When one car hits another, liability is usually determined in a fairly straightforward manner. Typically, we would consider such evidence as: the drivers’ accounts, eyewitness testimony, an examination of vehicle damage and road skid marks, the final resting location of the vehicles involved in the collision, and basic physics. But the liability in a multi-car accident can sometimes be much harder to determine because there are more vehicles to examine, and fault can rest with more than one driver.Frequently, in multi-vehicle accidents, it is necessary to conduct a professional analysis known as accident reconstruction.
Accident reconstruction is helpful in determining fault in a two-vehicle accident, but it is frequently essential in a chain-reaction crash that involves more than two cars. This is because multi-vehicle collisions often involve negligence on the part of multiple drivers. Reconstruction experts are trained to compile all the evidence, which can include photos of the scene and the involved vehicles, police investigation reports, analysis of car damage, vehicle skid marks, eyewitness reports and weather conditions.
Using all this information, these experts reconstruct what likely occurred before, during and after a multi-car accident. This information may be useful in determining whether a victim’s injuries are the result of one driver being primarily responsible, or perhaps several drivers contributed to the crash.
Contributory Negligence Rule
There are four states that allow a defense known as contributory negligence. Fortunately, Arizona is not one of them, because the rule is quite inflexible and can lead to results which are unfair to accident victims. In a contributory negligence scheme, if a jury finds that the injured party contributed even slightly (one percent is enough) to the collision occurring, it acts to prevent that victim from collecting any compensation for their injuries. As you can see, applying strict contributory negligence rules can lead to very unfair and unjust outcomes.
Comparative Negligence Rule
Most states – including Arizona – use the comparative negligence rule to determine liability in a car accident. Under this scheme, each party’s percentage of fault in causing the accident determines what damages they can recover. There are two types of comparative negligence:
- Pure Comparative Negligence – In this scheme, the injured party’s damages are reduced by the degree to which that party is deemed to have contributed to the car accident. For example, if a plaintiff is found to be 30 percent at fault and is awarded $100,000, that award would be reduced to $70,000. Arizona uses a pure comparative fault scheme in most accidents.
- Modified Comparative Negligence – Under this scheme, the plaintiff cannot recover any damages if the plaintiff is 50 percent or more responsible for the car accident. Arizona applies this rule in cases in which the injured party was driving while intoxicated. So, if an injured party is found to have been DUI at the time of the collision, AND found to be 51 percent or more at fault for causing the action, that party cannot collect any damages.
Aggressive Pursuit of Justice
Determining liability in a multi-car accident is a complex issue that requires analysis of many legal factors. An experienced personal injury law firm, such as the team at Miller Kory Rowe LLP, can navigate through the challenges, and mount the type of case to help you obtain the damages you deserve after an accident of this type.
Our firm operates under the credo of dedicated, aggressive and principled service, which has served our clients well over the years. Please call 602-648-4045 to schedule a free confidential consultation regarding your claim.