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Motor Vehicle Accidents

What if There are Multiple Causes Leading to Your Injury?

September 2, 2019

More Than 2.75 Million Americans Injured in Auto Crashes in 2017

According to statistics recently released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), more than 37,000 people in the U.S. were killed and more than 2.75 million injured — many seriously — in auto accidents during 2017, the last year for which full statistics are available. While the sheer number of accidents in Montana is lower than in some more heavily populated states, the effects of car crashes in Big Sky Country can still be devastating, particularly where multiple drivers or parties were involved in the wreck. How do you sort things out when more than one party might be at fault? In such instances, car crash victims often need the services of a highly skilled Billings personal injury attorney.

Historically, All “At-Fault” Parties Were “Jointly and Severally” Liable for the Injured Party’s Damages

With regard to an accident involving multiple vehicles in Montana, the historic rule of liability was that all parties at fault — no matter how great or how small that party’s percentage of overall fault — were responsible for paying the full measure of the injured party’s damages. While the injured party was not (and still is not) generally able to receive a “double” recovery where two or more parties are at fault, the ordinary rule was that the injured party could seek his or her full damages from any responsible party, even if their share of fault was quite small.

Because of a special statutory rule in Montana (Mont. Code Ann. 27-1-703), that historic rule noted above does not apply. Depending upon the date of the accident, as well as some other potential factors, if a party’s share of fault is 50 percent or less, that party may not be forced to pay more than his or her share of the total damages. Again, the application of this statute is quite complex and ordinarily will require the assistance of an experienced Billings personal injury attorney.

Other Factors to Bear In Mind

Again, depending upon a number of factors in the case, other issues can be important if an injured party seeks to recover from multiple parties who are all at fault. Here are some important things to keep in mind:

  1. The first at-fault party to settle with the injured party may have an advantage over the other responsible parties who do not settle, but who proceed to trial. A skilled Billings personal injury attorney can sometimes use this to get a favorable settlement from one or more of the other parties.
  2. If a party settles with one of the responsible parties, he or she has to be extremely careful in reviewing the wording of the settlement documents. Under some circumstances, the release of one party from liability can result in the release of the others as well. 
  3. Remember that the insurance company and any attorney representing either that company or its insured does not and cannot have your interests in mind. The settlement documents, if drafted by another party, will almost always be in the interest of that party, and not yours.

Work With an Experienced Billings Personal Injury Attorney

With regard to any serious vehicle accident, but particularly with regard to an accident that involves multiple vehicles, the stakes are high. You owe it to yourself to get the assistance of an experienced Billings personal injury attorney at Ragain & Clark, PC.