Whiplash Responsibility in Multi-Car Accidents

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jul 16, 2021

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If your auto accident involved multiple cars, it’s possible that multiple drivers are responsible for your injury. Depending on the laws in your jurisdiction, even you can be held partially responsible for your own injuries and the injuries that others sustain. Ultimately, responsibility for your whiplash injury will come down to the laws of negligence in your state, and the ways in which fault is distributed for this particular accident.

Determining Fault after a Multiple Auto Accident

It is typically very difficult to determine the exact break-down of fault in a multiple auto accident. When an accident involves more than two vehicles, it is likely that all of the drivers and their insurers will point fingers at everyone else. Witnesses and scientist experts will likely be recruited during the trial to help reconstruct the accident’s origin and describe how it played out. They will do their best to determine who and what ultimately caused this pileup. It’s possible that conditions on the freeway, rather than the mistake of one particular driver, could be responsible for your injury. In this case, your attorney may involve the government in your lawsuit. But it’s up to the jury to determine what the facts of that situation really were, after getting input from all the parties involved in the auto accident.

Jury Instructions and Multiple Auto Accidents

Responsibility determinations after any kind of auto accident are an issue of personal injury law. Personal injury lawsuits, like slip-and-fall cases or two-car accidents, typically turn on the issue of negligence. In this respect, a multiple auto accident is no different. The possible negligence of all the parties involved in the pileup will have to be assessed. This distribution of fault is not a fact issue for the jury but a legal issue, which means it will be determined by the judge and the laws of your particular state.

Laws for Multiple Auto Accident Fault by State

After a multiple auto accident, most states apply a principle called “comparative negligence,” while a few others apply a principle called “contributory negligence.”

“Contributory” negligence means that if you are determined to be negligent at all, even one percent negligent compared to 99 percent for the other drivers, then you will be barred from recovering in your lawsuit.

“Comparative” negligence means that if you were ten percent at fault, you recover only 90 percent of your damage award. In states that apply comparative negligence, the extent of your own fault in the pileup only affects your damage award up to around 50 percent. If your percentage of fault is above this, then you won’t be allowed to recover at all.

As you can see, sorting out responsibility for an injury in a multi-auto accident is not simple. If you have been injured in a multiple auto accident, you should get the medical treatment you need, and contact a personal injury attorney as soon as possible to protect your rights. It is important for you and your attorney to work together to gather as much evidence as possible regarding the cause of the auto accident. Also, your attorney can help you to understand how the laws of negligence in your state apply to your particular case.

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