Although many of us drive every day, it is rare that we stop and truly think about the many risks that are present on the road. Sometimes, no matter how diligent, careful, and alert you are as a driver, others may make mistakes or choices that result in tragic consequences. While you could be following all of the laws and rules of the road required of a responsible driver, another individual’s negligence or recklessness could change your life in an instant.

According to a recent news report, a major car accident in Phoenix left one individual dead and seven others hospitalized. Local authorities reported that one of the drivers was driving west when they ran a red light and collided with another car that was pulling a trailer with seven people inside. By the time first responders arrived, the man who ran the red light was pronounced dead at the scene. The seven individuals in the vehicle that was struck were sent to local hospitals to be treated for their injuries. One of the seven injured individuals has life-threatening injuries.

Following a major car accident, you may be wondering what your legal options are. In Arizona, there are specific state laws that may have a significant impact on the success of your personal injury claim, should you decide to pursue one.

Although head-on collisions are less common than left turn, rear end, or sideswipe accidents in Arizona, they have the propensity to be just as, if not more, dangerous than these more common collisions. Most frequently, these accidents take place because the negligence of another party causes them to veer into another lane and strike a vehicle head-on. Because these accidents can often have deadly consequences, it is crucial that Arizona drivers understand what causes these collisions, the injuries that often result from them, and what steps to consider after a major head-on accident.

According to a recent local news report, a head-on car accident left two people dead. Local authorities reported that a Chevy sedan was traveling in the wrong direction eastbound when it struck a Hyundai sedan head-on. Both drivers were pronounced dead at the scene and the accident remains under investigation.

Unfortunately, Arizona is no stranger to head-on collisions like this one. In 2020, Arizona had 81,012 total car crashes, with more than 1,600 head-on collisions. Although head-on accidents only made up 2.08 percent of total car collisions in 2020, they were among the most fatal type of accidents, next to pedestrian and cyclist-related accidents. Thus, despite their rarity in comparison to other types of accidents, they are the most likely to result in fatal outcomes.

As commercial activity and traffic have picked up this year with the reopening and resumption of economic activity to nearly pre-pandemic levels, the consequences of speeding and other reckless driving habits are becoming more serious. According to a recent news report, a woman was killed recently in a head-on accident in Maricopa County, in which speeding appeared to be a factor.

According to the article discussing the crash, the driver of a Nissan Titan pickup truck was traveling northbound on 91st Avenue in Tolleson when he veered into the southbound lanes and hit another vehicle on the passenger side. The drivers of both vehicles were hospitalized with serious injuries. A passenger from one of the vehicles, a 29-year-old woman who was visiting from out of state, was killed in the crash.

Drivers who choose to speed are more likely to be involved in any kind of traffic accident, and accidents involving speeding drivers are more likely to result in serious injury or death. Posted speed limits are determined specifically for each road in which they are posted, and they are designed to be followed at all times. If a speeding driver fails to maintain control of their vehicle and causes a head-on collision or other accident, they may be subject to civil, criminal, and administrative liability for their conduct. A speeding driver could be charged with reckless driving, assault, or even manslaughter after a fatal accident. Speeders routinely have their driver’s licenses or other professional licenses suspended or revoked after serious accidents as well.

When a loved one passes away in a tragic accident, the last thing on many family’s minds is bringing a lawsuit. However, when the situation could have been avoided—like accidents due to intoxicated drivers or defective machinery—it is often in the best interest of the loved ones to initiate a lawsuit to financially and emotionally recuperate during such a traumatic time. In Arizona, loved ones can sue the responsible party when the death was caused by a wrongful act or neglect. There are specific requirements in order to bring an Arizona wrongful death lawsuit, along with how plaintiffs can financially recuperate.

For example, according to a recent news source, a person died and others were seriously injured after a tour bus crashed on its way to the Grand Canyon. The tour bus—carrying 48 people, including the driver—rolled and landed on its side, killing one person on the bus. Two others were in critical condition, and seven others were taken to the hospital with less serious injuries.

After such a traumatic accident, the deceased passenger’s loved ones may think about bringing a lawsuit. Depending on the facts surrounding the accident—like if the driver was intoxicated or there was a mechanical issue with the bus—the deceased’s loved ones may be able to bring a wrongful death lawsuit. In Arizona, in order to hold an individual or company liable for a person’s death, the death must be caused by the wrongful act. Additionally, if death had not ensued from the accident, the individual would have been able to file a lawsuit for the injuries he sustained.

