Recently winter storms have caused several multi-car pileups in New York. One car accident involved as many as 35 vehicles! There was also a six vehicle crash on NY-17 recently, as well as a multiple car bridge crash on Brooklyn Bridge.
Multi-car pileups account for roughly ⅓ of all the accidents on the highway. Bad weather like the weather we’ve been seeing recently is the most common cause of such accidents. Can you still sue for your damages and losses? Who can you sue? How does it work?
In multi-car pileups, determining liability works a little differently than determining liability in a collision between two cars. Often liability will be shared between one or more drivers using New York’s comparative negligence laws.
When making the determination we might focus on:
- Which drivers were following traffic laws, and which were engaged in unsafe behavior such as speeding or tailgating?
- Who was the first car to rear-end one of the drivers? Usually this is the driver who is most at fault in a multi-car collision involving multiple rear-ending cars.
- In a left-turn accident at an intersection, which car made an improper left turn?
- In a intersection accident, which car ran the red light or stop sign?
- What are the other facts of the case? Bad weather, poor lighting, and other conditions can all have an impact on the case.
We use many of the same tools for these accidents that we’d use for a simpler case, including eye witness statements, video footage, photographs, police reports, and the work of accident reconstructionists who we might bring on to the case. We also take a look at any physical evidence gathered at the crash site.
Fault isn’t the only issue at play when attempting to secure compensation for your injuries. For example, insurance lawyers will be attempting to establish a chain of impact. If you are further down the chain, they might argue that your injuries weren’t directly caused by the negligence of the driver who initially caused the accident. They may try to shift blame only to the car who rear ended you, even as you’re being sued for rear-ending another car.
It is imperative to have a highly experienced personal injury lawyer on your side when you’re involved in a multi car pileup.
New York is a no fault state, so if your injuries don’t meet the serious injury threshold you’ll be seeking compensation from your own insurance company. This can be very good news in a multi-car pileup as it generally means that your claim will be paid.
If you do meet the serious injury threshold, which is common in a multi-car accident, then the issue of fault will actually start to matter. Determining liability will be your attorney’s next step. Will we be suing one driver or multiple drivers? Were there any mechanical failures that might put a manufacturer partially at fault? Sometimes your payout might come from multiple parties.
Your own percentage of fault will matter in these cases as well. In general, each party in the accident will be assigned a percentage of fault and each party’s eventual award will be reduced by the same amount. So if you were found to be 10% at fault for the accident and receive an $100,000 award, your award would be reduced by 10% and you’d take home $90,000 instead.
Settling who pays what, and how much, may be a matter for multiple lawyers representing multiple parties in a complex series of settlement conferences. Very few of these cases go to trial.
Do not panic if it seems like you’re being blamed or overly blamed for the car accident. Just make sure you secure outstanding legal representation early. Every party will be looking to shift blame to every other party, especially during the early stages of the process.
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You shouldn’t give yourself headaches trying to figure out who will pay for your accident injuries. You shouldn’t try to do guesswork, or determine whether you have a case. Your most important step now is to get a lawyer involved as quickly as possible.
Waiting conveys no benefit as often the first parties to respond in a multi-car accident gain significant advantages in the case to come. They often get a head start on obtaining evidence and setting the narrative. We really recommend involving a lawyer as soon as you’re medically capable of doing so, and we don’t just do that out of self-interest. Multiple people are about to be arguing over elements of your physical and financial fate. You don’t want to be the last person in the chain standing without representation.
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