Rear ended in multiple car collision...

by Vinod
(San Jose, CA , USA)

I was driving on a Two Lane highway that runs for 27 miles through the mountains that divides San Jose from Santa Cruz in California. This highway is notorious for accidents and just this year we have had two fatalities, both in slippery weather from the micro-climate found in this area.

The highway speed limit is around 60 miles an hour, and the route consists of an uphill climb from San Jose, marked by a clear summit stretch, followed by a shorter downward descent towards Santa Cruz.

I was coming back from Santa Cruz and had just passed the summit and was descending in rainy weather. Having already come by this way just an hour before, I was aware of a slowdown due to an accident. I was playing it safe and on the slower right lane when I came suddenly upon a stopped truck when going around a blind curve.

I managed to stop in time. Immediately after I stopped, I saw a truck come screaming around the corner and I braced for a high speed impact, but he quickly changed to the left lane and managed to squeeze through enough to slow down.

I just had a second to think I was safe when I felt a huge crunch that threw my car forward into the truck in front of me, despite having my foot on the brake. Best I can describe it is that the car sort of hopped into the car in front.

I had intense neck pain and was unaware of how many other cars beyond these were involved at the time. When I got out of the car, the guy in the truck in front was really irritated, but when I said sorry, he told me that it was not me he was irritated at, because he saw me stop in time, and saw the guy that hit me come around the corner at high speed.

The back of my car had taken serious damage to the door, which had moved out of alignment to the right and would not close the trunk, and to the latch that the trunk connected with, along with the lower bumper. The front bumper was damaged, as well as the hood. Rear light was cracked and driving made some strange sound, although it was movable enough to get home.

I exchanged information with the guy behind me, but was a bit disoriented from the neck pain and did not take the info for the guy in front or the police report, which I am going to get tomorrow.

I contacted the insurance of the person who hit me, and filed the first report. I contacted them twice more over the week to be told that they were waiting to get all the necessary information, but their party had accepted responsibility, although there was a problem and they could not authorize payment.

There were three other cars that were damaged other than mine, all of which had been completely stopped. His insurance policy had a liability limit, and therefore they were not sure if they could pay everyone off. So they were waiting to get information on the damages to all the other cars to determine how they would go about paying everyone.

What should I expect from this situation? I doubt that they're going to be able to pay me off fully if the minimum limit is $15000 in California. And it seems that this guy has the minimum limit.

And how does the insurance company determine the division of the payment? Is it equal to each party by percentage, or do they try and determine if any other of the drivers had partial culpability to pay that person less? Thanks for any information you can give.

Visitor Question:
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ANSWER for "Rear ended in multiple car collision...":

Vinod (San Jose, CA , USA):

There is some good news. You are mistaken about California's minimum car insurance requirements. According to California Insurance Code §11580.1b, the minimum car insurance requirements are "15/30/5."

This means if a negligent driver carries the minimum amounts as set out above, and he or she causes an accident, the negligent driver's insurance company will pay out the following amounts:

- A maximum amount of $15,000 for injuries to one person

- A maximum amount of $30,000 for injuries to two or more persons

- A maximum amount of $5,000 in property damage

The bad news is insurance companies are notorious for paying out as little as they can in insurance claims. Moreover, in your case the negligent driver’s insurance company will investigate the accident and determine what amounts will be paid out.

At this point you will have little say in the matter. The insurance company will likely contact you to hear your side of the story, and will do the same for the other drivers. Once they complete their investigation, they will decide who receives compensation, and how much.

In your case, it appears you were seriously injured. As a result, to be compensated fairly for your injuries, you really need to retain a personal injury attorney. The attorney will not charge you any fee until and unless he or she settles your claim, or wins it at trial.

Visit with a few personal injury attorneys. Moist won't charge for an initial conversation. After reviewing the facts, they will tell you if they can win your claim, and if so whether or not retaining them will result in a net higher or lower settlement amount. You can make your decision from there.

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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