Three vehicles — two cars and an ambulance — were involved in an accident recently near Florham Park, New Jersey. According to news reports, the collisions were so powerful that the occupants became trapped inside the vehicles. First responders had to use the so-called jaws of life to free the occupants of all three vehicles.
Amazingly, there were no reports of serious injuries. Investigators were still trying to determine the cause of the accident.
It’s easy to imagine how the outcome could have turned out much worse.
Multi-vehicle accidents and comparative negligence
You may already know that if you have been injured in a car accident caused by a negligent driver, you can hold that driver liable for your damages through a personal injury lawsuit. Things can be much trickier after a multi-vehicle accident.
First, it can be much harder to determine what happened after multiple vehicles have collided. Investigators may find that more than one party was at fault.
When this happens, a legal theory known as comparative negligence comes into play. In a case involving multiple negligent parties, a court will examine the evidence and assign a percentage of fault to each party.
For example, in a case involving a crash of three cars, a court may determine that Driver A was 25% at fault, Driver B was 25% at fault and Driver C was 50% at fault.
Under New Jersey law, an injured party can hold a negligent party liable for their damages so long as they were less at fault than the other party. So, in the example above, Driver A and Driver B cannot recover compensation from each other because each of them holds 25% of the fault. They can, however, file suit against Driver C.
By contrast, Driver C’s share of fault was greater than that of Drivers A and B, so Driver C cannot hold them liable for Driver C’s damages.
Another important point to remember is that, under comparative negligence law, a plaintiff’s recovery must be reduced in proportion to their share of fault. So, if Driver A files suit against Driver C, Driver A’s recovery must be reduced by 25%.