In any personal injury case resulting from a car accident, the plaintiff (the party suing for damages) must be able to prove the defendant’s (the person being sued) actions were negligent and directly resulted in the plaintiff’s injuries and damages. In some car accident cases, this is fairly straightforward, but determining fault when multiple cars collide is more complicated, and several drivers may be at fault for the results.
When one car strikes another and in turn pushes that car into a third, and so on, this is known as a chain reaction. While it may have been caused by one driver’s negligence, the actions of other drivers determine how long the chain reaction lasts. If other drivers are not paying attention or speeding, they can create more damage.
Steps After a Multi-Car Crash
If you find yourself involved in a multiple car collision, your first priority should be the same regardless of how many cars are involved – assess your medical status and seek emergency treatment if you’ve been injured. Then contact the police if none of the other drivers have done so already. Get as much evidence from the scene as possible before moving the vehicles, but a multiple car crash can potentially close off several lanes of traffic. The police will likely arrange for the cars to be moved to clear the way for other traffic, and they will then take statements from all the people involved in the crash.
As with any car accident, it is important to be careful of your word choice when speaking to the police. Even off-the-cuff remarks, such as “I’m so sorry,” or, “I didn’t see …” can (and likely will) be construed as admissions of fault. In some cases, the at-fault driver or drivers may be perfectly obvious to everyone, but it can be more difficult to determine in a multiple-car chain reaction. After you’ve supplied the police with your statement and obtained the driver’s license and insurance information of the other drivers, it’s important that you contact your insurance company and file a claim for the accident.
You should also reach out to an attorney as soon as you are able. Depending on the statements of the other drivers, a resulting personal injury case can be extremely complex, so you’ll want a reliable personal injury attorney to navigate you through the process. If another driver admits to being distracted, speeding, or otherwise assumes fault for causing the accident, that driver may be assigned full liability for all the damages. If the other drivers acted carelessly, or panicked and caused further damages and injuries, those drivers may be held accountable, as well.
Understanding Contributory Negligence in Maryland
If your multi-car accident is in Baltimore or anywhere else in Maryland, one thing to understand about MD’s court system is that it’s a “Contributory Negligence” state. This is important because in the instance of a multi-car accident, if any of the injured parties are found to be responsible in any way for the accident, then they would not be awarded for any damages from the insurance companies of the other parties. So in other words, in order to receive compensation in this event, you would have to prove that you were not even the slightest bit responsible in the multi-car accident. The other states that practice contributory negligence are Washington D.C., Virginia, North Carolina and Alabama.
Filing a Claim
After you have addressed your medical concerns and spoken with your insurance company, your attorney will help you start the lawsuit process if it is legally advisable. Your medical report from your doctor and the police report filed for the accident will be crucial documents for collecting compensation for your injuries and damages.
Multiple-car crash lawsuits can quickly turn into multiple suits. For example, a chain reaction involving five cars may have started because of the actions of one driver, so all four of the other drivers sue the first driver for their damages. However, if those drivers did not react appropriately or bear some measure of fault, the other drivers may file cross-comparative negligence claims against each other. In some cases, one or more of the drivers may file a product liability claim if a faulty vehicle was partially to blame for the crash. Having multiple law suits going on at the same time can get extremely complicated, so having a reliable and experienced car accident attorney on your side will help ensure you receive the compensation you deserve.