Multiple-Car Accident Claims in Los Angeles
Multiple vehicle car accident claims in Los Angeles are common due to the volume of traffic traveling on busy freeways, such as Interstate-405, Interstate-5, and other similar freeways with up to eight lanes with thousands of rush-hour vehicles.
The blame game begins immediately when three or more vehicles are involved in a car crash. This means claims can't be settled without litigation to determine who likely caused the crash and the legal responsibilities of each driver involved.
Often, vehicles follow too closely, stop too suddenly, or change lanes without signaling or too rapidly for other drivers to react, which, in turn, causes crashes between three or more vehicles.
It only takes one driver not traveling at a safe speed or distance to start an abrupt stop, slow down or lane change and cause other cars to rear-end that vehicle or veer into another travel lane and cause a chain reaction.
Determining fault percentages and settlement amounts in an accident involving only two vehicles can be difficult. With multi-car crashes, however, things become infinitely more complicated.
You're now dealing with multiple insurance companies and attorneys, representing drivers and passengers, combing through the evidence to determine who is at fault and how to divvy up insurance money, which may also be capped at a certain amount.
It can be overwhelming at best—even more so when you've been injured and are waiting for settlement money to cover your costs.
California Tort Law
Fortunately, California tort law provides guidelines to help attorneys and insurance companies (and the courts) figure out fault and damages piece by piece.
However, the process is complex and tedious, and it may require multiple lawsuits before everything is sorted out. So it may take more time to receive your settlement than if you were in a simple crash involving another driver.
Additionally, having an experienced personal injury attorney in your corner is imperative to ensure your rights are protected and that you receive the full settlement amount to which you're entitled.
Let's take a closer look at some of the complex factors determining fault and damages in a multi-car crash in California.
What Are the Common Causes of Multi-Car Accidents?
Multi-car accidents often occur on freeways rather than on city streets. This is because the higher speeds make it more difficult for drivers to avoid and react to sudden collisions. Some of the most common reasons include the following:
- Texting on the phone while driving is now so typical that it has become a significant cause of car accidents. This behavior severely impairs a driver's focus on the road and their ability to drive safely;
- Reckless and aggressive driving is also a common cause of multi-vehicle accidents, such as speeding, tailgating, and unsafe lane changes;
- Weather conditions, such as heavy fog, can impair a driver's ability to see the road ahead, reduce their ability to control the vehicle, and reduce reaction times;
- Driving while drowsy is a significant threat to all freeway drivers as it only takes seconds for a driver to fall asleep and cause a major car accident.
What Are Some Considerations for Multi-Car Crashes?
In multiple vehicle crash cases, the primary issue is identifying the negligent or at-fault driver. These types of car accidents usually involve high dollar amounts. This means special investigators could be assigned to the case by the insurance companies to try and figure out what happened.
Thus, determining liability will depend on two significant concepts discussed below.
First, all drivers have a responsibility, called a “duty of care,” to drive safely and behave reasonably while behind the wheel. Suppose a driver is found to violate this responsibility. In that case, they could be found liable for the car accident.
The next concept is called the “proximate cause.” After the duty of care issue has been analyzed, there has to be a direct connection between that breach of care and the accident. In other words, it has to be proven that a driver's behavior was the proximate cause of the accident.
Notably, another legal consideration in multi-car crashes is the issue of comparative vs. contributory negligence. California follows the comparative negligence rules, meaning a claimant involved in an accident can get compensation against the at-fault driver even if the claimant is partly responsible for the car accident.
Multi-car accidents typically result in multiple claims, often a long and drawn-out ordeal. Notably, no standardized method exists for assigning liability in these car collisions. Sometimes, one driver will be deemed 100% responsible, while other times, multiple drivers could share in the responsibility.
Potential Conflicts Between Drivers and Passengers
Drivers in a multi-car accident may not be the only people at fault. Sometimes, one or more passengers may also factor in when determining comparative negligence in a multi-car crash. Some examples of how this can "muddy the waters" in hashing out settlements:
- Passengers and drivers may be both claimants (injured parties) and defendants (at-fault drivers), making it even more complicated to figure out settlements in a comparative negligence state like California.
- Passengers may share fault for their injuries even if in the victim's car. For example, if a passenger is thrown from the vehicle because they weren't wearing a seat belt.
- If both the passenger and driver of one vehicle use the same attorney, it creates a conflict of interest, especially if the passenger and driver are both potentially at-fault.
- If one of the victim vehicles is limited under Proposition 213 from claiming certain damages (e.g., drunk driver), a passenger in the vehicle may still collect total damages.
Division of Policy Among All Claimants
Once it is determined who is at fault in a crash involving multiple vehicles, whether one person or several, insurance policies have maximum limits on what they will pay.
When there are multiple victims, this money may run out faster. Thus, determining a fair division of policy benefits is critical to resolving multi-car crash claims. Some ways this can be accomplished include:
- Pro-rata distribution: The policy pays out proportionately to all victims taking into account the extent of their injuries and reducing their settlement by their percentage of shared fault. However, pro-rata is not always accurate as medical bills don't always reflect the extent of the injury. For example, a brain injury may require minimal upfront treatment but cause more complications after settlement funds have been distributed.
- Mediation/waiver: An alternative to pro-rata distribution involving mediation between all potential claimants and at-fault parties (and preferably their attorneys) to determine who gets what.
One of the most frustrating complications in a multi-car case is when there are missing claimants. These people were involved in the accident and may be eligible for a portion of the settlement, but they cannot be located or become unresponsive.
By law, division of policy funds can only be distributed somewhat once and once these missing claimants are accounted for. There are only two remedies when this happens, as discussed below.
You can run out of the statute of limitations. California's statute of limitations for personal injury claims is two years from the accident date. If the missing claimants don't come forward within that time frame, their portion of the settlement can be divided among the other claimants.
You can hire a private investigator. One way to accelerate the settlement is to hire a private investigator to track down the missing claimant(s) and get them to waive their claim in writing. While this can be pretty expensive on the front end, it may be worthwhile if the settlement amount is substantial.
Suppose you have sustained injuries due to a multi-car collision. In that case, our qualified Los Angeles car accident attorneys can help you recover compensation for your losses, including medical bills, property damage, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
You can contact Injury Justice Law Firm for a free case evaluation by phone or through the contact form.