What happens when multiple people are injured in an accident?

What Happens When Multiple People Are Injured in an Accident

If multiple people, or even an entire family, are injured or killed in an accident or due to the fault of another person, one very real concern is whether the other person’s insurance has enough coverage to resolve all the claims. This is particularly true when the individual claims are completely independent. In other words, if one driver causes injuries to passengers in two vehicles and the injuries in each vehicle could independently exceed policy limits, who gets the settlement? In this article, we will explain what happens when multiple people or family members are injured in an accident based on developments in Texas law and the Texas Supreme Court “Soriano” case.

What is the Soriano Rule in Texas?

The Soriano Rule in Texas establishes that insurers cannot be held liable for reasonably settling claims in any order even when that exhausts the policy leaving insufficient funds to resolve claims without claimants as long as it does so reasonably.

What is the Soriano Case in Texas?

The Soriano case, which refers to “Farmers Insurance Company v. Soriano,” established the Soriano Rule – an important legal principle regarding how insurance companies should handle situations involving multiple claims or claimants, particularly when the claims exceed the policy limits. In the context of multi-litigant cases, the Soriano case highlights the concept of “reasonableness” in the actions of insurance companies. Here’s how it applies:

PRIORITY OF SETTLEMENT OFFERS

Priority of Settlement Offers

The Soriano decision does not mandate that an insurer must settle claims in the order they are received (“first come, first served”). Instead, the insurer must consider all settlement demands and make a judicious decision on whether and how to settle these claims, keeping in mind the policy limits and the best interests of all insured parties. 

Reasonableness Standard in Settling Multiple Claims

The key takeaway from Soriano is that an insurance company’s actions are evaluated based on a standard of reasonableness. This means the insurer must act in a manner that a reasonably prudent insurer or businessman would under similar circumstances. This involves fair and balanced decision-making, especially when distributing limited policy funds among multiple claims.

To show that a settlement was unreasonable, a plaintiff must show that a reasonably prudent insurer would not have settled a companion claim when considering solely the merits of the companion claim and the liability of its insured on the claim. It does not require the settlement to be “fair” in light of any other claims that could be made for reasonable settlement.

Protection for Reasonable Actions

Insurers who act reasonably in handling multiple claims are generally protected under Texas law, as established by Soriano. Even when faced with difficult decisions due to policy limits being inadequate to cover all claims for multiple injuries, as long as the insurer’s actions can be deemed reasonable, courts tend to uphold their decisions.

Avoidance of Bad Faith in Settling Multiple Claims

By adhering to the principles set forth in Soriano, insurers can also protect themselves from accusations of bad faith from multiple clients. Bad faith can occur if an insurer arbitrarily favors one claimant over another.

The Role of Comparative Fault in Multi-Victim Accidents

The principle of comparative fault adds another layer of complexity to multi-victim car accidents. Texas follows a modified-comparative approach, which addresses:

Proportion of Fault

The damages each injured party each receives are adjusted based on their proportion of fault. For instance, if you are found to be 30% at fault for an accident, and the other party is 70% at fault, you can recover damages, but your compensation will be reduced by your percentage of fault.

Comparative Modified Approach 

Texas uses a modified comparative fault system. This means that if you are found to be more than 50% at fault for the accident, you are barred from recovering any compensation from the other parties involved.

Effect on Damages

If you are less than 50% at fault, your recoverable damages are reduced by the percentage of your fault. For example, if your total damages are $100,000 and you are found to be 30% at fault, you would be able to recover 70% of the damages, which would be $70,000.

SETTLEMENTS IN MULTI-VEHICLE ACCIDENT CASES

An Example of an Accident Settlement in a Multi-Vehicle Accident in Texas

The following example shows how claims might be settled using the Texas Modified Comparative approach to liability while applying the Soriano rule when there are multiple claimants whose claims exceed insurance policy amount limits.

Imagine this scenario:

  • Vehicle A (60% at fault) – Damages: $100,000
  • Vehicle B (10% at fault) – Damages: $200,000
  • Vehicle C (10% at fault) – Damages: $20,000
  • Vehicle D (20% at fault) – Damages: $50,000

The policy limit for Vehicle A (the most at fault) is $60,000.

