Car Accidents When Several Others are Responsible

Whatever the combination, if more than one person contributed to the accident, file a claim under the liability insurance of both.

It is not uncommon for more than one other person to contribute to a car accident. It may have been the drivers of two other vehicles, or another vehicle plus a hazard in the roadway. Whatever the combination, if more than one person contributed to the accident, file a claim under the liability insurance of both.

You cannot collect more than the full amount of your damages from all of them together, but you can collect up to the entire amount of your damages from any one of them, depending upon their percentage of fault and your comparative fault. If the coverage of one person at fault is not sufficient to cover all your damages, you can collect the remainder of what your claim is worth from the other person who was at fault.

For example, let's assume you are involved in a three-car collision with cars driven by Anice and Jim. You file a claim against both of them. Anice was most at fault, so her insurance company pays you up to the limits of her liability coverage of $15,000. But your total damage claim was worth $20,000. You can collect the remaining $5,000 value of your damages from Jim’s insurance company.

When Multiple Insurance Policies Cover Your Claim

If more than one driver's car insurance policy can kick in to cover your damages, what typically happens is one policy is deemed to provide “primary” coverage, while “secondary” or “excess” coverage is provided by another policy. The secondary policy is only used if the primary policy doesn't pay for all of your damages.

For example, say you are injured in a car accident and you are entitled to $20,000 in damages. The driver of the other car, however, has only $15,000 worth of liability insurance coverage. You could collect the $15,000 under the driver’s primary insurance coverage. If another person partly responsible for the accident had a policy, you would collect the remaining $5,000 of your total damages from the insurance company issuing that secondary coverage.

It is not your responsibility to figure out which one of the other drivers should pay you first or most as primary coverage. When you notify the insurance companies for both of the people responsible for the accident, the companies will decide between themselves which will be the primary coverage and which will serve as secondary coverage. Then you can negotiate a settlement with the insurance company that identifies itself as the primary coverage, and settle with the secondary company only if the primary coverage is not enough.

Getting More Information and Legal Help

For more tips on sorting out liability and insurance issues after a car accident -- and everything you need to know to handle your case -- get How to Win Your Personal Injury Claim by Joseph L. Matthews (Nolo). And before you file a lawsuit over a car accident, you may want to consider talking with a personal injury attorney to make sure that all your legal bases are covered and your rights are protected.

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