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Liability, Responsibility, and Compensation in Multi-Car Crashes

Multi-Car Accident Liability in an Injury Claim

A two-car accident, while often difficult for the victims, is usually fairly straightforward from a legal perspective. Generally, either one or two individuals—the drivers of each vehicle—will bear fault for the accident. Depending on the severity of the injuries involved, the driver with the greater degree fault may have legal liability to the other.

When you’re involved in a multi-car crash, on the other hand, you may quickly discover that questions of liability aren’t so straightforward. Say one car has crashed into another, causing the second car to hit a third car, and so on in a chain reaction that damages a half-dozen vehicles and injures drivers and passengers alike. In this kind of accident, who is responsible? How do lawyers figure out who-pays-who for property damage and personal injuries?

Below, we discuss the various dimensions and legal complications of multi-car accidents.

Determining Liability in Multi-Car Crashes

In a multi-car crash, three or more vehicles are involved in the crash, rather than just two. It’s not a simple case of Car A hits Car B. In many cases, Car A hitting Car B may cause a chain reaction that pushes Car B into Car C, or causes Car D to strike Car A from behind. In some cases, multiple cars may end up piled up as a result of a multi-car crash, especially crashes that occur on interstates or busy roads. Multi-car crashes may result in serious injuries to everyone involved, or only serious injuries in the first couple of drivers and lesser injuries in those further away from the initial impact.

If you’ve been in a multi-car crash, determining who owes you damages may soon land at the top of your priority list. You have a vehicle that needs to be repaired, medical bills that need to be paid, and you may deserve compensation for your pain and suffering. But with so many drivers and vehicles, who’s responsible for paying what?

To begin with, everyone looks to their own insurance. In Florida, which is a no-fault auto insurance state, every driver must look first to their own Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance to pay their own medical expenses and time lost at work. Once they’ve reached the limits of that policy, however, drivers may also look to each other to pay damages, depending on the severity of the injuries involved.

Sometimes, the driver who caused the initial accident is responsible for everything. If a single driver initiates a chain of events that none of the other drivers could have avoided, then that first driver may bear legal responsibility for all of the ensuing damages. For example, if Driver A rear-ends Driver B, pushing Driver B’s car into the rear end of Driver C’s car through no fault of Driver B, then Driver A will likely be responsible for Driver B and Driver C’s damages (after taking no-fault insurance rules into account). The same holds true when, for example, a car spins out of control and cross into the oncoming lane, causing two cars in that lane to strike each other.

Other times, multiple drivers may bear liability for multi-car accidents. When more than one driver acted in a way that contributed to the accident, each of them may bear some amount of liability to each other and to still other drivers who bear no fault. Consider the circumstance in which one driver barrels through a green light at twice the legal speed limit, strikes a car that’s blown a red light because the driver is staring at her phone, pushing her car into a third vehicle that was making an illegal U-turn at the time of the accident, which plows back into the first driver’s car. In this scenario, it may be necessary to do a complicated analysis to determine who-caused-what. For instance, lawyers and insurance companies might ask whether, but for making the illegal U-turn, the driver of the U-turning car would have been injured, or whether making the U-turn didn’t matter to the overall injuries everyone suffered.

There may be other factors that influence liability. Just as there are outside factors that can influence liability in a normal car accident, there are also outside factors that can impose liability on another individual or entity in a multi-car wreck. In some cases, outside factors can also decrease legal liability, meaning that the driver who caused the initial accident or other drivers who contribute to the accident may not bear as much blame as they might have otherwise. For example, an icy patch on the road that leads to an accident is not the fault of the drivers involved, though the driver whose car slid on the patch of ice may be financially liable for the damages and injuries that occurred as a result of the accident. Other contributing factors in determining liability may include:

  • The type of vehicle that was driven during the accident. Is it a commercial vehicle? Was the driver on the clock or driving for work purposes at the time of the accident? If so, the company that employs the driver may bear partial liability for the accident, especially if the driver was known to engage in unsafe practices on the road or had reported multiple accidents in the past.
  • The sobriety of the driver. Was the driver drinking? If they were drinking at a bar or restaurant, the bar or restaurant that over-served them, especially if they had knowledge that the driver would be getting behind the wheel, may bear partial liability in the accident.
  • Geographic features and other issues that could have caused the accident. Were there features that contributed to the accident: for example, poor visibility that made it hard for the responsible driver or drivers to see what had happened? If so, the city may bear partial liability in the accident.

Often, determining liability in multi-car crashes is a complex process. Working with a lawyer can help you determine exactly who is liable for the damages that were caused during your car accident. If you caused the initial accident, a lawyer may be able to help you determine how much liability you bear.

