The American interstate highway system is designed for speed and efficiency. Most of the time, it works as designed. But when large vehicles are traveling at a high rate of speed in a major city, multiple vehicles are often involved in accidents. These “chain reaction” wrecks can involve multiple cars, trucks, and buses, which can cause life-changing and permanent injuries. Those who have suffered injuries deserve compensation – but it is often difficult to decide who owes how much money to another.
How to find fault
With multiple drivers, it’s possible there could be several people at fault, to a varying degree. Depending on your jurisdiction, the level of fault could affect both the level of compensation they owe as well as any settlement they could receive. Determining who is at fault, and to what extent, is therefore crucial to any multi-vehicle accident lawsuit.
The first step is to look at the reports of law enforcement and witness reports. This can help determine how the accident got started, as well as whether any other drivers were speeding or driving too close. Of course, insurance adjusters will also use these reports to write up their own opinions. If the parties cannot agree, then litigation is likely. Sometimes lawyers will go to great lengths to assign fault. They will hire experts to reconstruct the accident scene based on evidence and reports. They will also likely speak to potential witnesses to confirm their recollection and see if there is any new information. In many ways, lawyers act as investigators in cases involving multiple vehicles.
Once the lawyer has a good idea of who is at fault (or the jury or judge has delivered its verdict concerning the level of fault), then it is time to determine both the amount of compensation that should be ordered, as well as who is involved.
On the other hand, a few jurisdictions fall into the contributory negligence camp. When victims are injured by their own negligence, it could eliminate any right to compensation they have. This is true even if they are only 10 percent at fault, while the other parties are 90 percent to blame. Fortunately, most states use the comparative negligence principle.
Multiple vehicle traffic accidents can result in a myriad of damages available to those involved. Most courts divide damages into ‘economic’ and ‘non-economic’ damages. Economic damages are those items that are objective financial losses, such as medical expenses, property damage, and any lost current and future wages. Where things become complex and require the assistance of an attorney are cases involving non-economic damages.
Non-economic damages are more difficult to calculate, and often require expert testimony. A common non-economic loss would be pain and suffering. Disability or disfigurement are also grounds for damages. Loss of consortium often refers to the impact an injury has on family life, particularly if one spouse has become the de facto carer for the other, rather than a traditional spouse relationship. How these damages are calculated vary based on jurisdiction. Sometimes these are capped by statute, meaning victims are limited as to what they can claim. Some courts require that the plaintiff first prove economic damages. Proving non-economic damages is challenging and complex. Hiring an experienced personal injury attorney is the first and best step you can take to preserve your right to full compensation.
Punitive damages are rarely awarded. They are designed to punish the person at fault rather than compensate the victim. Some of the time, when punitive damages are awarded, a criminal suit occurs at the same time, such as with drunk driving or driving under the influence. Generally speaking, punitive damages are reserved for those drivers who acted dangerously and wilfully, which is a heavy burden of proof for the victim to carry. All states have different standards for the award of punitive damages, so it is important to contact an attorney as soon as possible to learn what damages you may be entitled to.
Insurance Companies and Multi-vehicle wrecks
It is somewhat common for those involved in multiple-vehicle wrecks that someone at fault carries inadequate liability coverage.
Often, drivers at fault do not carry adequate insurance for the damages associated with multi-vehicle wrecks. When this happens, it is useful for victims to have Under-insured or Uninsured Motorist coverage. This allows the victims to submit additional claims to their own insurer to cover the excess not covered by the at-fault driver. In these cases, your insurer is not on your side. Their job is to resolve claims with as little monetary loss as possible.
There’s a lot involved with filing a claim and making sure that you get compensated for your injuries. Having an experienced car accident attorney on your side can ensure that you receive full compensation from all parties and insurers.