After you are injured, you cannot wait to take action.  A timer starts ticking as soon as you are injured. This deadline is called the statute of limitations (“SOL”). The SOL is the maximum amount of time you have to initiate legal proceedings following an injury. Your case either must be settled or a lawsuit filed before the statute of limitations is reached or “runs out.” If the SOL expires, you cannot get compensation for your injuries—your insurance claims will be denied and any lawsuit you file will be dismissed.

Learn about the Arizona Statue of Limitations with 2 short videos

 


Why should I hire a lawyer?

Most personal injury claims based on negligence have a two-year statute of limitations

When hiring an attorney, many clients think that the attorney will immediately file a lawsuit and “go to court.” In the majority of cases, this is not necessary. Over 90% of our cases settle without filing a lawsuit. We negotiate with insurance companies on behalf of our clients to ensure medical costs are covered and our clients receive the compensation they deserve. If a case does not settle before the Arizona Statute of Limitations expires, either because the insurance company fails to make reasonable offers or the client’s injuries are still evolving, then we need to go to court.

Calling a lawyer quickly ensures your claims are raised in a timely manner when evidence is still available and memories are still fresh. This protects both the victim and wrongdoer by making sure claims are decided on their meritsg. The success of your claim can be significantly and negatively impacted by waiting too long to contact a lawyer.

We receive many calls from potential clients with seemingly good claims. Unfortunately, they waited too long to contact us and the Arizona Statute of Limitations has expired. Some potential clients wait to contact us until they have recovered physically, emotionally, and/or financially from the injury. Others try to “talk with” the insurance company on their own before contacting us. Many of these potential clients did not realize a deadline existed. Usually, they are out of luck.

The Arizona Statute of Limitations

In Arizona, personal injury cases are a type of civil action. Generally, the time limits for civil actions based on case type are:

How Long Do I Have?

Most personal injury claims based on negligence have a two-year statute of limitations.  However, there are special circumstances that can significantly shorten the statute of limitations period. Knowing what those special circumstances are is vital to protecting your legal rights and ensuring you get paid for your injuries.

1 year – Malicious prosecution; false imprisonment; libel or slander; breach of employment contract; wrongful termination; liability created by statute (ARS § 12-541);

2 years – Personal injury (e.g., car accident, truck accident, motorcycle accident, dog bite, slip and fall, premises liability, medical malpractice); injury when death ensues (e.g., wrongful death); damage to property; conversion of property; product liability (ARS § 12-542);

3 years – Uninsured or Underinsured motorist claim (ARS § 12-555).

1. Government Entity: 180 Days

This might be the single most important special circumstance shortening your statute of limitations.

When your injury was caused by a public entity (e.g., the State of Arizona, City, County, school, or government health facility) or a public employee of one (e.g., police officer, city worker, medical student/resident, school official, or teacher), then you must serve a Notice of Claim on the appropriate entity(-ies) within 180 days after the cause of action accrues, which is usually the date of injury.

The chief purpose of ARS § 12-821.01 is “to give the government notice of potential liability, an opportunity to investigate claims, the chance to avoid costly litigation through settlement, and assistance in budgeting.” Lee v. State, 218 Ariz. 235, ¶ 17 (2008). However, injury lawyers know the statute is really to provide immunity to the government because many injury victims miss the notice of claim deadline.

Also, after serving the Notice of Claim and allowing sixty days to respond, a lawsuit must be filed within one year of the date the claim accrues.

These are strict deadlines with very few exceptions.

Due to these short time frames, it is imperative that you move quickly and precisely to avoid your claim being rejected and banned from proceeding further.

2. Dog Bites: 1-Year Strict Liability; 2-years Negligence

If you are the victim of a dog bite, you want to pursue a dog bite claim within the first year.

Arizona is a strict liability state for dog bites. In the first year, the dog owner is subject to “strict liability” if you were bit by the dog while in a public place or lawfully in a private place, including the property of the dog owner. This means the dog owner can be held liable for injuries and damages, regardless of the owner’s negligence and whether the owner knew the dog was likely to bite. This is different from states that use the “one-bite rule,” which says the owner is only liable if the dog has bitten before or the owner knew the dog was aggressive. In Arizona, no such policy exists, and the dog owner can be held liable no matter how many times the dog has bitten someone.

Proving a strict liability dog bite claim is fairly easy, and there are very few defenses (e.g., provocation and trespassing) an owner can raise.

If you fail to settle your dog bite claim or file a lawsuit within one year of the bite, the claim transitions to a normal negligence case. Like other personal injury claims, your deadline to file a negligence claim against the dog owner expires two years after the bite. The elements you must prove increase, as do the potential defenses.

