If You’ve Been In Multiple Accidents (The Law of Joint and Several Liability)
We have had a few clients recently who have been in multiple accidents in a short time frame, and have multiple liability claims going on at once. (Click here to learn the difference between a liability claim with the at-fault insurance company, and PIP coverage with your own insurance company). We joke with these clients that they’ve “used up their car accident karma and aren’t allowed any more accidents in this lifetime!” Ha ha, and all, but even the cleverest joke isn’t so comforting when you are dealing with double or triple the headache that follows a car accident, both in terms of your physical injuries and your stress level. One accident, one set of injuries, and one liability insurance company is quite enough to have on your plate, but two or three? Come on, man.
As overwhelming as multiple accidents can be, there is a law in Washington that makes multiple liability claims less frightening and complicated. Hello, silver lining! It is called “joint and several liability” and it goes as follows:
If the trier of fact determines that the claimant or party suffering bodily injury or incurring property damages was not at fault, the defendants against whom judgment is entered shall be jointly and severally liable for the sum of their proportionate shares of the claimants [claimant’s] total damages.
This means that one driver could be potentially be held responsible for the entirety of the damages from all accidents, even if they were only involved in the one event. Which means that collectively, the at-fault insurance companies for the drivers can be asked to come together to compensate the claimant for the all of the damages from all of the accidents. No finger pointing at each other to wiggle out responsibility for their fair share.
So in human terms: if you have been in more than one accident (and you have not settled any of the claims yet, and the statute of limitations has not expired on any of the claims), you are allowed to present one conglomerate claim to all of the insurance companies for all of your damages. Under the law, you do not need to handle each claim piecemeal.
Meaning: simplicity for you. And if you’ve been in more than one accident, this is good news indeed.
Lauren Adler is lead personal injury attorney at Dayani Law Firm. She offers free consultations and speaks clearly and honestly about your options after a car accident. Send her a message below or call directly for a consult at (206) 777-5627