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Can Multiple Parties Be Responsible for a Car Accident?


With heavily congested roads and the high volume of traffic, it’s not uncommon for car accidents in New York to involve several vehicles. Unfortunately, in these cases, determining liability isn’t always that simple. More than one party may be responsible for the crash — and a victim may be entitled to recover compensation from multiple sources under the joint and several liability doctrine.                 

Common Types of Accidents Involving Multiple Parties

Thousands of car accidents occur each month in New York. While this is due in part to crowded roadways and dangerous intersections, car crashes are also caused by driver negligence, recklessness, and carelessness. For instance, a motor vehicle operator might have been fatigued, distracted, impaired, or inattentive. All of these factors can lead to dangerous situations that cause serious accidents and resulting injuries.                

There are several types of motor vehicle accidents that commonly involve multiple vehicles, including the following:

  • Rear-end collisions 
  • Chain reaction accidents
  • Intersection crashes
  • Head-on collisions
  • Unsafe lane change accidents

In a multi-vehicle accident, a vehicle can be struck more than once, increasing the risk of severe injury or fatality. Drivers and passengers can sustain a wide range of injuries in a car crash involving more than one vehicle, such as broken bones, brain damage, disfigurement, soft tissue damage, permanent disability, paralysis, and nerve damage. They may also suffer emotional trauma and mental anguish. In New York, an accident victim may be eligible to recover both their economic and non-economic damages by filing a personal injury action.         

Understanding Joint and Several Liability

When more than one party is identified as a defendant in a case, the rule of joint and several liability applies. This doctrine allows a plaintiff to hold each of them individually accountable for the full amount of the damages incurred in the accident — regardless of the degree of fault. In other words, the victim may be able to collect their judgment from any party in the action who was determined liable, or from all of the liable parties in different amounts. 

Under the rule of joint and several liability, a defendant may be only one percent at fault for a victim’s injuries — but they can still be forced to pay the entire judgment if the other defendants do not have the funds to do so. Critically, if a defendant is less than 50% at fault for the accident, their liability for non-economic damages will be capped per their share of fault.  

Recoverable Damages in a Multi-Vehicle Car Crash

If you were injured in a multi-vehicle car accident, no-fault insurance may cover up to $50,000 of your medical expenses and a portion of your lost wages. However, since these accidents usually involve serious injuries, the monetary damages usually exceed the amount of recovery provided through no-fault. In such cases, a victim may be eligible to pursue their economic and non-economic damages by commencing a personal injury lawsuit against the negligent parties.

Economic damages in a personal injury lawsuit are meant to compensate a victim for the monetary losses they suffered in connection with the accident, including their unreimbursed medical expenses, out-of-pocket costs, and lost wages. Non-economic damages compensate a victim for the pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life they experienced as a result of their accident-related injuries.                     

Contact an Experienced New York Personal Injury Attorney

Multi-vehicle car accidents can be complex. If you have been injured in a car crash involving more than one vehicle, it’s crucial to have an experienced personal injury attorney by your side to ensure the responsible parties are held accountable. The Dearie Law Firm, P.C. has been providing skilled representation to car accident victims in New York for more than 30 years. We have an established history of obtaining favorable outcomes in clients’ cases. 

The Dearie Law Firm, P.C. has convenient office locations in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and the Bronx, as well as mobile locations serving Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan, the Bronx, Staten Island, Westchester County, Rockland County, Nassau County, and Suffolk County. Contact us today for a consultation.