How Do I File a Personal Injury Lawsuit?
If you were injured due to someone else’s negligent or reckless behavior, you might be entitled to compensation. Ideally, the compensation you obtain will cover your past and future medical bills, lost wages, as well as your pain and suffering. We recommend hiring an experienced personal injury firm. However, you may choose to file a lawsuit on your own. You might call this “suing” the person who hurt you, or “taking them to Court.”
How do I file a lawsuit in Phoenix, Arizona (Maricopa County)?
Negligence that causes a personal injury is called a “cause of action.” In Arizona, you begin pursuing a cause of action by filing a Complaint in the appropriate county. Also you will file a Civil Cover Sheet that informs the Court about the type of case you are pursuing and who you are suing. The appropriate county for a lawsuit might not be where the injury occurred. In other words, you might need to file the lawsuit where the negligent person lives.
The Complaint must include certain things to establish your claim. You must include a statement showing the Court that you filed the case in the appropriate county and court—this is usually done by listing where the injury occurred, where you reside, and where the defendant resides. In lawsuits, we commonly refer to the negligent person as the defendant. There can be more than one defendant. If you are suing on behalf of someone else, you must identify that as well.
Include a statement of facts explaining
- What happened
- When it happened
- How and why the defendant is responsible
You want to demonstrate that the defendant owed a duty of reasonable care. You then show how they violated that duty, and that this violation of that duty caused your injuries. Reference the type of injuries you suffered. Are they physical, emotional, economic. Did you experience pain and suffering? Conclude the statement with a request for monetary relief.
Along with the Civil Cover Sheet and Complaint, you will need to submit a Certification regarding Compulsory Arbitration advising the Court whether you are asking for more than the amount set for arbitration.
To know where to file your lawsuit, please check with the Maricopa Country Clerk of Court to see if your specific documents need to be filed in person or online.
What is arbitration? (in which case your claim is not subject to compulsory arbitration) or less than that amount (in which case your claim is subject to compulsory arbitration). For example, in Maricopa County, the arbitration limit is $50,000, so cases seeking more than that are not subject to compulsory arbitration.
Serving the parties
Once you file these documents, you will need to get the Court clerk to issue one summons for each defendant. Take those documents to a Process Server, along with the addresses of all parties. The Process Server will deliver the Summons, Complaint, and Certificate regarding Compulsory Arbitration. This begins the formal process of a lawsuit.
Are there Time Limits for Filing a Personal Injury Lawsuit?
Yes. Generally, you have two years from when your cause of action accrues to either settle your claim or file your lawsuit. This deadline is commonly referred to as the Statute of Limitations. Put another way, the statute of limitations runs two years from the date of injury, or two years from when you knew or should have known that negligence occurred. Your lawsuit must be filed with the Court before that statute of limitations expires or the entire claim could be dismissed.
However, importantly, there are times when the time to file your lawsuit is less than two years—most notably, dog bite cases (1 year under Arizona’s strict liability law) and claims against a governmental entity (e.g., the State, City, or County entity, or employee of one), where you must file a Notice of Claim within 180 days of the date of injury and a lawsuit within one year of the injury. Missing these deadlines will cause you to lose your right to pursue the claim, so always err on the earlier deadlines—another reason we highly recommend hiring an experienced personal injury firm, like Gage Mathers Law Group.
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Do I have a good case?
If you’ve read this far, you likely were hurt by someone and you want to know if you can hold them accountable. These are some of the questions we ask our clients:
- Were you injured? To have a successful injury claim, you must have an injury!
- Was your injury due to someone else?
- What that person negligent or reckless?
- Is it easy to prove this in court?
- Will it be easy to show the financial impact of your injury?
- Is the defendant an individual or a Business?
- Were Arizona laws violated as part of your injury?
- Are there laws in Arizona that help or hurt your case?
What are the most common types of personal injury lawsuit in Arizona
Car crashes are the most common type of personal injury claim. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of crashes every day throughout Arizona. A person who causes a car accident through negligent or reckless behavior can be held accountable and made to compensate the victims. Under those circumstances, injury victims are usually compensated by automobile insurance companies. People usually have car accident liability policies, medical payment coverage, or uninsured/under-insured motorist coverage. Accordingly these policies are designed to compensate injury victims for their injury related medical bills and related damages.
Slip/Trip and Fall Claims
Slip and fall, or trip and fall, injuries are fairly common. People slip after stepping into something spilled on the floor, or trip over defective walkways, cluttered aisles, broken shelves, or other objects left on pathways. In today’s overstimulated world, it is understandable that most people do not watch their feet as they walk. And property owners must keep their property safe from hazards. Injury victims can make a claim against the property owner or person responsible for maintaining the property. Compensation usually comes from homeowners insurance, renters insurance, or general liability insurance.
Another common type of personal injury lawsuit is medical malpractice. If you follow our writings, you already know medical negligence is an epidemic that unnecessarily kills hundreds of thousands of people each year. Patients may be injured by a negligent health care provider, or even through gross misconduct. There are a lot of nuances with these claim, making them very expensive and time consuming. If the injury victim wins, compensation is usually made through a malpractice liability policy. Sadly, many times these policies have low limits – meaning you might not get much money.
Dog Bite Claim
Arizona has a lot of dog bite claims. Sadly, the vast majority involve children. As eluded to above, dog bite claims are different from most other claims. Dog owners can be held to “Strict Liability,” meaning they are responsible for dog bite injuries regardless of whether the owner acted responsibly to prevent an attack. These claims must be made within a year of the attack. After one year, any claim made within the following year is subject to regular negligence standards and provides defenses for the dog owner.
Ultimately, you can file your own personal injury lawsuit; however, the process can be challenging as there are hidden dangers throughout (e.g., Notice of Claim deadlines). You may be better off hiring an experienced law firm that has significant experience and success with the type of personal injury claim you seek to pursue.
For even more information on personal injury law, check out the rest of our Personal Injury Law in Arizona articles.
Strict Liability in Arizona
meaning they are responsible for dog bite injuries regardless of whether the owner acted responsibly to prevent an attack.