By: Law Office of Denise Adkison-Brown

What Are the Unique Challenges in Litigating a Multi-Vehicle Pileup?

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Is Texas a No-Fault State?

In a no-fault state, the person injured in an accident would file for claims from their insurance company, regardless of who was at fault. However, Texas is an at-fault state.

That means the injured person needs to file claims with the insurance company representing the person at fault. That can quickly become complicated when more than one driver has some fault in the accident, especially when multiple vehicles are involved. It’s possible, and even likely, that more than one of the vehicles involved had some fault in the accident. That, in turn, can lead to significant amounts of finger-pointing as insurance companies and their lawyers try to shift blame off their clients onto others. That’s one of the reasons it’s vital to work with an experienced car accident attorney who understands the nuances of personal injury law and the tactics those representatives and lawyers could use.

How Is Fault Determined for Car Accidents in Texas?

If a case goes to court, the court will look for four specific points, all of which must be proven for someone to be found at fault for the accident.

– Duty of care. The driver was responsible for following driving laws and behaving in such a way that could protect others on the road.

– Breach of duty of care. The driver did not follow that responsibility in some way.

– Causation. Because the driver breached the duty of care, the accident occurred, and someone else was injured.

– Damages. The injured person incurred financial damages due to the accident, such as out-of-pocket medical bills or lost wages.

How Does Texas Define Comparative Negligence?

Along with proving all four aspects of fault as described above, there’s another aspect of Texas’ personal injury law that plays a critical role, especially in multi-vehicle pileups, and that’s comparative negligence. There are essentially three types of comparative negligence, and each state chooses which one it uses.

– Contributory negligence. This is used in only a few states and holds that if the injured party is the slightest bit at fault for the accident, they’re ineligible to file any claims against the other drivers.

– Pure comparative negligence. This is basically the opposite of contributory negligence in that even if the injured party is 99% at fault, they can still receive 1% of the damages they’re awarded.

– Modified comparative negligence. This says that if the injured person is either 50% or 51% at fault (the percentage varies by state), they’re ineligible to file for damages. If the percentage of fault is found to be lower than the threshold, they can file for damages, and the percentage of fault will reduce any award made to them. For example, if the injured person is found to be 30% at fault for the accident and is awarded $10,000, they’ll only receive $7,000.

Texas follows the 51% modified comparative negligence. That can create a legal environment where every driver in a multi-vehicle pileup is going to work hard to push as much blame on the other drivers as possible to avoid having to pay damages.

Is It Ever Clear Who’s at Fault in a Multi-Vehicle Pileup?

There are times when assessing liability is not as difficult as others. For example, suppose one car is driving on the freeway and unexpectedly slams on the brakes and causes several other vehicles to rear-end each other. In that case, the first car will likely be held responsible for all or most of the damage. Similarly, if there’s a head-on collision, the car suddenly entering the oncoming traffic could likely be held responsible.

However, multi-vehicle accidents that happen in intersections are much more complex. There could be several contributing factors. For example, one driver was speeding, one was running a red light, and one was driving under the influence (DUI). Trying to determine which was most responsible for the pileup can take time. Various factors have to be examined, including who had the right of way and the actions of all the drivers leading up to the intersection.

Again, with 51% modified comparative negligence, everyone involved will try to avoid being found primarily responsible for an accident. Given how complex this scenario is, it’s very unwise to try and file claims without legal advice and assistance. With multi-vehicle pileups, damages can run from hundreds to thousands of dollars depending on the injury levels, so it’s best not to take chances with the legal system.

What Should I Do if I Need Help if I Was Injured in a Multi-Vehicle Pileup?

Call DB Law 24/7 at 346-818-3311 to set up a free nationwide case review. These can be incredibly complex cases to litigate. Our team of experienced, knowledgeable personal injury attorneys can help develop the approach to your case most likely to result in the best possible outcomes. We also understand the tactics insurance companies and lawyers representing others involved in the accident will likely take as they try to avoid paying damages through the 51% modified comparative negligence laws, and we can prepare for how best to counter them.

Something you should not do: Engage in any communication with anyone else’s insurance representative or attorney. Their goal is to get you to say something that could be interpreted as accepting fault for the accident. They might also try to convince you to accept a settlement that’s not nearly as attractive as you might be able to get. Don’t respond to them, just send any emails or calls to your lawyer.