In the most simplified personal injury cases, one person, the plaintiff, sues one other person, the defendant. However, there are many scenarios in which more than one person or even several corporate entities might be liable. These multi-party lawsuits ensure that everyone responsible for an injury or death is held accountable, but naturally they’re more complex. So how do you file a claim against several parties and how is liability determined?
The first thing to understand is that Arizona follows a “pure comparative fault” or “pure several liability” rule. That complicated legal wording simply means that fault in an accident is split between defendants depending on their level of responsibility. For example, say three drivers were in an accident— one driver was speeding, the other driver made an illegal move, and the third was simply collateral damage. If the third driver decided to sue the other two for injuries and damages, the court would have to decide the level of fault of the those drivers. Maybe the speeder is held accountable for 40% of the damages, while the driver who made an illegal move is responsible for the remaining 60%. The court decides the comparative fault of the drivers, and then the cost of the damages is split between the defendants according to that ruling.
A recent, high profile lawsuit illustrates how comparative fault can work. In 2014, while working on a film set, camera assistant Sarah Jones was killed by a train, prompting a wrongful death lawsuit. It was discovered that the production did not have authorization to film near the train tracks, a fact unknown by much of crew, including Jones. The defendants included the film director, production managers, and the train company, among others. As a result, a jury had to determine the amount of damages at stake ($11.2 million) and the percentage of fault between the defendants. In a recent July 2017 ruling, the train company, CSX Transportation, was held responsible for 35% ($3.9 million) of the damages for failing to take proper safety precautions during the crash. The remaining damages have been split between the other defendants, while the film director also served jail time.
As you can imagine, comparative fault can be a more difficult process, as percentages of guilt must be determined. However, several defendants can be better in the long run; more damages are likely to be paid because the cost is split between several parties. Moreover, this approach can be seen as more proportionate than other liability laws, since it determines exact fault. Ideally, everyone pays only their fair share.
To sue multiple parties, they need to be named in the lawsuit. If you’re unsure of who exactly can be held responsible for an accident, wrongful death, medical malpractice, or other personal injury case, contact Bellah Perez, PLLC. Our personal injury attorneys can held you understand how many defendants you can name in your case, allowing you to receive maximum damages for your pain and suffering. We’ll make sure those responsible are held accountable for their portion of negligence. Call today: (602) 252-9937.
Disclaimer: The answer is intended to be for informational purposes only. It should not be relied on as legal advice, nor construed as a form of attorney-client relationship.