Sometimes personal injury lawsuits are not just one plaintiff suing one defendant. In some instances, the situation is more complex and it could be that more than one person could potentially be at fault for the injury to a plaintiff. When it comes to determining if one or both of the defendants are at fault the main legal theory is one of joint and several liability.
Joint and Several Liability With joint and several liability, each defendant will be liable for the total amount of a judgment or settlement to a defendant. Such damages for which they remain jointly liable include medical bills, but they will be severally liable for any other damages. In some states, like Illinois, courts will assign a percentage of fault for each defendant. Defendants can seek contribution from other defendants for any judgment or settlement in which one defendant paid more than their fair share of the total damages. Unfortunately, under this scheme defendants might not want to settle too quickly due to the concern of having to contribute to another defendant later. Defendants may have to sue one another for later contribution which makes a cheaper early settlement less of a discount.
Comparative and Contributory Negligence States will also have different legal theories on comparative or contributory negligence. With comparative negligence, a plaintiff will be able to recover based on a percentage of fault assigned to each defendant. In some states, even with a settlement the defendant will still be assigned a portion of fault to determine later contribution claims. Technically a plaintiff can still recover even if they are the most at fault for the accident. Pure comparative negligence states shift the risk of settling with one defendant to the plaintiff. The risk is that the plaintiff may not get a full recovery. Contributory negligence, in contrast, bars a plaintiff from recovery if they contribute in any way to the accident. Because each theory can be severe, some states adopt a hybrid approach. Illinois, for example, allows a plaintiff to recover only if they are responsible for less than fifty-one percent of the accident. Ultimately, hybrid states offer the best solution for both parties because the risk is more evenly spread.
This article is for general informational purposes only and is not to be construed as legal advice. Do not rely on the above information as all cases are different and different laws apply to different cases. Consult an attorney in your area for further guidance. If you were injured by multiple parties call one of our attorneys at David K. Kremin & Associates, and we will give you a free consultation. We never charge unless we collect for you. Please call 1(800) ASK-A-LAWYER or 1(800)275-2529, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.1800askalawyer.com.