injury law?” What are your areas of practice?”

Personal injury claims are cases in which one party has suffered harm or hardship as a result of another person’s actions or negligence. Often, this happens in the form of an accident. Today, we will begin a four-part series on a few of the types of cases in which we often represent clients. We will begin with wrongful deaths.

What is a Wrongful Death Case?

A wrongful death case is brought against a defendant who is believed to have caused, through negligence or intention, the death of another individual.Now, a clear question probably arises when you read this question. If the defendant caused the death of an individual, who files the wrongful death case? The lawsuit is filed on behalf of the estate of the deceased individual. This is typically done by the representative of the estate.

How do we Prove Fault in a Wrongful Death Case?

Typically, a plaintiff will attempt to establish fault in a wrongful death case by proving duty, breach of duty, and causation and damages.

In proving duty, we establish that the defendant had a duty of “due care” to keep the deceased safe. Establishing this varies from case to case.

In proving breach of duty, we establish that the defendant breached their duty to keep the deceased safe. For exampling, in a car accident, it would be the “duty” of the defendant to keep their eyes on the road and to drive safely. If they failed to do this, they would have breached their duty.

Finally, in proving causation and damages, we must establish that the breach of duty directly caused the death. If duty, breach of duty, and causation have all been established, damages are typically implied. Now we must establish what those damages are.

Damages in a Wrongful Death Case

Damages are “categories of loss” for which the estate of the deceased individual may receive compensation. Damages may include funeral and burial costs, loss of love/companionship, loss of care/guidance, loss of services, loss of income, loss of inheritance, and finally, medical costs.

All of the incurred damages factor into the value of the wrongful death lawsuit.