Wednesday, September 11, 2013

What Happens If Two Drivers Injured Me?

An example will hopefully show how Ohio law allocates responsibility when more than one party is responsible for an auto accident. A driver is on her way to work when she’s rear ended by another motorist (let’s call him negligent driver No 1). She pulls her car over to the side of the road and safely exits her car.

Unbeknownst to her, a second motorist (negligent driver No 2) traveling in the same direction is not paying attention and hits her off the road, in the berm.

How responsibility among the two negligent drivers is allocated depends upon the injured motorist’s injuries. If her injuries are “indivisible,” meaning that it cannot be determined which negligent driver caused which injuries, then under Ohio law both negligent drivers are presumed to be liable for all of her injuries. The negligent drivers would then have the burden to prove which of those injuries they caused or didn’t cause.

On the other hand, if the injuries were “divisible,” meaning that each negligent driver caused separate and distinct injuries, both could be “jointly and severally” liable to the injured driver, but with a twist. Each negligent driver would be 100% responsible for the driver’s “economic damages.” These are what I call “calculator damages,” such as past and future medical bills, lost wages, and anything else that can be tabulated.

However, as to damages for physical pain, suffering, and future pain and suffering, inability to enjoy activities and hobbies, etc, the negligent parties are only liable for their percentage share of those damages.

How would this work? If a jury determines that negligent driver No 1 is 70% responsible for the crash, and negligent driver No 2 is 30% responsible, they are liable for 70% and 30% of the injured person’s physical pain and disabilities.

As you can imagine, this whole area can get dicey or confusing, and takes effort to ferret out who caused what injuries. But at least the law accounts for both possibilities.

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