Liability in four car pile-up?

by Anonymous
(Illinois)

I was in a 4-car accident. I was the 4th car, the third car which is in front of me stopped completely, hitting the second car in front of him, which then hit car 1 that was in front of it. Car number 2 said that he thinks car 3 fell asleep which caused him being rear-ended.

The cop issued car 3 a ticket, but not me and the rest of the cars. I was trying to file a claim from car 3's insurance, but they said since I rear-ended him, they are not liable for my damages.

My car is totaled since car 3 is a Dodge Durango with a tow latch, and I have a Honda Civic. Now, I am car-less and still have to pay for my car, since I only had liability insurance.

The police report showed that it was car 3's fault, but the insurance person said that they don't go by that. Is that true? I am thinking about getting a lawyer. I paid for the tow and everything out of my own pocket. The passenger I had was rushed to the ER as well. How can I get the at-fault driver's insurance to pay? Thanks.

Visitor Question:
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ANSWER for "Liability in four car pile-up?":

Anonymous (Illinois):

The insurance company has a firm position. In most states, including the State of Illinois, a driver following behind another driver must stay far enough back to be able to stop in time. In this case, the insurance company is clearly contending you failed to stay far enough behind driver number 3. Because of this, they are holding you solely responsible (liable) for the damage to your car.

In taking this position, the insurance company is quite likely relying on Illinois Revised Statutes 625 ILCS 5/11-710, which states in part...

"(a) The driver of a motor vehicle shall not follow another vehicle more closely than is reasonable and prudent, having due regard for the speed of such vehicles and the traffic upon and the condition of the highway."

Prepare yourself for another shock. Your passenger may have the basis of a legitimate personal injury claim against YOU. Because you may have been in violation of Illinois Revised Statutes 625 ILCS 5/11-710, your passenger can contend you were negligent. Learn more about the concept of negligence in personal injury claims here and here.

Your passenger may have the right to compensation from you for his or her medical bills, out-of-pocket expenses (for medications, costs of travel to treatment, crutches, etc.), lost wages, and even an amount for his or her pain and suffering.

If you haven't done so already, immediately report the collision to your own insurance company. You likely have a contractual obligation to do so. This is especially important if your passenger decides to file a personal injury claim against you.

Fortunately for you, under almost all liability insurance policies, an insurance company is contractually bound to provide to their insured an attorney (at no cost) to represent them in the event the insured is sued by a third party...in your case, your passenger.

Unlike personal injury claims which are accepted by attorneys on a contingency fee basis, your claim against driver number 3 is solely for property damage. As a result, you would likely have to pay an attorney on an hourly basis to represent you. Unless you're trying to prove a point, from a financial standpoint, hiring an attorney would be ill-advised.

The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from an attorney licensed in your state. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here, or call (888) 647-2490.

Best of luck,

Judge Calisi

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