When you’re in a car accident, the person who hits you is normally at fault. While you’ll have to prove that with evidence, the insurance company can easily see who is liable for the damages and injuries you’ve sustained. There are times when the liability can be a bit unclear. This can happen in car accidents with more than one vehicle or when you’re the passenger of one of the vehicles involved. Improper road maintenance might be the cause of an accident too.
Collisions Involving Multiple Vehicles
Reasons for the Collision
Fog, falling snow and heavy downpours can all limit visibility on the road. Drivers have to proceed with caution, but that doesn’t always happen. Bad weather can impact the roadways too. Slush, snow and ice can cause hazardous conditions.
Most multi-car pileups occur on the highway where one careless driver’s speeding can cause serious damage. One minor mistake at high speeds can equal disaster. If the person is speeding in hazardous weather, that will almost always be disastrous.
Drivers who are on their cell phones, eating in the car, applying makeup or using an electric shaver are people not paying attention to the road. Studies have shown that driving while distracted is as bad as driving while drunk.
Sleepy or Intoxicated Drivers
Driving while sleepy or intoxicated can mean altered mental status. A sleepy or drunk person won’t obey the rules of the road and can’t react quickly to a problem.
Finding Who is Liable
It can be difficult to assign fault in a multiple car accident without the use of trained investigators. With that much insurance money at stake, there might be more than one investigator trying to figure out who was at fault in the accident.
To determine who was at fault can be extremely difficult. Investigators will have to review reports, talk to the drivers, find out who might have been distracted or drinking and reconstruct the accident as best they can to find the person who caused it.
They’ll also review the records of all the drivers to find one who might have a history of accidents or tickets.
Some accidents might involve one or two cars, but the cause of the accident isn’t the other driver. While the second car might hit the first, it can be due to a problem in the environment.
Poor road maintenance can include potholes, missing guardrails, trees covering stop signs or faulty designs in the roads themselves. For example, an intersection might be prone to accidents because it was badly designed.
Road Maintenance Responsibility
A road in a city might not be owned or maintained by the city. It could be a route that passes through multiple cities that the state is supposed to maintain. Finding the government agency responsible can be difficult. One might be responsible for plowing while another might be responsible for paving the road.
Can They be Held Accountable?
After determining who owns the road as well as who was responsible for the hazard, the driver will have to find out whether the agency can be sued at all. Many government agencies cannot be sued. They have immunity from prosecution except in special circumstances. Negligence in maintaining the roadway is one of those special circumstances.
There are also strict statute of limitations on when the person can sue the government agency. It might be only a few months, and there could be other limitations based on the city and state. For example, in some cities, the plaintiff must write a letter to the city detailing the fact that they are going to sue. If they don’t provide the letter within 6 months of filing the papers, the plaintiff cannot sue.
As a Passenger
In the event of an accident, it doesn’t matter if the person is a passenger or driver. That person can sue the responsible driver for compensation. The lawyer will hire an investigator, and even if the passenger’s driver was at fault. the passenger can sue for compensation.
The passenger in the vehicle has the same limitations as the driver in a case against the government agency. The passenger might make a separate case against the government for his or her injuries too.
This can all be very confusing for someone who has been in a major collision. It’s always best to visit with an attorney to find out your rights in the matter. This should be done as soon as possible since there are limitations to when the person can bring a lawsuit.