Applying the Modified Comparative Fault Rule:

1. Vehicle A can’t recover any damages because it’s more than 51% at fault.

2. Vehicle B if there were enough coverage, could recover 90% of its damages (100% – 10% fault), so $180,000.

3. Vehicle C if there were enough coverage, could recover 90% of its damages, so $18,000.

4. Vehicle D if there were enough coverage, could recover 80% of its damages (100% – 20% fault), so $40,000.

Considering the Policy Limits:

Vehicle A’s insurance has a limit of $60,000. This means the total amount available for distribution to the other vehicles from Vehicle A’s insurance is capped at $60,000.

Applying the Soriano Rule:

The Soriano Rule allows the insurance company to settle with claims in any order, even if that doesn’t leave enough money for the other claims as long as it does so reasonably. For example, let’s say Vehicle D made its claim first. The insurance company could pay that claim in full and then split the remaining $20,000 between vehicles C and B. If they can, the insurance company will try to get releases from everyone, even if they weren’t paid in full. Alternatively, the insurance company could settle with vehicle B, and pay $60,000 and leave nothing for C and D. In doing so, the insurance company would argue they best protected their insured from the likelihood of litigation by getting rid of the biggest claim.

The biggest takeaway is if you’ve been injured, your attorney needs to get your claim in quickly and press forward aggressively for a resolution. You don’t want to be the last mover or the one left holding the bag.

Strategies for Maximizing Compensation Among Multiple Claims

When it comes to maximizing compensation in a multi-victim accident, having an attorney by your side can make a world of difference. Our knowledgeable personal injury attorney can:

  • Negotiate with the at-fault driver’s insurance company

  • Devise a strategic approach to your claim

  • Employ negotiation strategies such as highlighting the strengths of the case and using crucial evidence to negotiate a more favorable settlement amount.

Attorneys also ensure fair prioritization of compensation for each victim by considering the best interests of all passengers and ensuring equitable representation and consideration of each claim. This is crucial as insurance companies often employ strategies to minimize payouts. Legal professionals can effectively counter these strategies through their negotiation skills and understanding of legal procedures.

Steps to Take Following a Multi-Person Car Accident

The chaos and stress following a multi-person car accident can be overwhelming. Nonetheless, composed adherence to key steps is critical to protect your rights and interests. The first steps taken after the accident can significantly impact the eventual outcome of your personal injury claim.

At the scene of the crash, it’s vital to record all relevant details, ensure personal safety, and inform your insurance provider. In addition to this, documenting interactions with other drivers involved in the same accident, can be instrumental in building a strong case. However, the process doesn’t end at the accident scene.

Documentation and Evidence Collection at the Scene

Proper documentation of the scene and evidence collection is paramount following a multi-person car accident. Calling the police, capturing photographs of the accident scene, and collecting eyewitness contact information are key components of this process.

Photographs and videos play a crucial role in documenting a multi-person car accident. They help capture important details such as:

  • Property damage

  • Physical injuries

  • Road conditions

  • Other relevant factors of the accident

Additionally, police reports and witness statements serve as valuable evidence in car accident investigations.

Seeking Medical Attention and Documenting Injuries

In the aftermath of a multi-person car accident, it’s equally significant to seek medical attention and document injuries. Prompt diagnosis and treatment not only contribute to your well-being but also ensure that injuries are accurately recorded, which is crucial for equitable compensation.

As part of this process, it’s essential to compile a comprehensive medical file, capture photographic evidence of injuries, and maintain a detailed journal chronicling the injury and recovery journey. This includes gathering comprehensive medical records such as doctor’s notes, X-rays, injury-related reports, and any other pertinent medical documentation.

Filing Insurance Claims with Multiple Victims

Following the documentation of the accident, medical attention, and evidence gathering, you’re set to file your insurance claim. This process becomes more complex when multiple victims are involved, as each individual initiates their own claim. It is important that you work with a seasoned personal injury attorney to make sure your claim is presented without delay and followed up on diligently. Understand where there are many claimants, the difference a good personal injury attorney can make is huge.

