You can file two separate claims for the same accident if two parties or entities are liable. Doing so enables you to maximize your compensation by holding each potentially at-fault party financially responsible for your injuries. You can, for instance, file a workers’ compensation claim if you got injured on the job and a separate personal injury claim if a third party contributed to the accident that resulted in your injuries.
Can I Sue Multiple Parties for the Same Accident?
You have a right to sue multiple parties for the same accident if you suffered injuries or damages because of the negligence of two or more persons or entities. Joint and Several Liability is the legal doctrine that applies to this situation.
Joint liability means each party is legally responsible for all your recoverable damages. This rule comes in handy when the other party lacks insurance coverage or is incapable of paying.
Several liability implies that each party is only liable to pay for his or her percentage of the damages.
Pure Joint and Several Liability
Some states operate on a “pure joint and several liability” legal doctrine. This doctrine implies that you can only receive the exact amount of damages that the at-fault party is liable for, based on his or her percentage of fault.
Example: A court awards you $200,000 for your injury and determines that defendant A is 40% at fault and defendant B is 60%. In this case, you can only receive up to $80,000 from defendant A and up to $120,000 from defendant B. You cannot recover $200,000 from defendant A and zero from defendant B, and vice versa.
Modified Joint and Several Liability
Other states, like Illinois, operate on “modified joint and several liability” legal theory. This theory means a defendant whose share of fault for an accident is over 25% will be liable for a maximum of 100% of the damages awarded to the victim. This consideration applies when the other defendant lacks insurance, has insufficient insurance, or is incapable of paying.
Example: The court cleared you from any liability for your accident or injuries. It then awarded you $200,000 in economic damages and $200,000 in non-economic damages. If defendant A is 40% liable and carries $450,000 in insurance, and defendant B is 60% liable with no insurance, defendant A will be responsible for paying all your recoverable damages. Defendant A will pay economic damages worth $200,000 and non-economic damages worth $200,000 because B lacks insurance to cover the damages.
A defendant whose percent of fault for an accident is under 25% will be liable for 100% of the victim’s economic damages, but only severally responsible for the victim’s non-economic damages.
Example: You are not responsible for your accident, and the court awards you $200,000 in economic damages and $200,000 in non-economic damages. Defendant A is 85% liable and carries insurance coverage worth $25,000, and defendant B is 15% liable and has $450,000 in insurance. In this situation, defendant B will cover all your economic damages. Defendant B will, however, be responsible for only his or her percentage of the non-economic damages, which is 15% or $30,000.
Assigning fault in an accident involving multiple liable parties can be confusing and overwhelming, especially if you are working alone. Working with a lawyer is your best bet at recovering maximum compensation for your injuries. Ideally, you should hire a personal injury lawyer soon after the accident or hospital discharge. You can even request a family member or friend to help you find a lawyer if you are seriously hurt and need to stay at the hospital for some time.
When Can You File Two Separate Claims for the Same Accident?
You might be able to file two separate claims for the same accident when two parties are responsible for the resulting damages of the accident. Some instances when two parties could be liable for damages arising from the same accident include:
A multi-car accident is a crash that involves several vehicles. This type of accident happens due to the negligent actions of more than one driver. A chain reaction accident is an example of a multi-car accident.
For instance, Driver A is driving above the speed limit behind Driver B, and traffic ahead stops suddenly. Driver A tries to stop and ends up hitting the back of Driver B because the vehicle is moving at high speed. Driver B, in turn, rear-ends Driver C because he or she was driving too closely to Driver C.
In the above scenario, Driver C can hold both Driver A and Driver B liable for the accident. Driver A will be at fault for speeding, while Drive B will be liable for violating the safe following distance rule.
Local, state, and federal government agencies are responsible for keeping roads safe and well-maintained. Let’s assume you sustain injuries in an accident caused by a speeding driver who tried to swerve to avoid a dangerous condition on the roadway. In this scenario, you might sue the at-fault driver and the government agency in charge of the road.
Slip and Fall Accident
Depending on the unique circumstances of your accident, you might pursue damages from different parties responsible for your accident and ensuing injuries. An example is when a contractor creates an unsafe condition while performing repairs, and the store owner fails to remove it or put a warning sign. You might recover compensation from the contractor and owner of the store if you suffer a slip and fall injury because of that harmful condition.
A workplace accident can also give rise to two separate claims. An example is when a third party is responsible for your on-the-job injury. In that case, you can file a workers’ comp claim and a personal injury claim against the liable third party.
Workers’ Compensation Claims and Third-Party Liability
You might be eligible to receive compensation via a workers’ compensation claim if you get injured at work. Depending on the facts of your case, other parties or entities that are not your employer or co-workers may also have contributed to your personal injury. In this scenario, you can file a third-party liability claim against those parties.
Workers’ Compensation Claims
You might be eligible to initiate a workers’ comp claim if you were injured at work, regardless of who caused your injury. Under Illinois law, employers must maintain workers’ compensation insurance to offer monthly benefits to employees with work-related injuries. These benefits cover reasonable and necessary medical care and supplement your salary temporarily or permanently, depending on the impact of your injury on your ability to work.
Workers’ comp is no-fault insurance. As such, you do not have to prove the employer’s liability to receive compensation. Additionally, you cannot bring a personal injury claim against your employer unless the employer has no workers’ comp coverage.
Worker’s comp payouts are usually limited and might not cover the full extent of your medical bills or lost wages. They also do not cover non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering and emotional anguish, and punitive damages. You can, however, recover such damages through a third-party liability claim.
Third-Party Liability Claims
Besides workers’ compensation, your other option for recovering damages is a third-party liability claim. As mentioned earlier, you might have grounds for a third-party liability claim if another person that is not your employer or workmate caused your accident or injury.
The following are examples of situations when you can file a workers’ comp claim and a separate third-party liability claim:
An Accident Caused by a Negligent Driver
You can pursue workers’ compensation benefits if you are on the road for job-related reasons and get injured in an accident caused by a distracted driver of another car. You can also pursue a separate injury claim against the negligent driver.
You might pursue additional compensation via a premises liability claim if you got injured on a client’s property because of a dangerous condition the client knew or should have known about.
You might recover additional compensation if your work-related injury stemmed from work equipment with a design or manufacturing defect.
You must demonstrate by a preponderance of the evidence that someone who is not your employer or workmate is liable for your injury to win litigation in a personal injury case involving a work injury. Your evidence must convince the judge or jury that it is more than 50% likely that the defendant caused your work injury. Your injury claim must prove the following elements:
- There was a duty of care between you and the defendant,
- The defendant failed to fulfill that duty,
- Failure to fulfill the duty of care directly caused your accident and injuries,
- You suffered actual and significant losses because of your injuries.
The workers’ comp insurance carrier might have the right of subrogation in your third-party liability claim. In other words, the insurance carrier may seek reimbursement for the damages it paid from a third party responsible for your job-related injuries.
Chicago personal injury and workers’ compensation attorney Howard Ankin has a passion for justice and a relentless commitment to defending injured victims throughout the Chicagoland area. With decades of experience achieving justice on behalf of the people of Chicago, Howard has earned a reputation as a proven leader in and out of the courtroom. Respected by peers and clients alike, Howard’s multifaceted approach to the law and empathetic nature have secured him a spot as an influential figure in the Illinois legal system.