What if multiple parties cause the accident?

San Mateo County Personal Injury Attorney Reuben Donig: So let’s start with the assumption that it’s multiple other parties and that you yourself were not partly at fault or what we call comparatively or contributory negligence. If other parties caused the accident, multiple other parties caused the accident, there’s a concept called joint and several liability. Under the law as it now exists, any person who is at all responsible, even 1% at fault, for causing the accident and causing your injury, can be held 100% liable for your economic damages. That means your out of pocket losses, your past and future income losses, your past and future medical expenses. However, you also have compensation for non-economic damages, for pain and suffering, and that compensation is allocated. So if you have one party who’s 10% at fault and the other one who’s 90% at fault, and let’s say you peg your general damages, your pain and suffering at $100,000, those damages, the compensation for pain and suffering, will be apportioned between the parties who together joined to cause this accident in proportion to their degree at fault.

So, let me give you a specific example. Suppose you’re a passenger in a car and your friend is driving it and he’s speeding, and he goes through a green light but at 50 miles an hour in a 25 mile an hour zone. Somebody else runs a red light and causes the actual collision. Your injuries, to the extent that they’ve been enhanced by the excessive speed, are largely the fault of your friend who’s driving the car. And a jury or a person who’s making a decision will have to apportion how much of your pain and your suffering was caused by the fact that your friend was driving too fast, and those damages, if you wanna call it $100,000, will be allocated proportionately. Now you may also have $50,000 in medical expenses and income loss. Suppose your friend has plenty of insurance but the driver who caused this accident has only $15,000 of insurance, because those are economic damages, that $50,000, you can collect that from any party who’s at all at fault, so your friend’s insurance policy could conceivably pay the full $50,000.

(Attorney Reuben Donig specializes in personal injury law and premises liability, including auto and car accidents in San Mateo County, Santa Clara County, Alameda County and San Francisco County. Visit him at www.doniglaw.com if you have a question you’d like to ask).