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What Is Several Liability?

By The Husband and Wife Law Team on February 1, 2021

After a serious accident that was someone else’s fault, you will probably want to file a claim. This way, you can recover proper compensation. Without a claim, you may be left to pay for your property damage and medical bills with no help from the person who was actually responsible for your damages. However, what many people in Arizona don’t know is that the personal injury claim system operates on what is called “pure several liability.” What is several liability, and how does it impact your claim?

Joint and Several Liability

At one point in time, Arizona operated on what is called “joint and several liability.” This system put a lot of power in the hands of the injured party. Essentially, the injured party, otherwise known as the plaintiff, could decide who was responsible for their accident. Under joint and several liability, even if someone was just 15% at fault, with other parties being more “at fault” for the resulting injuries, the plaintiff could go after that one party, and make them pay for all of the compensation.

For example, let’s say a driver stopped too close to a crosswalk, and was rear-ended by another driver, resulting in the first car being pushed forward into a pedestrian crossing the street. That pedestrian could decide which of the two drivers to hold responsible, despite the fact that both drivers were at least partially at fault — the first for not stopping far enough away, the second for rear-ending the first. In this scenario, the pedestrian could file a claim against the first driver, and demand that they pay for 100% of the damages, despite the fact that they were only 30% at fault for the accident.

Pure Several Liability

Perhaps realizing that this system was not completely fair to the defendants of personal injury claims, Arizona’s state government changed how the system works. Now, instead of joint and several liability, personal injury claims in Arizona rely on pure several liability.

Under several liability, defendants, or the at-fault parties, are now expected to pay for the percentage of the damages they caused. That means, if we go back to the above example, if the pedestrian went on to file a claim, they would be filing against both drivers. If the first driver was found to be 30% at fault, and the second driver was found to be 70% at fault, then each driver would pay the percentage of damages that they were at fault for. Meaning, if the pedestrian had $1 million in damages, then the first driver’s insurance would pay $300,000 and the second driver’s insurance would pay $700,000.

Liability and Your Claim

It may seem as though pure several liability is the worse of the two systems for the injured party. After all, with joint and several liability, the plaintiff is the one with all the power. However, pure several liability can actually be extremely beneficial for the plaintiff. That is because the defendant is rarely the one paying the compensation: their insurance is. Insurance providers will often put caps on their policies, meaning that the compensation a plaintiff receives can be limited by how much the insurance company is legally required to pay. However, if multiple parties are being filed against, then the compensation is more spread out, making it less likely that the insurance companies involved will reach their policy limit.

Getting the Amount You’re Owed

Of course, all of this assumes that you will automatically have a successful claim, which may not be the case. Insurance providers will want to pay as little as possible, meaning that they will fight tooth and nail to give you a low settlement, or to deny your claim altogether. That is why you need to work with experienced lawyers who can fight for your rights. To get excellent legal advice from skilled personal injury attorneys, call Breyer Law Offices, P.C., at (602) 457-6222 today. We are ready and waiting to help.

Posted in: Personal Injury

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