It happens more frequently than people would realize where an individual is injured in an automobile accident, and then within a year or two or even less, he or she sustains additional injuries in another automobile accident.
In a straightforward motor vehicle accident case with one accident, one injured party (the plaintiff), and one defendant (the at-fault driver), the litigation posture is simple. Take a rear-end collision, for example. In a rear-end collision, fault is rarely disputed. Taking for granted that fault is not a contested issue, in these types of cases, the primary fight is over damages. In other words, the task for the parties, and ultimately the judge and jury if the case goes to trial, is determining the magnitude of the plaintiff’s injury.
This process includes determining the damages which are strictly quantifiable, such as medical bills, which can be determined to an exact amount and evidenced by bills, as well as more intangible types of injury, such as pain and suffering and lost income or earning potential.
Returning back to the opening comment, in some instances, an individual will unfortunately suffer two or more automobile collisions in a short period of time. In these cases, the difficult issue that faces plaintiffs is accurately determining the extent of the injuries from each accident.
With a little bit of reflection, one can see how this would be a trap for the unwary. For example, if a person sustained two rear-end collisions in the same year, and then ended up with permanent back injuries, each defendant would probably argue that the back injuries were the result of the other collision. If each defendant succeeds with this defense, the plaintiff is left with no compensation for the injury.
For this reason, when a person sustains multiple injuries where the damages that result might be indivisible to some degree, the cases are usually consolidated so that the rights and liabilities of everyone involved can be adjudicated in one forum. This makes the judicial process more efficient, and it also prevents inconsistent judgments.
For plaintiffs, this is a good thing. It ensures that the plaintiff will be compensated fully for her injuries. The only real expense of it is losing the possibility of gaining double recovery, which is something to which she should not be entitled to anyway.
For a person in this situation, the good news is that proceeding in this type of litigation posture is mostly no different than in an ordinary motor vehicle accident case. That means a person should seek the medical attention that he or she needs, and also seek a lawyer to represent him or her in the consolidated action. Medical bills are the best way to prove and calculate damages, and failing to get needed treatment hurts a plaintiff in terms of health, but also in terms of eliminating the best method by which to prove the extent of the injuries.
As to the issue of determining what injuries came from which accident and who should be responsible, that is an issue for the trial and is dealt with in time, once the medical treatment is complete or near-complete, and the valuation of damages within reasonable certainty is possible.
(This post is intended to be educational and should not be construed as legal advice. If you have questions or believe these issues affect you or your case, please contact an attorney).