What are multi-car crashes?
Crashes involving multiple cars in Georgia can be extremely dangerous–especially when they involve tractor trailers. Because there are more than two cars or trucks in these accidents, there is more than one impact that can cause damage and injuries to the drivers and passengers involved. Unfortunately, the injuries from these accidents can be serious, or even fatal. That’s why people injured in these accidents need a multi-car crash attorney who specializes in cases with three or more drivers.
In Georgia, multiple car accidents happen all too often. In 2017, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) reported 17,164 people died nationwide in multiple vehicle crashes with 725 of those fatalities happening in Georgia. Multi-car crashes happen on congested interstates like I‑20, I-85, and I-285, but also in other busy roadways like State Road 316 and Highway 78. These accidents are not just dangerous to the people involved. Crashes involving three or more cars are more likely to block roadways entirely. The congestion they cause can lead to additional car accidents involving the cars driving up to the scene.
Cases stemming from multi-car accidents require lawyers with experience handling a variety of complex issues. To start, lawyers must be able to establish how the accident occurred, who was at fault, how much insurance each driver has, and what legal issues might apply to claims against each driver at fault for the crash.
Which driver is at fault?
In a two-car crash, fault is limited to the two drivers involved. Either one, the other, or a combination of the two are at fault for the crash. In accidents involving three or more cars or trucks, a jury can assign fault to any of the drivers. In Georgia, this process is called apportionment.
Take this for example: a car, an SUV, and a tractor-trailer truck are involved in a multi-vehicle crash and the car driver is injured. A jury can assign fault for the crash to any of the three drivers. They can decide the SUV driver was 40% at fault and the truck driver was 60% at fault for causing the crash and the car driver’s injuries.
However, in assigning fault to the other drivers, a jury can also find the injured car driver was at fault to some degree for the crash. Georgia law says that if the driver bringing the lawsuit to recover for her injuries is more responsible or at fault for the accident, she cannot recover. For example, if the jury finds the injured car driver 50% at fault for the crash, she cannot recover any money from the SUV driver or the truck driver.
Which driver’s insurance pays?
If you are hurt in a multi-car crash, there are obviously more drivers whose insurance can help pay for your injuries. Usually, that is a good thing. But sometimes, there is not enough insurance to cover the harm done to the injured person. In Georgia, drivers are required to have at least $25,000.00 in liability insurance. If the harm caused by one driver is greater than the amount of their insurance, the injured party may not be able to recover everything a jury awards.
In Georgia, the drivers’ insurance companies have to pay a judgment up to the amount of their insured’s policy limits and to the degree their insured driver is found at fault:
Where an action is brought against more than one person for injury to person or property, the trier of fact, in its determination of the total amount of damages to be awarded, if any, shall after a reduction of damages [for the injured driver’s fault in the crash], if any, apportion its award of damages among the persons who are liable according to the percentage of fault of each person. Damages apportioned by the trier of fact as provided in this Code section shall be the liability of each person against whom they are awarded.
O.C.G.A. § 51-12-33(b).
To use the example from above, the SUV driver would be required to pay 40% of the amount awarded to the car driver for her injuries. The truck driver’s insurance would have to pay the remaining 60%. But if the SUV driver’s insurance limits are less than 40% of the jury’s award, the injured car driver may be out of luck and may not be able to recover the difference. A good multi-car accident lawyer should be able to navigate how to get the most money from the other drivers’ insurance companies to make sure the injured person gets all the money she can for her injuries.
Recently, Rafi Law Firm resolved a case involving two back-to-back multi-car crashes. First, an 18-wheeler truck merged into our client whose car was forced into a third car and hit by a fourth. Next, a fifth driver hit our client and spun into three more cars. As you can imagine, a crash with eight cars can be very complex from a legal standpoint. That’s why if you are injured in one of these car accidents, you need a lawyer who is experienced in navigating multi-car accident cases. Contact us to find out how we can help you sort through these complex issues and get you the compensation you deserve for your injuries.