The Supreme Court of British Columbia Vancouver Registry recently dealt with this issue. Here, the plaintiff, a nurse and mother of two, was injured in three separate car accidents. The parties in this case were unable to reach a settlement, and this matter proceeded to trial. All three accidents were lumped into one action.
Once multiple accidents have been combined into one action, things get a little complicated. The law in British Columbia has come up with the concept of “divisible” and “indivisible” injuries. A divisible injury is much easier to deal with. Divisible injuries occur when two separate injuries occur that cannot be attributed to both accidents. For example, in one accident you break your leg and in another you break your arm. An indivisible injury occurs where you have an injury that has been attributed to by multiple accidents. For example, in one accident, you injure your neck and in the next you re-injure your neck. In the case of an indivisible injury it is impossible to say which accident caused the neck injury in its entirety, just that both contributed.
From the perspective of an injured party, the next question becomes who actually pays, and the answer to this question is equally complicated. If there is contributory negligence (where the plaintiff is partially responsible for their injury) things change. Assuming there is no contributory negligence, the defendants are “jointly and severally” liable.
From the injured party’s perspective, joint and several liability basically means that you can collect an entire award from any and all of the defendants, and the parties must sort out between themselves who pays. This can be especially beneficial when you suing a party with no money and/or insurance. Even if ICBC does not cover one party, they, as a result of being found jointly and severally liable, may have to pay for damages in their entirety.
This issue of joint and several liability will require further discussion in its own post, and, as always, I suggest you discuss these issues with a lawyer with experience in personal injury law. As you can see, getting injured in multiple car accidents is not only frustrating but complicates the legal process.