Initiating a Personal Injury Lawsuit with Multiple Plaintiffs

Initiating a personal injury lawsuit involving multiple plaintiffs can be a daunting task. Potential obstacles include:

  • Identifying all parties with potential liability

  • Getting a settlement when the policy limits are potentially insufficient 

Joint liability may also come into play in lawsuits with multiple plaintiffs, allowing damages to be sought from multiple defendants. Each party is apportioned a percentage of fault and is accountable for their respective share of the damages. 

Navigating the Court System with Competing Claims

Navigating the trial court system with competing claims in a multi-victim accident case can be a complex task. It involves:

  • Conducting a thorough investigation

  • Utilizing expert witnesses

  • Employing accident reconstruction techniques

  • Preserving and documenting evidence

  • Managing communication between insurers

  • Determining fault

The principle of joint liability applies in personal injury lawsuits involving injured parties and multiple plaintiffs, allowing damages to be sought from multiple defendants. Each party may be apportioned a percentage of fault and is accountable for their respective share of the damages. This can have a significant impact on the proceedings of a personal injury lawsuit with multiple claimants.

total cost of recovery in a multi vehicle accident

The Total Cost of Recovery: Calculating Damages for Each Victim

The total cost of recovery in a multi-victim accident includes:

  • Immediate medical costs

  • Ongoing medical expenses

  • Future loss of earnings

  • Other long-term costs that may arise due to the injuries sustained in the accident.

The calculation of damages in a personal injury case involves three main components:

  1. Medical expenses: This involves totaling all medical bills and then applying a multiplier, typically ranging from 1.5 to 3 for minor injuries.

  2. Future loss of earning capacity: This involves estimating the plaintiff’s previous earnings, health condition, potential career advancement opportunities, and the estimated length of their working life had the injury not occurred.

  3. Pain and suffering damages: This is computed utilizing a multiplier method.

Our Free Consultation Can Help You Understand Your Claim

When dealing with a multi-victim accident case, a complimentary consultation with a personal injury attorney can prove to be an invaluable resource. It provides an opportunity to discuss the specifics of your case, assess its strengths, and decide whether to retain the same lawyer for legal representation.

In addition to this, a complimentary consultation can also provide information on support groups and programs to help manage the complexities following the accident. To make the most out of the consultation, it’s important to come prepared with all the necessary documentation.

Preparing for Your Consultation: What Information to Bring

Preparation is key when attending a personal injury consultation. Bringing the right documentation equips the attorney with vital information to comprehend the incident, evaluate the injuries sustained, and devise appropriate legal strategies. This includes bringing a range of documents such as:

  • The police report

  • Medical records and bills

  • Photographs of the scene and vehicles

  • Law enforcement and incident reports

  • Witness statements

  • Insurance information

  • Employment records

  • Lost wage documentation

  • Any expert opinions you may have

In addition to compiling the required documentation, it’s advisable to prepare a list of inquiries pertaining to your case, the legal procedures, or any apprehensions you may have. This will help you maximize the initial consultation and receive precise guidance on how to proceed with your claim.

call our personal injury lawyers

Summary

In conclusion, navigating the complexities of multi-victim accidents requires a thorough understanding of insurance policies, comparative fault, and strategies for maximizing compensation. It’s crucial to document the accident, seek immediate medical attention, and gather all necessary evidence. Understanding the specific laws of your jurisdiction, the process of filing insurance claims, and initiating a personal injury lawsuit are all essential steps to ensuring fair compensation. A free consultation with a personal injury attorney can provide invaluable guidance and help you understand your claim. Remember, preparation is key, and with the right knowledge and guidance, navigating a multi-victim accident becomes a manageable task.

WHO GETS PAID WHEN MULTIPLE CARS ARE IN AN ACCIDENT

Send us a Message
The Consultation is Free

Table of Contents

Recent Articles

About the Author

Benson Varghese Benson Varghese is the managing partner of Varghese Summersett. He is a seasoned trial attorney, highly esteemed for his comprehensive knowledge and expertise in the field. He has been to trial throughout state and federal courts in Texas. 

As a former insurance adjuster himself, Benson has insights into how insurance companies evaluate claims – and why without the proper encouragement, they are likely to undervalue a claim. Benson uses these insights combined with his clout in the courtroom to obtain justice for his clients – in and outside of the courtroom.

Personal InjuryFamily LawCriminal

Contact