Property owners and occupiers may be liable for the injuries incurred by other people who enter the property, depending on the parties’ relationship and the circumstances of the case. Under Arizona premises liability law, a party who owns or controls property has a duty of reasonable care in maintaining the property to invitees who come onto the property. An invitee is a person who enters the property for a purpose connected with the owner’s business or for an activity permitted by the owner on the premises. However, owners and occupiers of property are not insurers of other peoples’ safety on their property. In general, in an Arizona premises liability case, a plaintiff must show that a condition posed an unreasonable risk of harm, the defendant knew or should have known that the condition posed an unreasonable risk of harm, the defendant should have anticipated that people would not recognize the danger or would not be protected from the danger, the defendant acted negligently, the plaintiff suffered an injury, and the condition caused the plaintiff’s injury.

In a recent Arizona premises liability case, the court considered whether two subletters on a commercial lease were liable for an individual’s injuries after he fell through the skylight of the building. The owner of the commercial building leased the building to another company, which was responsible for repairing and maintaining the building. The lessee then subleased portions of the building to two other companies. A manager handled the maintenance of the building for the lessee and hired one of the sublessees to perform repairs. Complicating matters further, according to the facts in the opinion, the other sublessee was responsible for maintaining the roof over its section of the warehouse it was subleasing.

The plaintiff was a friend of the manager of one of the sublessees, who would visit the property. On the day of the injury, based on the evidence presented, repairs were being done on the roof, and the plaintiff went on the roof, apparently to help monitor the situation. When he was on the roof, he stepped onto a skylight and fell through it, causing severe injuries. The plaintiff filed a claim against the owner, lessee, and two sublessees. The plaintiff argued in part that the sublessees were possessors of the roof and had a duty to maintain the roof in a safe condition.

With sunny and warm weather all year-round, motorcycles are a popular choice for daily transportation and commuting in Arizona. However, riding a motorcycle also comes with its fair share of risks. Indeed, each year, there are dozens of fatal Arizona motorcycle accidents, and hundreds more are injured in these collisions. Like seat belts, helmets have been shown to significantly reduce the chance of serious or fatal injury during an Arizona traffic accident. However, helmets cannot prevent all injuries. Thus, the question often comes up whether someone’s failure to wear a helmet can impact their ability to recover from the other motorists responsible for causing the collision.

When it comes to evidence of an accident victim’s decision not to wear a helmet, Arizona courts liken the situation to a motorist’s failure to wear a seat belt. In Arizona, the law provides limited circumstances under which evidence of an accident victim’s failure to use a seat belt is admissible. Even when such evidence is admissible, it is only relevant to certain questions. For example, Arizona courts have adopted the doctrine of comparative negligence, which considers whether a plaintiff’s damages should be reduced based on the plaintiff’s own negligence. Along those lines, Arizona law states that a plaintiff’s failure to use a seat belt is relevant to whether the accident victim acted reasonably to minimize their injuries. However, this evidence is only allowed if the opposing party can show that the accident victim’s injury would not have occurred, or would have been lessened, had the seat belt been used. Otherwise, evidence of seat belt non-use is inadmissible.

Arizona law treats an accident victim’s failure to wear a helmet in the same manner as a failure to wear a seat belt when considering the evidence in personal injury claims. Thus, if the defendant can prove that an accident victim’s injuries would have either been prevented or lessened had they been wearing a helmet, evidence of the victim’s failure to wear a helmet may be admissible. However, this evidence still would not bar a personal injury claim.

In Arizona personal injury cases, a defendant can be held liable for another’s injuries if the accident would not have occurred without the defendant’s negligent act. However, there are ways a defendant may try and escape liability. One such way is by arguing there was a superseding incident caused by another person that also contributed to the injury. A superseding cause is an intervening act that the law considers sufficient enough to override the initial negligence and exonerate that person from liability.

In a recent case discussing superseding causation, a state appellate court was recently tasked with determining whether a bar could be held liable for over-serving a man who later got into a car accident, even though he went home and took a nap before getting into the wreck. In many states, including Arizona, a bar can be held responsible for the actions of a patron after they have left the bar if they did not stop them from driving while intoxicated. The bar tried to argue that going home and taking a nap constituted a superseding cause, while the plaintiff, the person injured in the car accident, claimed that the bar was still at fault. The court ultimately ruled that going home was a superseding cause that relieved the bar of liability for the accident.

