With more cars and trucks on the road than ever before, multiple vehicle crashes are becoming more common. Everything from a straightforward rear-ending involving two cars to a tractor-trailer accident leading to four car injuries in different vehicles is considered a multiple vehicle accident.
Anyone who is injured in a motor vehicle accident is entitled to maximum compensation but how is that money spread around if there are multiple victims and injuries? If the case goes to trial how does the money get spread around in a settlement or a judgment? Is it spread equally? Is it based on how injured someone is? How much time they took off work?
The short answer is … it depends.
In the event the driver at fault has adequate insurance, each claimant is paid based on his or her claim amount, which is usually the sum of:
- Medical bills.
- Lost income.
- Pain and suffering damages.
That would, of course, only apply in a perfect world where every driver carries adequate insurance and no one is ever seriously injured.
What if there are several seriously injured victims but not enough insurance to cover all the claims? In other words, what happens in the real world?
To decide the obligations of the insurer to the insured when a car accident occurs in which several persons suffer significant injuries and the policy limits are insufficient to resolve all of the claims, the courts often employ one of three different approaches:
The Pro Rata Rule
When there are multiple claims and not enough insurance money to go around, the court will distribute the policy proceeds based upon the amount of damages suffered by each claimant.
This is a fancy way of saying your claim will be pro-rated. But that’s not fair, you say! Think of it this way: each claimant will receive an equally unfair settlement. But everyone gets paid — which is not necessarily the case with the other two approaches.
First To Judgment Rule
In this case, the early bird really does get the worm. The first claimant to secure a judgment is entitled to be paid first — often the full amount of their claim. This method is employed to avoid tying up the courts with lengthy litigation.
First To Settle Rule
This is similar in principle to the First to Judgment Rule but here claimants who accept settlement will be paid in the order of settlement. You may not receive the full amount of your claim but the longer you wait to accept, the less money there will be to go around.
Both the First to Judgment Rule and the First to Settle Rule recognize that insurers should be able to settle with any one or several of multiple claimants — even though such settlement(s) may deplete the policy monies. That means exactly what it sounds like it means: some claimants may be left with nothing.
Don’t get stuck with nothing! If you have been seriously injured in a multi-car, tractor-trailer, or chain-reaction accident, you deserve maximum compensation. Legal expert Howard B. Segal will handle your case while you focus on recovering from your injuries and putting your life back together.
To learn more about how personal injury cases involving multiple victims are handled in an ever-changing and complex legal system, visit Howard B. Segal online or click the button below for a free consultation.