How is Liability Determined for Multi-Vehicle Accidents in Pennsylvania?
Determining liability in a typical car accident is already challenging, but determining liability in multi-vehicle accidents is even more complex. Instead of only one defendant, you might contend with two, three, or more.
To hold multiple defendants liable for a car accident, a plaintiff must prove that each defendant’s actions satisfy the four elements of negligence. As such, plaintiffs in multi-vehicle accidents often need a lot more evidence than a typical case, as they seek to hold multiple drivers liable. The evidence proving that one driver was negligent might not necessarily prove another driver was negligent, so your search for evidence needs to be thorough. Many plaintiffs want to know who pays for damages if multiple defendants are held liable. Generally, plaintiffs need not worry about this issue, as each defendant is equally responsible for payment. Your case may move forward if some defendants cannot be located, but there might be some complications in your case that you should prepare for.
Schedule a free case assessment at The Reiff Law Firm by calling our Philadelphia car accident attorneys at (215) 709-6940.
Determining Liability in Multi-Vehicle Accidents in Pennsylvania
We often think of car accidents as involving only two vehicles and two drivers, with only one defendant in a subsequent lawsuit. However, car accidents often involve multiple vehicles, and more than one driver might be to blame. Determining liability for multi-vehicle accidents is more challenging, as our car accident attorneys must evaluate how each driver contributed to the accident.
When determining liability in multi-vehicle accidents, the issue of how much each defendant contributed to the crash inevitably comes up. For example, four defendants might each be 25% liable for the crash. Alternatively, one defendant might be 30%, another 50%, and the other two only 10% responsible each. Regardless, defendants in car accident cases are ultimately found jointly and severally liable, meaning they are all responsible for the entirety of the accident.
For each driver to be held liable, each must be proven to be negligent. The elements of negligence are duty, breach, causation, and damages. Even if one defendant is only 10% to blame for the accident, but another is 90%, both must be found negligent according to these elements.
Evidence to Prove Liability in Multi-Vehicle Accidents in Pennsylvania
To have the defendants in a multi-car accident found liable, we need evidence that satisfies each of the four elements of negligence. Remember, each defendant in your case must be found negligent according to these four elements, and more evidence than usual might be necessary.
The four elements of negligence include duty, breach, causation, and damages. The duty element is about the defendant’s legal obligation they owed to you during the accident. In car accident cases, this is the duty to drive with reasonable safety under the circumstances and obey the traffic laws. This duty generally applies to all drivers on the road.
The breach element is about how the defendants violated their legal duty. This is tricky in multi-vehicle collisions because each driver might have breached their duty in different ways. For example, one driver might have run a red light while another was speeding through the intersection. If any of the drivers in your case were ticketed by the police after the accident, we can use those tickets as evidence of the breach.
Causation is what connects the defendants’ breach of their duty to the collision. Essentially, each of the defendants’ negligence must directly cause your accident. This element might also be difficult to prove because each defendant might have contributed to the accident differently. In many cases, accident reconstruction experts may be used to explain how the accident happened and how each defendant played a role.
Finally, we must prove that you experienced real damages from the accident. If a plaintiff did not experience any injuries or losses, they cannot file a lawsuit. Evidence of damages often comes from property damage to your vehicle and medical bills. Other damages might include pain, suffering, and other non-economic injuries.
Who Pays for Damages in a Multi-Vehicle Accident in Pennsylvania?
When multiple vehicles and defendants are involved in a car accident lawsuit, the issue of damages might become more complex. Specifically, it might be hard to figure out which defendant pays and how much.
In a car accident lawsuit, the liability between multiple defendants is joint and several. This means that although each defendant might share a different portion of the blame, they are all equally liable. As such, each defendant is equally responsible for paying damages.
This is good for defendants because if one or more defendants cannot pay or refuse to pay, the other defendants are still responsible for paying the entire sum of the damages. How damages are divided among the defendants is not the plaintiff’s problem. The defendants can decide for themselves how to pay.
If one defendant cannot or will not pay their share, the other defendants might have to initiate their own lawsuit against that defendant for contribution. You, as the plaintiff are not a party to this case, and it is not your problem.
What if I Cannot Find Some Drivers in a Multi-Vehicle Accident in Pennsylvania?
If some drivers cannot be located, we can still proceed with the lawsuit and prove that the other defendants are negligent and liable for the crash. As discussed above, the defendants are equally responsible for paying your damages because they are jointly and severally liable. As a result, you should not miss out on compensation because some defendants are not present.
One or more defendants might be missing from the case. Perhaps one driver fled the scene and could not be identified. This is a problem for the remaining defendants to resolve. They may take it upon themselves to find the other defendant and sue them for contribution.
Call Our Pennsylvania Car Accident Attorneys for Help
Schedule a free case evaluation at The Reiff Law Firm by calling our Media, PA car accident lawyers at (215) 709-6940.