You slam on the brakes, your tires skid, and you hear that sickening metallic crunch. Seconds later, you hear another crunch and are jolted forward. You are in the middle of a multi-car pile-up.
Houston’s rush-hour traffic is the catalyst of many of these accidents, but it is the drivers involved who are held responsible. Under Texas’s modified comparative fault rules, where you are in the pile, and how soon after the first crash your part of the accident occurred often determine whether you can seek compensation for your injuries, or if you will be on the hook for the injuries suffered by others.
Modified Comparative Fault
Under Texas law, anyone involved in an accident can seek compensation for their injuries. However, any person who is more than 50% at fault for whatever caused the accident will not be able to recover.
In these cases, a jury hears evidence and decides how much damage has been caused to each plaintiff — which means they add up all the medical expenses, lost wages, property damage, and non-economic damages like pain and suffering.
The jury then determines what percentage of fault to assign to each of the parties responsible for the accident and reduce each plaintiff’s damages by their fault.
So, if someone is in a car accident, and they end up paying $50,000 in medical expense, lose $10,000 because they have to miss work, total their $30,000 car, and get awarded $10,000 in pain and suffering because the injuries suffered were particularly traumatic, they will have a $100,000 damages claim. But if the jury finds the plaintiff was 30% at fault because he or she was speeding, then the $100,000 will be reduced by 30% to $70,000.
If the plaintiff in the scenario above were found 55% at fault, he or she would not be able to recover anything from the other drivers involved because he or she was over 50% at fault. This fictional driver would probably be the person claims were being made against by other drivers.
Calculating damages is pretty straightforward, but in a multi-vehicle accident, it can be difficult to determine who was at fault. Below, we will go over two of the main factors considered when several cars have been involved in the same accident — where you are in the pile, and how soon after the first crash your accident happened.
Where You Are Matters
In a chain-reaction accident or a multi-car pile-up, it is often the first drivers that hit one another that are found most at fault. Maybe they were following too closely, or simply not paying attention when the cars in front of them slowed down.
Other drivers involved in the accident may be held blameless if it would have been impossible for them to avoid the accident. Or they may be held a little bit at fault because they were speeding or following too closely, which made the accident worse than it would have otherwise been.
Timing Is Everything
How soon your car crashed into the others on the scene after the original accident occurred is also important. If you could have avoided the accident but crashed anyway, you will be deemed at fault for your injuries. Generally, the closer in time to the original crash, the less at fault you are.
Don’t Hesitate To Act – Contact Our Houston Car Accident Attorney
Multi-car accidents happen so quickly, they are often impossible to avoid. Your split-second reactions can make the difference between a minor scrape and a major crash.
Your ability to react quickly after the accident matters as well. The sooner you secure experienced legal counsel, the easier it will be to make a claim that is backed up with sufficient evidence to prove your case.
If you are looking for counsel, the Sherman Law Firm is here to help. Contact our Houston office today to schedule an initial consultation.