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Who Is Liable in a Multi-Vehicle Crash?

Multi-vehicle accidents, typically defined as crashes involving three or more vehicles, can have serious consequences. Property damage is often extensive and several people may be injured to varying degrees. In the weeks and months after the accident, the injured victims need to pursue compensation to help pay for medical bills and other damages suffered. But determining who pays for these costs can be a complicated process under New York law.

The first avenue of compensation is your own insurance policy. New York is one of only a dozen or so states that follow a no-fault car insurance system, which means if you were involved in a crash, no matter whose fault it was, your own insurance provider will cover your medical bills, lost wages and prescription drug expenses.

As an injured person, you can file a claim against another driver only if you reach the no-fault threshold. Basically, this means you must show that your economic damages were more than $50,000 or you have suffered a “serious injury.” Serious injuries under New York law include amputation, bone fracture, organ damage and several other conditions.

Assuming you suffered a qualifying serious injury, your attorney could file a lawsuit. But in a multi-car crash, more than one driver typically bears some percentage of the fault. Here is one possible scenario:

  • Joe stops in the middle of the road and Ann’s car rear-ends his vehicle. Both drivers suffer injuries. Joe may be responsible for stopping but Ann may have failed to exercise reasonable care to avoid the collision.
  • Tim comes along, texting on his cellphone, and doesn’t see that Joe and Ann collided. Tim plows into Ann’s car, which again hits Joe’s. Because Tim was driving recklessly, he could be liable for worsening Ann’s and Joe’s injuries.

The more cars are involved, the more complicated is the determination of fault. To find out which drivers bear some portion of liability, witnesses will be interviewed, traffic camera footage will be reviewed and any other evidence will be scrutinized. Accident reconstruction experts may be brought in. Depending on the circumstances, even an injured party may be assigned some percentage of fault.

The percentage of fault matters because New York uses a pure comparative negligence system. An injured plaintiff’s compensation will be reduced by the percentage of the plaintiff’s fault. In other words, if a jury finds you suffered $200,000 in damages but also finds you were 25 percent responsible for the crash, your award will be reduced to $150,000. The same adjustments will be made to the damages recoverable by other accident victims.

The key for anyone injured in a multi-vehicle crash is to retain an experienced injury lawyer. At The Licatesi Law Group, LLP, our Brooklyn and Garden City attorneys know how to handle these complex accident scenarios and will fight for maximum compensation for you. Schedule a free initial consultation by calling 516-227-2662 or contacting us online.

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    Plaintiff sustained a series of fractures and other injuries to the right shin, heel and foot, requiring nailing of the right tibia with two proximal and two distal locking bolts, ultimately resulting in below-the-knee amputation

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    Infant plaintiff sustained encephalopathy as result of DPT vaccination administered by NYC Health and Hospitals Corporation.

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    47 year old male police officer injured as a result of surgical malpractice by an orthopedic surgeon resulting in an inability to work and permanent impairment of gait.

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