Mental Trauma After Your Multi-Car Accident

If you’ve been involved in a multi-car accident, it’s little surprise that you may find yourself dealing with mental trauma on top of your physical injuries. Any car accident is highly traumatic, and your body’s reaction to a highly stressful event is entirely normal. After a multi-car accident, especially if you feared for your life or if there were multiple scenarios that put you in danger, you may be even more likely to struggle with those symptoms.

  • Difficulty sleeping. Sleep disturbance is normal after an accident, but your mind and body need rest in order to recover. If you struggle with ongoing sleep disturbance and are unable to get the rest you need, talk with your doctor about solutions that will allow you to get more of the rest you need. If you’re struggling to fall asleep at night or find that you’re rehearsing the accident in your mind every time you try to fall asleep, you may be more likely to sleep during the day or to try to nap at inappropriate times.
  • Trouble eating. Food may not have the same appeal that it had prior to your accident. Your mind may be focused on other things, making you forget to eat, or you may feel anxious and disinterested in food. Conversely, you may find that you’re more likely to stress eat or emotionally overeat, depending on your default reaction to stress or trauma.
  • Struggle to get behind the wheel or to drive past the scene of the accident. Often, your mind will attempt to protect itself by trying to avoid the things that it associates with the accident. You may find that it’s more difficult to get behind the wheel, even if you’re driving a different car or going nowhere near the scene of the accident. Some people may be unable to easily drive past the place where the accident occurred.
  • An increased awareness of everything going on around you. You may be more watchful, especially when you’re behind the wheel. This increased watchfulness may make you jumpy or cause you to react faster if you believe that someone else’s actions have the potential to cause another accident.
  • Increased long-term anxiety. You may find that, after your accident, you are more anxious about things in general, rather than about anything specific. You may worry more about events or people that are completely unrelated to the circumstances surrounding the accident, or you may be particularly anxious about driving.
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder. If you have post-traumatic stress disorder, things that remind you of the accident may act as a trigger, leaving you feeling as though you’ve been catapulted back to the scene of the accident. Post-traumatic stress disorder can be long-lasting and have an impact on your life long after the accident is over.

If you were in a multi-car crash, it doesn’t matter if you were the driver or the passenger—though in many cases, passengers struggle more with mental trauma following the accident than those who were driving at the time, perhaps because of the perceived loss of control. If you are struggling with mental trauma following an accident, regardless of where you were located in the car or of who was at fault in the accident, it’s important to seek help as soon as possible. Feelings of anxiety and stress may worsen over time, leaving you struggling with more symptoms instead of dissipating. Not only that, sleep deprivation or poor diet may make it harder for you to regain your mental balance after the accident.

What Compensation Can You Get After a Multi-Car Accident?

In most ways, getting compensation after a multi-car accident is much like getting compensation after any other accident. First, you’ll rely on your personal injury protection insurance to cover your immediate medical expenses. In Florida, you are required to carry no-fault insurance, which will provide the first $10,000 of coverage for your medical expenses and lost time at work after an accident. With no-fault insurance, it doesn’t matter who is responsible for the accident. If your medical expenses and lost time at work exceed $10,000 or the limits of your PIP policy, you may be due additional compensation. Compensation may include:

  • Payment for medical bills that exceed the $10,000 limit. It doesn’t take much for the medical expenses from significant injuries to start adding up. The cost of hospitalization, physical therapy, and repeated visits to your doctor can all quickly take a toll, leaving you struggling with medical expenses. If your injuries were severe, you may also need to make modifications to your home or vehicle in order to maintain your quality of life.
  • Compensation for your pain and suffering. If you were seriously injured in a multi-car crash, you may have significant injuries that negatively impact your quality of life long-term. In addition to those injuries, you may experience significant emotional trauma that has a long-term impact on your ability to function normally. Financial compensation won’t make that pain and suffering go away, but it can help you move forward with your life after the accident.
  • Payment for the hours you had to miss at work after the accident. With serious injuries, you’re often unable to return to work immediately. Worse, very serious injuries may make it impossible for you to return to work long-term, leaving you with decreased earning potential. You may be able to receive payment for some of those lost hours.
  • Funeral and burial expenses associated with the accident. Multi-vehicle crashes are very dangerous and can lead to significant injuries in many of the parties involved–and in some cases, they may end in death. If you have a loved one who was killed as a result of a multi-car crash, you may be able to receive compensation for the funeral and burial expenses that were incurred following the accident.

The Legal Help You Need After a Multi-Car Crash

Have you been involved in a multi-car crash? Are you wondering who is liable or unsure about what to do next? If you need legal representation to help you recover compensation from insurance companies or other drivers, contact Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA today at (727) 451-6900 to schedule your free consultation and learn about how we may be able to help.

Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33765
727-451-6900

Clearwater Car Accident Attorneys