If I recently got in a 6 car pile up accident, what happens in cases like this?

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If I recently got in a 6 car pile up accident, what happens in cases like this?

My car was the last car. The 5th car had already hit the 4th car even before I rear ended it. Police investigation reported 3rd car to be at main fault and 5th and 6th car (my car) as associated factors. The person sitting in the back seat of the car Irear ended (5th car), got injured enough to be in ICU. She was not wearing a seat belt. I am not sure if the injury was caused by them hitting the front car or me rear ending their car. Probably a combination. My insurace policy covers Bodily injury only upto $15,000. I am really nervous about this and stressed that I might get a medical bill for 200k. Who pays for what? Does the burden rest only on the 3 cars?

Asked on January 24, 2014 under Accident Law, California

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 7 years ago | Contributor

An injured person can sue any driver or combination of drivers she believes are liable, or responsible, for her injuries. Generally speaking, the rear or last car in a collision is usually presumed to be at least partially at fault, since the theory is that they at a minimum contributed by not keeping a safe following distance (that is, they should have been far enough back that they could have stopped in time). Therefore, if you are one of the drivers sued, as you likely will be (being the rear driver who hit her), there is a good chance you will be found liable or responsible for at least a portion of her medical costs, lost wages, pain and suffering (if she's in an ICU, she would definitely be eligible to recover pain and suffering), property damage, etc. Since she was also negligent, by not wearing a seat belt, her own carelessness will offset or reduce what she could recover; and since there were other cars involved, presumably their drivers will also bear some of the fault, and hence some of any judgment or award. However, all in all, you should assume there is a good chance you will be sued and found responsible for anywhere from (at a guess) 20 - 40% of what could be a very large bill. To the extent any judgment against you exceeds your insurance coverage, you'd have to pay the balance personally.


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