More than One Person Can Be Negligent to Cause an Injury

Posted By Matthew Clawson || 11-Jun-2015

What happens when more than one person causes an injury? How does the insurance company pay the claim when different insurance companies are responsible for one injury?

It is not all that unusual that someone is injured by the negligence of more than one person. Consider an icy intersection when several cars go too fast and fail to stop for a stop sign. Two (or more) drivers may be responsible for injuries to the driver who had the right of way, only to be hit by multiple cars that have gone out of control due to the negligence of their drivers. Or consider a fall at a store: both the owner of the store business and the owner of the premises may have been negligent to create a dangerous condition for customers in the store.

Before 1986, Colorado law permitted the person who was injured by the negligence of two or more persons to pick one negligent party (usually the one with the most assets to pay for the claim) and pursue the injury claim against just one of the negligent parties. In 1986, however, the Colorado state legislature passed a law that required the joinder of all responsible parties to a claim so that the court could look at all the facts and assess the appropriate percentage of fault against each person who caused the injury. The purpose of the statute was to make each negligent party pay no more than its fair share of the damages owed to the injured party.

In order to make sure that a negligent person does not point the finger of fault at just anyone who was in the area of the injury, however, the law also requires the negligent party provide the injured person with “adequate notice” of the “non-party’s” fault so that the injured party can make a claim against the newly designated non-party to the claim. The law still protects the injured person from receiving random or speculative designations of others at fault for the injury:

  • The designation of another party must set forth the name and last known address of the other party or “the best identification of such nonparty which is possible under the circumstances”; this means that the designation of another party must be the result of a reasonable investigation of the facts.
  • The designation of another party at fault for the injury must contain “a brief statement” of the factual and legal basis for the negligent party’s belief that the other part was partly at fault for the injury.
  • If a lawsuit was filed for the injury claim, the negligent party who was sued must designate the other party(ies) it claims were also at fault within 90 days of when the injury claim was filed in court.

Although the new law only applies specifically to injury claims that have been filed in court, insurance adjusters will also apply the law to evaluate the amount of money the insurance company will pay to the injured claimant. In negotiating a settlement of an injury claim, an insurance adjuster may assert, for example, that another party (not their insured) was 50% at fault for the injury and, thus, only offer half of what the claim may be worth. The insurance adjuster will stick to this position even if the “non-party at fault” has no insurance or assets to pay for his or her share of the damages. This position will make a settlement of the claim impossible.

When an injury is caused by more than one person, resolution of that injury claim can be complex and will likely require the assistance of experienced personal injury attorneys. If you have this kind of tricky injury claim, consider a free initial consultation with the experienced attorneys at Clawson & Clawson LLP. Our attorneys will discuss all the options you have regarding this kind of complex injury claim so that you can understand why the insurance company won’t pay for your injuries and then consider the best way to get your claim resolved.

Categories: Personal Injury

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