The fallout from a car accident can be an unfamiliar and anxiety-filled time because of the uncertainty it may cause you and your family. Increasing the complexity of the situation is when your injuries result from a multi-car accident, which can create added confusion about your available options for recourse. Get your bearings on multi-car accidents in Los Angeles and laws in California, as we explain what they are and the legal issues that often arise in pursuing a related personal injury lawsuit.
What Is a Multi-Car Accident?
A multi-car accident involves two or more vehicles or parties. This could include any assortment of vehicles and people with whom you share the roadways of California. For example, multi-car accidents could involve passenger vehicles, trucks, semi-trucks, motorcycles, cyclists, pedestrians, buses, etc.
Is a Chain Accident the Same as a Multi-Car Accident?
While related, an important distinction exists between a chain accident and a multi-car accident. A multi-car accident can be a singular crash event involving several vehicles. In contrast, a chain accident usually involves multiple crash events, where the first crash contributes to the cause of later crashes. In other words, all chain accidents are multi-car accidents, but not all multi-car accidents are chain accidents. The classic example of a chain accident is the rear-end collision that happens in bumper-to-bumper traffic and causes subsequent rear-end collisions.
What Are Some Common Causes of Multi-Vehicle Crashes?
The possibilities of what can cause a multi-vehicle accident are limitless, but some common causes include:
- Distracted drivers (e.g., using cell phones, eating, etc.)
- Vehicle defects (e.g., bad brakes, non-working headlights, etc.)
- Driver impairment from alcohol, drugs, or sleep deprivation
- Following too closely (i.e., tailgating)
- Poor road or driving conditions (e.g., weather, construction, narrow lanes, bad lighting, lack of road signs, etc.)
What Kind of Damages Can I Claim?
California recognizes two main types of damages from multi-car accidents and subsequent personal injury claims. The first is economic damage, which includes the following items that are easily quantifiable:
- Medical costs
- Lost wages
- Decreased future earning capacity
- Property damage
In addition to economic damages, you may also be able to recover non-economic damages which are meant to cover the costs from your injuries that are harder to quantify, such as your pain and suffering.
Who Is at Fault in a Multi-Car Accident?
Determining fault in a multi-car accident is the most difficult part of pursuing available personal injury claims and obtaining owed compensation. Simply stated, fault in a multi-car accident belongs to the party responsible for causing the crash. This can often be more than one party when the crash involves multiple cars. In your case, the answer to the question of fault will always depend on the particular facts and how those facts apply to California’s personal injury and motor vehicle laws.
How Does Comparative Negligence Play a Role? Mitigation of Fault?
Correctly assigning fault for a multi-car accident is especially important because of California’s comparative negligence law. Each state has its own rules when it comes to personal injury claims based on negligence, which is the standard legal claim arising from a car accident. In California, the law reduces the damages you can recover from a multi-car accident to the extent you are responsible for causing it. For example, you have $50,000 worth of injuries from a car accident, but a judge or jury finds you 50% at fault for the accident. California law would limit your available remedies to $25,000.
What happens if More Than One Person Is at Fault?
Aside from the potential reduction of your compensation because of your fault, California’s laws also influence what happens when multiple parties are liable for your injuries. Generally, the comparative negligence rule will limit a person’s liability for a car accident to their percentage of fault. As a plaintiff, you can still recover the full amount of your economic damages from any at-fault party in a multi-car accident. This effectively places responsibility on the defendant to collect reimbursement from other at-fault drivers for their share of economic compensation.
Your recovery of non-economic damages, however, will be subject to California’s several liability policy. The result is that you can only collect your damages for pain and suffering up to the percentage of a defendant’s fault. For example, you have $100,000 worth of non-economic damages and two at-fault drivers. Driver A is 60% responsible, and Driver B is 40% responsible. You could only recover 40% of the $100,000 (i.e., $40,000) from Driver B.
How Does Insurance Work in a Multi-Car Accident?
In many cases, your first avenue for recovering compensation from a car accident will be through the insurance policy of the at-fault driver(s). California has mandatory minimum insurance amounts that drivers must have to legally operate a vehicle in the state as part of its financial responsibility law. If the number of your available damages exceeds the policy limits of the responsible drivers, then you will have to rely on a court judgment to hold the driver personally liable.
California operates as a “fault” state for purposes of making a claim on a driver’s insurance, which applies to the process of obtaining compensation after an accident. Generally, you must establish fault for an accident. Usually, this is done through the police report or other records and evidence demonstrating fault. Once you establish fault, you may file a claim against that person’s insurance policy. This contrasts with a “no-fault” state, where each party to an accident can file a claim against their insurance policy, no matter who was at fault.
Why Is It Important to Hire an Attorney After a Multi-Car Accident?
A specialized personal injury attorney in Los Angeles can serve an important role in many different aspects of recovering from a multi-car accident. The process can involve a lot of legal nuances and an advanced understanding of how those nuances apply to the facts of your case. Obtaining compensation also requires management of interactions with adverse or indifferent parties. Having an experienced personal injury lawyer and firm on your team can provide several important benefits:
- Helping you identify all drivers and parties responsible for your injuries from the car accident.
- Understanding your potential compensation based on your facts and prior experience from other cases.
- Gathering evidence to support your claims for compensation and defend against allegations about your fault from other parties.
- Evaluating settlement terms from opposing insurance companies or defendants, so you can make informed decisions about settling or pursuing a trial.
Working with a personal injury attorney is the comfort that comes from having an experienced representative and advocate in a position to protect your interests during a case. Without an attorney handling your personal injury case, you may risk settling for a lower amount or not realizing the full extent of your recourse options, which can also limit the amount of your final compensation.
Call Us About Your Legal Claims Involving a Multi-Car Accident in California
Adamson Ahdoot is a full-service personal injury law firm in Los Angeles that represents clients in all sorts of car accidents like multi-car crashes involving both passenger and commercial vehicles. We start every case with deep respect and appreciation for the unique position of our clients and what they need for peace of mind. With that principle as our guide, we pursue justice on your behalf with an aggressive strategy that combines our ambitions for protecting your interests with our meticulous attention to detail. You can schedule a free consultation with one of our attorneys to get a preliminary understanding of your case and learn more about what sets us apart from other personal injury firms in California.
If you were recently injured in a multi-car accident, call (800) 310-1606 or visit us online to schedule a free consultation with one of our personal injury lawyers.