After an accident, it’s important to find out who was at fault. The majority of the time, the fault is on one person, which makes insurance claims and litigation rather easy once that fault is proven. Things are less simple when more than one person as at the blame. How can two people be at fault? Let’s say you were on the highway and someone wasn’t paying attention and sideswipes your car, causing extensive damage to the car and minimal injury to you. The other driver would likely be found at fault, but if witnesses and the police determine in their report that you were driving over the speed limit, you would be at fault as well. So what happens from here?
Insurance adjustors are usually the ones who determine blame after they’ve gotten reports regarding the accident and inspected the cars. When more than one driver is at fault for an accident, the payment of the damages will depend on what state you live in. States follow one of two options when more than one person is responsible for an accident: comparative negligence and contributory negligence.
There are only four states that use contributory negligence to this day. In those states, if you got into an accident and was injured, but you were also to blame for any amount of the crash at all, you could not collect from the other driver’s insurance. It is much harsher than it’s counter-part.
Most states use comparative negligence, including California. In California, you can receive compensation for an accident from any other party that was found at fault, regardless of whether you were at fault as well. It is considered a “pure comparative negligence state.” An investigator will go out to the scene and look at the road conditions, any markings left by the cars and environmental factors to determine how both drivers were at fault for the accident. This is essential because the amount of compensation given to the victim is based on which driver is at fault, but if both were at fault, the benefit would decrease because of comparative negligence. If you were responsible for 25% of the accident, then you would receive only 75% of the total damages as compensation.
If you were in an accident, perhaps you were to blame for 10% of the crash. The total damages amount up to $10,000 each. You can collect up to $9,000 in damages from the opposing party. The opposing party can collect up to $1,000 from you.
If you were in an accident involving more than two cars, the chain reaction of what caused the accident will be crucial. It’s important to note that some states have different rules when it comes to motor vehicle laws, including California. Some say that the person that initially crashed and caused the first accident was at fault.
Many other states say that the individual in the very rear is to blame for the accident. It’s often that if you are rear-ended, that person is automatically to blame. However, that is not the case in California. The fault is not codified in California’s vehicle codes or laws, so you can still be found at fault in this case. If it so happened that your tail lights were out, the driver that rear-ended you would not be found entirely at fault, and comparative negligence would again apply.
Filing a Claim
When there are multiple drivers involved in the accident, and you aren’t sure who is at fault, you would still file against the other drivers’ insurance like normal. Sometimes, the insurance companies will do their investigation, and you can send them as much evidence as you can find that you weren’t or had very little blame in the accident. Either way, the insurance companies try to negotiate who was more at fault and sometimes they never come to an agreed settlement.
As a result, these multi-vehicle collisions end up in litigation, and if you disagree with findings of the insurance companies, it’s a good time to consult a personal injury attorney. An attorney will be able to help you through every step, retrieve evidence from police reports, photos, and witnesses, and hopefully prove that you are not at fault as much as the other person.
An attorney will ensure that you aren’t given more of the fault than you deserve and that you receive adequate compensation for the damages based on the comparate negligence rule.