3. Dram Shop: 1 Year

Victims of drunk driving or DUI accidents may have a valid claim against the entity responsible for the driver’s intoxication. This is called a “dram shop claim.” If a valid claim does exist, the victims need to act within a year of the crash.

Arizona has criminal statutes that punish individuals who operate motor vehicles while impaired. Arizona also has civil statutes to compensate injury victims of drunk driving and punish the businesses that overserved the driver. In some cases, injuries are caused by a person leaving a commercial establishment that serves alcohol. If that person drives intoxicated and causes a crash, the establishment that served the driver could be liable for injuries and damages. Thus, the injury victim makes two claims: one against the drunk driver and one against the establishment.

ARS § 4-311 provides for liability of a licensee—think bar, night club, restaurant, liquor store—who sold spirituous liquor either to a purchaser who was obviously intoxicated or under the legal drinking age (without requesting identification with proof of age or with knowledge that the person was under the legal drinking age). The statute of limitation on a dram shop claim is 1 year from the date of the incident. See Andrews, ex rel. Woodard v. Eddie’s Place, 199 Ariz. 240 (App. 2000).  Claims under common law negligence, as opposed to dram shop claims pursuant to the statute, can be brought within two years. Id. However, like with dog bites, there are significant benefits to adhering to the one year deadline.

These time limits start to run when the injury victim knows or with reasonable diligence should know the facts underlying the cause. In most cases, the time limit starts to run on the date of injury.

What does this mean in legal terms?

In legal terms, a cause of action accrues and the statute of limitations begins to run at the time an injury victim knew or reasonably should have known of another’s injurious conduct. Wyckoff v. Mogollon Health Alliance, 232 Ariz. 588, 591, ¶ 9 (App. 2013).

Although an injury victim need not know all the facts to trigger accrual, he or she “must at least possess a minimum requisite of knowledge sufficient to identify that a wrong occurred and caused injury.” Walk v. Ring, 202 Ariz. 310, 316, ¶ 22 (2002) (quoting Doe v. Roe, 191 Ariz. 313, 323, ¶ 32 (1998)).

For a claim to accrue, an injury victim must have “reason to connect the ‘what’ to a particular ‘who’ in such a way that a reasonable person would be on notice to investigate whether the injury might result from fault.” Id. (citing Doe).

An injured person is not required to know the full extent of an injury before the statute of limitations begins. See Sato v. Van Denburgh, 123 Ariz. 225, 227 (1979).

Discovery Rule

The “discovery rule” delays the accrual of a claim when “[t]he injury or the act causing the injury, or both, have been difficult for the plaintiff to detect.” Doe, 191 Ariz. at 330, ¶ 54 (quoting Gust, Rosenfeld & Henderson v. Prudential Ins. Co. of Am., 182 Ariz. 586, 589 (1995)). The discovery rule, however, does not allow an injury victim to hide behind his or her ignorance when reasonable investigation would have alerted him or her to the claim. Instead, the injury victim must affirmatively and timely investigate if any basis exists for legal action. Elm Ret. Ctr., LP v. Callaway, 226 Ariz. 287, 290, ¶ 12 (App. 2010). So, if you are injured in an event, contact a lawyer immediately to investigate and protect your legal rights.

One special circumstance that is not discussed here, because of the complexities, involves claims against Native American Indian Tribes and their members. Each tribe has its own set of rules, laws, and deadlines. If you think your claim involves a Tribe or Tribal member, contact a lawyer authorized to practice law with the specific tribe.

What Else Do You Need To Know About Statutes of Limitation?

One other situation with special circumstances that affects deadlines are claims involving minors (i.e., children under the age of 18).

1. Minors: Two Years from the Minor’s 18th Birthday

Minors have the same deadlines to either file a lawsuit or settle their claim as adults. However, their SOL does not begin to run until they turn 18 years old. This does not mean the parent or guardian should delay contacting a lawyer. Doing so could result in lost evidence, failed memories, and a whole host of problems.

What Should You Do After a Personal Injury Event?

You should contact an experienced personal injury attorney soon after the event. Failing to settle a claim or file a lawsuit within the prescribed time can prevent you from pursuing a claim for compensation. Waiting until you find yourself in the middle of a personal injury claim can be overwhelming. Injuries, hospital bills, rental cars, dealing with body shops, police reports, and apathetic adjusters can make you lose track of time and deadlines. Hiring an experienced attorney early can help control the chaos and ensure deadlines are not missed.

Gage Mathers attorneys have helped injured Arizonans since 1964. They’ve helped thousands of injury victims obtain over $250 million dollars. They explain each step of the process, answer all client questions, and work to relieve some worry and burden. This relationship enables maximum recovery. Our results and personalized approach are why clients make us their injury attorneys and past clients refer friends and family. If you find yourself in need of a personal injury attorney or have any questions, call Gage Mathers.

