Chain-reaction accidents can result in devastating injuries—and complicated lawsuits. The most complicated part of any chain-reaction event is trying to determine who bears how much responsibility for whose injuries. This is why that quickly becomes the biggest issue in the case.
Everybody may have some degree of fault in the accident.
Imagine that you're working at a grocery store, gathering up carts from the parking lot. You're so intent on pushing this long line of heavy carts through the crosswalk to the store that you forget to look up. You have the right away, so you aren't concerned about being hit—but a customer turns the corner out of one of the lanes too quickly and hits the carts. You get knocked onto the ground and a couple carts fall on you, injuring you. Meanwhile, the rest of the carts go careening into the road and hit several other cars, damaging them. One driver is so startled that she slams on the brakes and gets injured when she's rear-ended by the car that was following too closely behind her. Who is to blame? Who has to pay for the damages?
Your state law controls how fault and responsibility are decided.
In the very few states that use contributory negligence rules, a party who is even 1% responsible for his or her own injuries can't recover any damages. That means that if the jury were to decide that your failure to look up in the crosswalk was even the slightest factor in the accident that led to your injuries, you would be barred from recovery.
Most states, fortunately, follow some version of comparative negligence rules, which are more lenient. In the thirteen states that follow pure comparative fault, you can recover damages even if you are 99% at fault for your own injuries—although the amount you receive will be reduced by the degree of your own negligence. For example, imagine that you had $10,000 worth of injuries due to your leg, which was broken under the falling carts, and lost wages. If the jury determines that you were 1% responsible for not looking both ways before you stepped into the crosswalk, you could collect all but $100.
The other states follow a modified comparative negligence rule with either a 50% Bar or 51% Bar to recovery. That means that your claim for damages will still be reduced by any percentage of fault that is assigned to you—unless it reaches that 50% or 51% Bar, depending on your state. At that point, you would be entitled to nothing. So if the jury decides that you really could have avoided being injured if you had checked the crosswalk prior to moving forward and assigns you a higher level of culpability for the accident, it will drastically affect your settlement. Depending on where you live, a 1% difference in the finding of negligence means that you could go from being able to recover half of your damages to none at all.
Contact an attorney early in a chain-reaction case.
Because chain reaction injuries are so common and the "blame game" starts early, you want to protect yourself from losing the right to recover for your injuries as much as possible. Contact a personal injury attorney, such as Jack W Hanemann, P.S., and discuss your case. Your attorney can help present arguments that will minimize your responsibility for the accident and stress the responsibility and negligence of the other parties involved.