Getting compensated for car crash injuries is confusing enough, but it becomes more complicated if two or more vehicles are involved in the collision. Injured individuals often ask, “Who pays for my injuries in a multi-vehicle pile-up? How do I make a claim? What if I was partially at fault?”
The following is a guide on getting compensated after a multi-vehicle accident in New Jersey. For legal advice specific to your case, please don’t hesitate to speak with an experienced personal injury attorney.
What are the Causes of Multi-Vehicle Crashes?
Finding out what caused the crash is essential in determining the responsible parties. A usual scenario is when one vehicle rear-ends another, pushing that car to hit other vehicles in front of it. Another scenario is when two cars crash head-on in a high-speed collision, potentially hitting other vehicles around them. A pile-up may also occur when one car sideswipes another to a different lane, causing it to hit vehicles on that lane.
Often, these incidents are the result of not just one cause but several contributing factors. Here are some common causes of multi-vehicle pile-ups in New Jersey:
- Drunk-driving – Intoxicated drivers have slower response time to avoid crashing into another vehicle. Alcohol is also involved in many speeding accidents.
- Distracted driving – Texting, emailing, or eating at the wheel takes the driver’s attention away from the road, slowing their response time to an impending crash.
- Rubbernecking – This refers to motorists’ behavior of staring at an existing accident scene. It’s a form of distraction that could lead to an additional crash.
- Tailgating – This means driving too close to the vehicle in front. Without sufficient distance between vehicles, the tailgating car can easily crash once the car in front stops.
- Speeding – When a high-speed car collides with another vehicle, the impact could send both vehicles skidding across the road, hitting surrounding vehicles.
- Poor weather conditions – Slippery roads and poor visibility can affect the driving of multiple motorists sharing the road, increasing the risk of multi-vehicle collisions.
Who is Liable to Pay for Injuries in a Multi-Vehicle Car Accident?
It’s common for more than one party to be responsible for a multi-vehicle crash. To determine their degree of liability, New Jersey follows the “modified comparative negligence” principle, which looks at the percentage of fault that each party contributed to the accident. That percentage will be the share of compensation they have to pay the injured.
For example, let’s say you were injured and file a personal injury claim worth $10,000. During the case, Driver A is found to be 60 percent at fault while Driver B, 40 percent at fault. Driver A is thus liable to pay you $6,000 and Driver B, $4,000.
It takes a thorough crash investigation to determine all liable parties in a multi-vehicle crash. In addition, you’ll need a competent lawyer to assert the degree of liability of each party. You’ll likely be dealing with multiple insurance companies who will each try to minimize the liability of the insured driver. An experienced personal injury lawyer should strongly argue for your rights using evidence and negotiation skills.
Who is Responsible for a Chain-Reaction Crash?
A “chain reaction” accident occurs when one crash leads to other subsequent crashes. A common example happens in traffic, when one car hits the rear of the vehicle in front of it, and that second vehicle subsequently rear-ends another car in front. Many multi-vehicle accidents are chain reactions involving an initial crash then a second or third collision.
Generally, the driver who caused the initial crash is responsible for the entire “chain.” However, some people wonder if another driver could be liable for getting involved in the second or third collision.
The answer to this depends on the specific circumstances of the accident. Usually, subsequent collisions involve drivers who have no fault in the accident – they just happened to be close to the original crash. But sometimes, second- or third-collision drivers may have contributed to the severity of the accident, too. For instance, they may have been speeding, braked without warning, failed to yield, or were tailgating.
Under New Jersey’s comparative negligence principle, the potential liability of each driver will be examined. Get a trusted personal injury lawyer to investigate the case on your behalf.
What If I was Partly At Fault in the Car Accident?
The comparative negligence rule takes into account all parties in an accident, including the injured. This means that even if you were the injured victim, the law will still look into your potential contribution to the crash. Your compensation could be reduced according to your percentage of fault. For example, if you were found to be 10 percent at fault, your injury compensation will be reduced by 10 percent.
In addition, New Jersey’s comparative negligence rule is “modified” because it has a 51-percent limit for the injured party’s share of fault. If you, as the injured party, had a share of fault that’s 51 percent or higher, you will no longer be eligible for compensation. The rationale behind this is that you should not be responsible by more than half for your own injuries.
Insurance companies and defense lawyers will take advantage of this rule when possible. It’s crucial that you don’t admit your own fault or even give statements before consulting a personal injury attorney. Even statements like “I’m sorry” could be taken as an admission of fault that damages your claim.
How Do I Claim Compensation After a Multi-Vehicle Crash in NJ?
Seeking injury compensation is less straightforward if multiple drivers are involved. It’s best to talk to a personal injury lawyer right away to determine the potential liable parties, how and where to file your claim, and whether you should consider filing a lawsuit.
To bolster your compensation claim, take these steps immediately after your multi-vehicle accident:
- Get medical attention for your injuries, even if they feel minor.
- Report the accident to the police and request a copy of the crash report. New Jersey requires motorists to report an accident involving injuries.
- Take photos and/or videos of the accident scene, your visible injuries, and damage to your vehicle.
- Exchange insurance information with the driver(s) who hit your car. Depending on your auto insurance policy, you may need to notify your own insurer as well.
- Politely ask for the contact details of possible witnesses.
- Contact an attorney before you provide any statement to an insurance adjuster. An experienced lawyer can protect you from common mistakes that could cost you your claim.
Contact an Experienced Multi-Vehicle Accident Lawyer in NJ
With over 20 years of experience, the Grossman Law Firm has successfully handled some of New Jersey’s most complicated auto accidents. Our personal injury representation has won deca-millions of dollars on behalf of our injured clients. This is why we have earned the trust of NJ citizens, as well as top ratings in the legal field of personal injury.
Consult with us for free about your multi-vehicle crash. Call (732) 625-9494 today.