Multi-Vehicle Accidents and Your Rights

Mutli-vehicles accidents happen with a fair amount of frequency on California roadways.  These types of collisions can often lead to complications when it comes to the individual rights of the victims.  Establishing fault and dividing up insurance proceeds are among the most common complications that have to be worked out in order to resolve claims like this.

Multi-Vehicle Accidents and Insurance

One of the most common multi-vehicle accidents on California roadways involves the "chain reaction, rear-end" collision.  This happens when one driver carelessly crashes into the car ahead pushing that vehicle into a third car.  In heavy traffic, there might even be four or five cars involved and at least that number of victims.  The question most often arising in these cases has to do with the insurance policy limits of the "at-fault" driver and how that money will be divided.  Most policies of automobile insurance have two liability limits: one for the individual claimant and the other for the total of all claimants in the accident.  For example, a common liability limit for drivers is known as a 50/100 policy, which translates to a limit of $50,000.00 per individual claimant and no more than $100,000.00 for all claimants in the same accident.  In other words, if three people are injured in an accident and the party at fault has a 50/100 policy then no single party can recover more than $50,000.00 and all three combined cannot receive more than a total of $100,000.00 ($33,333.00 each, if divided evenly).  When this type of scenario arises, each of the parties needs to make sure their interests are given fair consideration.

Fault and Underinsured Motorist Coverage

In addition to insurance policy issues, these multi-vehicle accidents also involve issues of fault and underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage.  As far as fault is concerned, sometimes the driver of the car starting the chain reaction will argue that the cars ahead impacted each other first and then he collided into the back of the last one, resulting in multiple impacts for the cars ahead.  When there are three cars involved, the scenario goes like this: the first car in line (number 1) is hit from behind by car number 2 and then car number 3 strikes number 2, causing number 2 to hit number 1 a second time.  Then, so the argument goes, the insurance carriers for cars 2 and 3 are BOTH responsible for paying for number 1's injuries and damages.  Also, the carrier for number 3 must pay for some part of number 2's injuries and damages.  Actually, such arguments tend to benefit the driver of car number 1 because they then have two policies to stack on top of each other.  However, the driver of the middle car (number 2) loses some of their claim in this scenario because they are at least partly to blame.  This is precisely why having an experienced injury lawyer becomes so important.

Similar to the liability insurance issues discussed above, the UIM coverage of each driver may also come into play.  For example, in the scenario in the above paragraph, if vehicles 2 and 3 each have only minimal coverage (15/30), but the driver of vehicle number 1 has a serious injury AND a UIM limit of 100/300, they may be compensated up to the $100,000.00 limit of their own UIM policy.  The compensation would break down like this:  $15,000.00 would be paid by the carriers for vehicles 2 and 3, and the remaining $70,000.00 would be paid by driver 1's UIM carrier.  This situation gets much more complicated when there are multiple occupants of each vehicle...another good reason to consult a lawyer.

If you or a loved one have been injured in a multi-vehicle accident, contacting an experienced injury attorney may be the best first step toward resolving all of the potentially complicated issues that arise and obtaining the compensation needed to get back on track.


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