Determining Fault in a Chain-Reaction Crash in Florida
February 14, 2017
Since we live in a no-fault state, most of the time Floridians don’t need to worry too much about who’s to blame for a car crash. Regardless of who caused the accident, PIP will cover both drivers up to $10,000.
Unfortunately, if you are seriously hurt in an accident, your costs can easily exceed that amount. Medical bills pile up fast, and you also have to account for things like money lost due to having to take time off of work.
Luckily, there’s a way to get compensation from the responsible party – file a personal injury lawsuit. If you can prove the other driver was negligent, you can hold them accountable for their actions and get them to cover your expenses – and possibly even more.
First, though, you have to prove that they were responsible. In one-on-one accidents this is usually relatively simple, but what about chain-reaction crashes? Who is liable? How do you even begin to answer that question?
Let’s use a few different examples to show how fault may be distributed or given to one driver.
If You Hit a Car, and another Car Hits You…
Let’s start with the worst-case scenario. You start a chain-reaction auto accident by hitting the car in front of you. You may be liable for hitting the car if you had a reasonable distance to stop.
What happens if, because of the accident, another car hits you? If they had a reasonable distance to stop in front of you, then they could be liable for your injuries, and additionally for some of the injuries felt by the driver you hit.
If a Car Hits You, and You Feel the Impact of the Chain Reaction…
Say Driver B hits you, and then Driver C hits Driver B. (In the above scenario, you would have been Driver B. Here, you’re Driver A.)
If Driver B can be found liable for hitting you, you may be able to collect compensation from multiple drivers.
If a Car Hits You, and as a Result, You Hit another Driver…
Maybe a car hit you, and the impact was so intense that you hit the driver in front of you. Even though you hit the car, you would not have done so if the first driver hadn’t rear-ended you.
In this case, the first driver would most likely be liable for your injuries and the injuries of the driver in front of you.
If a Car Hits You While You Are Texting and Driving…
If these cases didn’t seem complicated enough, let’s throw in comparative negligence laws. In Florida, a plaintiff may win a case – but not receive full compensation – if the defendant can prove the plaintiff was partly responsible for the accident.
So let’s say you hit Driver B because they stopped short and you did not have sufficient time to avoid them. Driver C hits you, Driver D hits Driver C, and blame starts to be thrown around.
If you try to blame Driver B for the accident, you may win your case. However, if Driver B has proof that you were distracted at the time of the accident, you may not win the full amount that you asked for in your claim.
Collecting Evidence to Determine Fault
So who is liable in a chain-reaction crash? There is no cut and dry answer. Each case is different, so it is crucial to collect thorough evidence. The following are key to collect when multiple drivers could be at fault:
- Witness testimony
- Police reports and each driver’s past driving record
- Vehicle damage
- Pictures of the scene (road condition, evidence of skidding, debris, initial photos of damage)
Read our past blog post to learn more about phone apps that can help you collect useful information after a crash.
After you collect this evidence, share it with a Florida personal injury lawyer. An experienced auto accident attorney can help you fight accusations of fault, build arguments against other drivers, and negotiate for the compensation you need to cover the financial losses from your accident.
About the Author:
Lawlor, White & Murphey in 1998. Since 1995, Mr. Lawlor’s trial advocacy and litigation skills, as well as his wide-ranging legal expertise, have provided plaintiffs and their families with a distinct advantage when seeking financial compensation and justice for injuries caused by the negligence of others. Mr. Lawlor is an EAGLE member of the Florida Bar Association and an active member of the American Association for Justice, the Broward County Justice Association, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and several professional associations.