Dog owners know how hard it can be to find an apartment that accepts your furry family members. If you own a so-called “dangerous” breed it is even worse. Even if you own your own home, you might have to deal with an unexpected problem–House Insurance covering your pet. Traditionally, if your pet bites someone at your house, your home insurance or renters insurance would protect you. But with so-called Dangerous Breeds, this isn’t necessarily true.

Home Insurance and Dangerous Breeds

Insurance companies rely on sweeping generalizations and stereotypes to deny “aggressive” dog breeds coverage. In 37 states, there are now 1,000 local breed restrictions. Restrictions range from mandating muzzles at the park to outright prohibition of ownership for certain breeds. Advocates of denigrated breeds have successfully overturned dozens of restrictions across the country, but many regulations remain in place.

Over the past years, insurance companies have been excluding coverage, or charging more for coverage, for dogs they consider “Dangerous Breeds.” The lengthy list of “excluded dogs” usually includes Doberman pinschers, Chow Chows, Rottweilers, Mastiffs, sometimes German shepherds, and always pit-bulls. In most states, insurance companies can deny coverage or charge more for dogs it considers dangerous, regardless of the dog’s temperament.

New Arizona Law Focuses on Dog Behavior, not Breed

In 2022 Arizona Governor Doug Ducey signed a bill into law that prevents a dog’s breed from being the only factor considered in legal matters such as whether a dog is aggressive or vicious, or in determining liability for a dog bite. The law also prevents insurance companies from discriminating against dog owners based on the breed of their dog.

THE BREED OF A DOG MAY NOT BE CONSIDERED IN FINDINGS OF FACTS OR CONCLUSIONS OF LAW ENTERED BY A COURT, ADMINISTRATIVE LAW JUDGE, HEARING OFFICER, ARBITRATOR OR OTHER LEGAL DECISION-MAKER REGARDING WHETHER A DOG IS AGGRESSIVE OR VICIOUS OR HAS CREATED LIABILITY.

Reduced liability for Military and Police Dogs

HB2323 also contains liability exceptions for Military and Police Dogs. This law strengthens the protections for the police and military and protects Phoenix, Mesa, Gilbert and other Arizona cities against lawsuits. In effect, if you are injured in the course of a police officer’s regular duties, you cannot hold them liable. However, if you were simply a bystander when a police dog attacked you, you can try and hold them liable for your injuries.

How will this new law affect you?

As a dog owner, Insurance companies can no longer withhold coverage or make you pay a higher premium simply based on the breed of your dog. This broad-reaching law could impact you in unexpected ways as well. For example, these actions would not be legal in Arizona:

  • A judge denying child custody due to the presence of a specific breed of dog.
  • A public park requiring you to muzzle your dog based on its breed.
  • A city or county passing an ordinance requiring dogs to be spayed or neutered based on its breed.

Dog owners no longer have to take measures to avoid detection, thus increasing the dog’s outdoor exercise and socialization. This should also encourage dog owners to obtain licensing, proper veterinary care, and essential vaccinations.

Would you like to find out more about Arizona dog laws?

If my dog bites someone, am I responsible?
My dog bit someone 4 years ago, can they sue me?
My friend’s dog bit my child. I don’t want to sue my friend, but we have medical bills.
The pool cleaner said our dog bit him. What should I do?

Find out more on the Arizona Dogbite FAQ!

 

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.

Lawsuit Superior Court Document

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.

Maricopa County Court Clerk Locations

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.

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 Accidents

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.

Medical Malpractice

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.

One of the most beneficial things you can do for your potential claim is to document the pain you are experiencing. We have created an easy way to track your pain.

 

Pain journal gage mathersWhat is a Pain Journal?

Your Pain Journal is a weekly journal for everything relating to your injury. It tracks your level of pain, the limits to your mobility, medication and more.  Print out a few sheets at a time to keep your journal current, for as many weeks or months as you need. Provide these to your attorney to demonstrate the impact of the injury on your day to day life.

After suffering an injury, your daily pain and discomfort will blur together as days turn into weeks and then months. Daily documentation of your pain makes a big difference when presenting your case to a jury or an adjuster.

Why use a Pain Journal?

This daily journal is useful both for you, your healthcare provider, and your personal injury lawyers. It can be used to help identify patterns of pain, such as time of day or level of stress, or pain triggers from certain activities. It can also show the extent of your pain and injuries – what tasks are difficult or even impossible since your injury. After months or years of being in pain, it is easy to forget just how much your life was impacted by an injury.

I’ve downloaded the Pain Journal… Now What?

Keep track of your ongoing pain, and act quickly to find legal representation. At Gage Mathers, our team of exceptionally versed Phoenix-based personal injury attorneys has spent decades helping people in pain. We would love the opportunity to hear your story and show you how we can help.

 

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