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Determining Causation in Multiple Vehicle Crashes

| Apr 6, 2010

Did you know that if someone hits you in an automobile accident in South Carolina , and then you are hit by a second car soon thereafter, the driver of the first car may be responsible for injuries resulting from the second accident? At first, this seems odd. It seems like the driver of Car 1 should only be responsible for injuries caused by Accident 1, and that the driver of Car 2 should only be responsible for injuries caused by Accident 2 - but this is not always the case.

A recent decision rendered by the South Carolina Court of Appeals highlights this issue, Hughes v. Western Carolina Regional Sewer Authority (S.C. Ct. App., Oct. 22, 2009). In Hughes, Car 1 didn't stop at an intersection and hit Mr. Hughes's car. Mr. Hughes was shaken up, but not injured. He got out of the car, presumably waiting for the police to arrive, when Car 2 came through the intersection and hit Mr. Hughes, causing a severe leg injury.

This case highlights the important legal issue of "proximate causation". Proximate causation can be a tough issue to predict how a court may rule. Proximate causation asks whether the defendant's actions are closely enough related to the plaintiff's injuries to say that "the defendant caused the plaintiff's injuries." In this case, if the driver of Car 1 could have foreseen that after the accident, another car might proceed illegally through the intersection and hit Mr. Hughes while he was waiting for the police, then Car 1 may be held legally responsible for the resulting injuries. The court held that it was up to the jury to decide whether Car 1 could have foreseen that Car 2 would hit Mr. Hughes. In this case, the jury did find that the driver of Car 1 was at fault for injuries inflicted by Car 2.

It is important to note that the driver of Car 2 is also responsible for such a victim's injuries. However, if the driver of Car 2 did not carry a valid car insurance policy, or if the victim's injuries exceed the amount of liability insurance available, he will have to look other places to find enough coverage to pay for his medical treatment, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

It's not always apparent who is responsible for an auto accident under our system of laws. In situations like this, more than one person may be responsible. It's issues like this that make it worth finding an experienced South Carolina car accident lawyer when you've been injured.

"The information relayed in this blog is for educational purposes only and is not legal advice. The cases referenced and explained by the blog's author(s) are for informational purposes only and are not intended to imply that certain, or similar, results may be achieved in each client's case."

Categories: Auto Accidents
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