Who Is Liable in a Multi-Vehicle Crash?
Vehicle collisions typically involve just two vehicles. Sometimes, though, three or more cars or trucks are involved. This is known as a multi-vehicle accident. In some cases, auto accidents are minor. In other cases, vehicle collisions can cause very severe injuries or fatalities, such as those that occur in highway crashes or those involving pedestrians.
People injured in multi vehicle accidents are able to claim compensation for their injuries through a civil lawsuit. These lawsuits are much more difficult to pursue than those involving only one plaintiff (the injured person) and one defendant (the at fault person). Before recovery for an injury claims occurs, liability, or fault, must first be determined. When there are multiple vehicles and drivers, determining liability often becomes much more challenging.
Investigations and analysis by both local law enforcement officials and several insurance companies will follow most all multi-vehicle crashes. This adds another layer of complexity to any multi-vehicle accident case. A skilled and experienced car accident attorney can help those injured determine who was at fault for the accident, and to obtain compensation for their injuries.
Negligence and Liability
Most multi-vehicle crashes do not occur with three or more vehicles hitting each other at the same time. Typically one vehicle hits another, which causes a chain reaction of more vehicles becoming involved in the crash. The sequence of events is important to analyze when determining who is liable, or responsible, for a crash. And, it is also important to bear in mind that more than one party can be responsible for a collision.
Liability rests on the driver who was negligent in the crash. Negligence arises from a person or company not meeting their “duty of care.” On our roadways, the duty of care is to drive safely and not endanger others. When that duty of care is breached, the individual who failed to meet their duty of care can be found negligent. That negligence will be the basis of a lawsuit filed against the driver due to injuries caused by his or her carelessness.
For example, three vehicles are traveling on a highway in the same lane. The first vehicle, the one traveling in front of the others, stops abruptly. The vehicle behind the first vehicle then crashes into the back of the first vehicle. This causes the third vehicle to crash into the back of the second vehicle. The passenger in the first vehicle is seriously hurt. Who is at fault?
Upon investigation and analysis, it may determined that each driver was responsible. The first driver acted negligently by stopping suddenly on a highway when they knew that vehicles behind them may not be able to stop in time. The second vehicle driver may be found liable because they were following the first too closely. This is acting negligently and so, the judge or jury may find the second driver responsible. The judge or jury may also find the third vehicle driver responsible if the investigations found that he or she was also following the second too closely. Thus, in the scenario posed, all 3 drivers are liable. A good lawyer would pursue all the drivers and their insurers.
Contributory Negligence in an Accident
Due to the fact that multi-vehicle crashes often involve more than one negligent party, the legal concept of contributory negligence is often an important part of any multi-vehicle lawsuit.
The Illinois Compiled Statute covering negligence also covers contributory negligence. It states that even when a plaintiff is partly at fault for the accident, he or she may still recover compensation for injuries. However, the amount of fault the plaintiff assumes for the accident is also taken into consideration. A judge or jury will assign the plaintiff a percentage of fault. If awarded compensation, it will then be reduced by that same percentage.
Using the same example, it is possible that the driver of the first vehicle could sue the driver of the second vehicle for crashing into him or her. If a court finds that the plaintiff was speeding and therefore had to stop in an unsafe manner, such as too abruptly, the fist driver may be assigned a percentage of fault. If the courts award him or her compensation, the total amount would be reduced by that same percentage.
Determining Fault Can Be Difficult
In the case of Angela Antonicelli vs. Daniel Juan Rodriguez, Angela Antonicelli was the first driver struck in a multi-vehicle crash. Rodriguez hit Ms. Antonicelli while he making a U-turn. This caused another defendant, Karl Browder who was driving a truck, to hit Ms. Antonicelli from behind.
Antonicelli filed a lawsuit against both Rodriguez and Browder, eventually settling out of court with Rodriguez. Browder then filed a counterclaim against Rodriguez for initially causing the collision and Antonicelli’s injuries.
The trial court, the appellate court, and the Illinois Supreme Court all found that, according to the Joint Tortfeasor Contribution Act, Rodriguez had settled with Antonicelli in good faith. This barred Browder, a party who was not involved in that settlement, from seeking additional compensation from Rodriguez.
A Multi-Vehicle Crash Attorney can Help
The Illinois Vehicle Code, the Joint Tortfeasor Contribution Act, and other state statutes on negligence are a few of the laws typically involved in multi-vehicle crashes. The statutory authority demonstrate how multi-vehicle cases can become so complicated.
During the investigations that take place following an accident, including those conducted by one or more of the insurance companies involved, one or more of the insurance companies will likely wish to speak to injured individuals during the time they are trying to recover from their injuries. Accident victims often do not know what to say, or what not to say, to these companies, but a car accident attorney in Illinois can help.
If you have been injured in an accident involving multiple vehicles, call the Blumenshine Law Group today at (312) 766-1000. We offer free consultations and will work hard to get you back to your pre-incident condition as soon as possible. We can speak to the insurance company on your behalf, while fighting for your rights to ensure you receive any compensation you may deserve. Contact us today, so we can start reviewing your case.