Superseding cause explained

Driving on any road can mean that danger is looming just around the corner. But sometimes, no matter how much caution a driver exercises, they cannot put a stop to motorists who flee the scene after an accident has occurred. Those drivers responsible for Phoenix hit and runs, especially when the accidents are fatal or cause severe injury, must be held accountable.

In a recent news report, a serious car accident occurred in Phoenix, leaving one pedestrian dead and another seriously injured. The incident occurred when the two pedestrians were struck by a car along Interstate 17 at around 2:45am. In the wake of the collision, a young woman was declared dead at the scene after being struck by the car, and another was severely injured. The driver was on her way home from meeting friends at the time of the collision and fled the scene.

Arizona Department of Public Safety officials reported that the driver who fled the accident is being charged with failure to remain at the scene of a fatal collision. Although it’s unclear why the two injured individuals who were on the freeway at the time of the accident, DPS officials reported that impairment of the motorist was not a factor in the fatal crash and that the driver had a suspended license at the time of the incident.

Recent reports by the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) indicate that over 15,000 hit and run motor vehicle accidents occur every year. Hit and run accidents occur when a motorist hits another car, person, or property and then flees the scene without providing their personal identifying information. Although car accident injuries can range a great deal, hit and run accidents typically result in the most severe injuries. In addition to serious criminal charges, Arizona motorists who leave the scene of an accident may face civil charges.

Arizona law requires individuals involved in an accident to stop and take certain actions. The actions and penalties for failure to engage in these steps vary depending on the accident’s circumstances. When a driver causes an accident that results in damage to a non-vehicle, they must take steps to locate and notify the property owner and provide the owner with personal information. If a driver hits a parked vehicle, they must locate the car owner, provide their information, or leave a note with their information. Accidents that only involve vehicle damage require all drivers to stop and exchange information with other drivers, and render aid, if necessary. This applies to accidents involving non-serious injuries as well. Accidents involving serious injuries or death require drivers to stop and provide information and render aid. Failing to do so may result in long-term prison sentences and license revocation.

The most common reasons that a driver flees the scene of an accident include when the driver is intoxicated, driving without a license, the driver does not have car insurance, the driver has an outstanding warrant, or the vehicle they are driving is stolen. Hit and run victims, if possible, should try and move their car to a safe spot and call the police or emergency responders as soon as they are able. While waiting for the responders, victims should try and remember and write down details of the other driver and car. However, in many cases, victims will suffer serious injuries, and the police will need to rely on eyewitnesses to identify the culpable driver.

The state law of Arizona allows someone injured on someone else’s property to file a civil negligence suit against the owner to recover for their injuries. These suits are referred to as premises liability suits. However, some individuals are granted immunity from these suits through Arizona’s recreational use statute, A.R.S. section 33-1551. This statute provides that “a public or private owner, easement holder, lessee, tenant, manager or occupant of premises is not liable to a recreational or educational user except on a showing that [they were] guilty of wilful, malicious or grossly negligent conduct that was a direct cause of the injury to the recreational or educational user.” This statute has been used by defendants in premises liability suits to get the suit against them dismissed. However, it is not totally clear who the statute applies to, and sometimes courts must determine whether a defendant falls into one of the groups granted immunity.

The Arizona Supreme Court recently considered the meaning of the term “manager” under the statute in a case brought against an amusement park operator. According to the court’s written opinion, the defendant had an agreement with the City of Phoenix to operate an amusement park known as Enchanted Island. Under this agreement, they also were allowed to use an unfenced area adjacent to Enchanted Island known as the “piñata area,” which they were responsible for maintaining. The plaintiff paid the defendant to host her child’s birthday party at Enchanted Island and brought a piñata to said party. The defendant directed her to the piñata area, but while walking through it, the plaintiff fell, breaking her ankle and injuring her arm. According to her, she fell because she stepped on a covered sprinkler-head divot, and the plaintiff then sued the defendant for premises liability. The defendant moved for summary judgment, claiming that A.R.S. section 33-1551 granted them recreational immunity. Both the trial court and the appellate court agreed, but the plaintiff appealed all the way to the Arizona Supreme Court.

In front of the Arizona Supreme Court, the case came down to whether or not the defendant was a “manager” of the piñata area at the time the plaintiff fell. The defendant asserted that because they maintained the area they were indeed a manager, but the court disagreed. Instead, the court found that in order to be a manager of an area, one has to be able to control the public’s access to the land. Because the defendant could not do so, but was only allowed to use it and in charge of maintaining it, they could not be considered a manager. As such, the court reversed the grant of summary judgment, allowing the plaintiff to move forward in her suit against the defendant.

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