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Contribution: A Share in the Damages among Multiple Drivers in an Accident

When there is a car accident involving more than two cars, it may be increasingly difficult to determine the equitable share of the fault for each of the negligent drivers responsible for the plaintiff's injuries. If the plaintiff decides to file suit against only one of the negligent drivers, that negligent driver may bring any of the other negligent drivers, who he believes was also responsible for the accident, into the lawsuit. 

New York Contribution Law

New York allows the defendant of an action to bring in other third parties who may also be liable to the plaintiff for his injuries. This allows a defendant of a claim to force other negligent third parties involved in the accident to share in the damages that the plaintiff may ultimately win. The damages that the defendant will try to win from the third parties is called a contribution.

Contribution is the sharing of loss among multiple parties responsible for the accident and the plaintiff's injuries. The third party does not necessarily have to be brought into lawsuit by the plaintiff, but the defendant has procedural ways in which he may join a third party and require them to share in the liability and the damages, especially when the damages may be extremely costly.

How a Defendant May Join Third Parties into the Personal Injury Suit

There are three ways by which third parties who were actual participants in the motor vehicle accident may be brought into a personal injury claim:

  1. If the plaintiff asserts a claim against multiple parties and makes them co-defendants, the co-defendants can still bring action against each other;
  2. If the plaintiff only asserts a claim against one of the parties, that party may bring in a third party through an impleader; or
  3. The defendant may later bring a separate claim against the other parties responsible for the accident (but there are significant drawbacks to this).

How Contribution is Calculated

If the third parties are brought into the case by the defendant in any of the above mentioned three ways, the contribution will be determined by a specific formula. Contribution is calculated by the percentage of fault for which each negligent driver was found liable during the case. That percentage is applied to the overall damages amount.

For example, if D1 was at fault for 45 percent of the accident, D2 was responsible for 35 percent, and D3 was responsible for 20 percent, and if D1 is ordered to pay damages of $100,000, then D1 may recover $35,000 from D2, and $20,000 from D3. Ultimately, D1 is responsible for $45,000 and may not recover more than $55,000 from D2 and D3 jointly because that would be an amount greater than his liability share of the accident.

Contribution is thought to be an equitable way in which a defendant may hold accountable other negligent drivers who were liable for the plaintiff's injuries, especially when the defendant may not significantly be the most at fault.

As a plaintiff in an accident, it is your decision whether you wish to bring a claim against only one of the drivers involved or all of them. However, it is important to know that the defendant has rights to join the other negligent drivers into the claim, even though your claim, if won, should be paid out without problems.

If you or a loved one has been involved in a New York accident involving multiple drivers, please contact one of our experienced personal injury lawyers at Keogh Crispi, P.C. Our attorneys can assess your claim and determine which of the tortfeasors (if not all) should be brought into your claim for damages. Call us today at 212- 818-0600 or contact us online.

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