Multi-vehicle accidents often result in many injuries, and on major roadways or highways, these accidents often result in serious injuries.
Late last month, a four vehicle collision occurred on DuPont Highway in Wilmington, New Castle County. The crash involved 3 cars and 1 SUV. Multiple parties were injured, including one individual who was transported to Christiana Hospital for potential internal injuries. The accident is under investigation.
Is Fault an Issue?
Fault is often at issue in many multi-vehicle accident cases. The actual party who caused the accident or initial impact may deny fault and blame another party for having caused the accident, or fault may be shared among multiple parties. Determining fault in an auto accident case often requires investigation, independent of the police report. Police reports may be incorrect or may not include contact information for key eyewitnesses.
Before a lawsuit is even filed, an attorney can obtain evidence to begin proving fault. At the outset, it is important to get the investigation underway in order to identify, locate and interview witnesses, obtain related traffic data, request 911 call records, etc.
Once a lawsuit has been filed, the parties will engage in discovery which includes exchanging evidence and also conducting depositions. In especially complex cases, it may be necessary to retain services of an accident reconstruction expert. However, expert fees are often quite high and can easily exceed several thousand dollars. Therefore, from a cost-benefit perspective, such experts are usually reserved for catastrophic injury cases.
Comparative Negligence – When Multiple Parties are at Fault
In some cases, fault may be clear, especially if the evidence clearly shows fault of a single party. Several eyewitnesses may testify that a driver ran a red light and struck another car, sending it into oncoming traffic.
In other cases, fault may be attributed to more than one party. For instance, in an intersection accident case, two drivers may be at fault for causing the accident. Driver A is attempting to make a left turn across a busy local roadway. Driver B is approaching the intersection. He fails to slow down for the traffic signal as it turns yellow and instead, increases speed significantly to make it through the intersection. Driver A proceeds to turn left, and the two cars crash into each other. Driver A’s car then spins into another lane of traffic, striking another car.
Joint & Several Liability – Alive and Well in Delaware Auto Accident Cases
In this example, Driver A and Driver B would bear liability for causing the accident. Driver A proceeded to make the left turn when it was unsafe to do so. Driver B’s speeding is also a causal factor. Driver A and Driver B are both liable to Driver C.
Unlike many states which have passed recent laws limiting joint and several liability, Delaware has retained full joint and several liability principles, which means both Driver A and Driver B are responsible to Driver C for the full amount of Driver C’s loss.
Courts in Delaware impose the comparative negligence rule in auto accident lawsuits. Under the comparative negligence rule, a party may obtain financial recovery even if they were at fault in causing the accident. However, the assigned percentage of fault must be less than 51%. Any financial award is reduced according to the percentage of fault. If the assigned percentage of fault exceeds 51%, the party is barred from recovering altogether.
Using the above example, Driver B files a lawsuit against Driver A. A Delaware jury returns a verdict in favor of Driver B, but finds that Driver B is 30% at fault for causing the accident. The jury awards $10,000 to Driver B. Because the jury assigned 30% of fault to Driver B, the court will reduce Driver B’s total award to $7,000 (i.e., less 30%).
Delaware Auto Injury Lawyer – FREE CONSULTATIONS
Contact Knepper & Stratton for a free consultation. Our lawyers have decades of experience representing car accident victims. (302) 658-1717 (Wilmington Office)
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