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As nearly every car accident lawyer agrees, determining fault in a car accident case can be quite a challenge.  Complicate that determination with three different drivers and resolving the issue can literally be a nightmare.  Causation is one of the key components to any car accident case.  That means proving that the defendant’s actions were the proximate cause of your injuries is crucial.  If you cannot provide a plausible theory of causation, then your case may be dismissed.  As a Georgia court recently addressed, determining fault in an accident involving three vehicles can be a real task.

Three-car accident claims dismissed by Georgia court

In a recent personal injury and wrongful death case, the Georgia Court of Appeals dismissed the claims against one of the drivers involved in a three-car accident. The deciding legal issue was causation against the alleged negligent driver.  The injured parties were driving a sedan on a four-lane highway when they pulled over on the shoulder for an approaching ambulance.  A truck traveling behind the sedan swerved to avoid hitting the sedan as it pulled over, but was unable to avoid the collision.  The collision with the sedan forced the vehicle into an SUV traveling in the next lane.

Potential defendants in the three-car collision

One of the passengers in the sedan died and a second passenger and the driver were seriously injured as a result of the collision. The injured parties sued both the truck and SUV drivers. With respect to the SUV, the plaintiffs asserted the SUV driver was at fault for the “decision to closely trail the ambulance and not to move over and stop or slow down for the ambulance constituted negligence and resulted in his vehicle crashing into” the plaintiffs’ sedan.  As for the truck driver, the theory was that the driver was “following too closely behind” the plaintiffs’ sedan.

The appellate court’s reasoning in dismissing the claims against the SUV driver

The Court of Appeals said there was no evidence that the actions of the SUV driver caused the first collision between the truck and the sedan.  Furthermore, the court found it would be nearly impossible for a jury to determine whether the plaintiffs’ injuries were the result of the first collision with the truck or the second collision with the defendant’s SUV.

Determining Who to Sue for Car Accident Injuries

In order to recover after a car accident, you have to first determine who is at fault.  Liability cannot be placed on anyone until it is determine who caused the accident, or put another way, whose negligence lead to your injuries.  Depending on how serious the car accident is, there could be very significant repair costs and medical bills.  The person who is determined to be at fault is the person responsible for reimbursing the victim for their damages.

How to go about proving fault

Proving fault in the legal context discovering and offering evidence.  The necessary evidence typically includes photos of the accident scene and injuries, eyewitness testimony and police reports. Depending on the applicable legal standard in your state, fault can be established either proven beyond any reasonable doubt or through clear and convincing evidence.  Either way, the standard of proof is relatively low as the allegations of fault do not have to be indisputable.

Why does determining fault matter so much?

The issue of fault is the most important aspect of a lawsuit, because without knowing who the party is you should sue, you cannot recover.  If you do not determine who that person or entity is, that party could escape financial liability for the accident. If more than one party is accused of liability, determining who is at fault requires identifying the levels of fault. In other words, each party will only be responsible for the amount of damages that can be attributed to his or her actions.

Who to consider in determining liability

If you have been injured in an accident, determining who is responsible for your injuries can be complicated.  However, the most common defendants that a car accident lawyer will consider first are the driver of the car, the owner of the car, the person or company that leased the car from the owner and the manufacturer of the car, tires, or other equipment that may have caused the accident, or made it more severe.
If you have questions regarding car accidents, or any other personal injury concerns in Arkansas or Missouri, please contact the Cottrell Law Office for a consultation, either online or by calling us as (888) 433-4861.

Author Photo

Wesley Cottrell

Wes Cottrell earned his B.A. from Pittsburg State University in 1981 and his J.D. from the Washburn University School of Law in Topeka, Kansas in 1985. He was admitted to practice law in Kansas in 1986, in Missouri in 1987, in Arkansas in 1989, and Oklahoma in 1993. He is licensed to practice law in the United States District Court for the District of Kansas, eastern Arkansas, western Arkansas, and western Missouri. He was Deputy Prosecuting Attorney in Crawford County, Kansas from 1987-1989.

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