Recovering From Multiple Defendants in Arizona — The Doctrine of Several Liability
Motor vehicle accidents — like many other accident scenarios — often involve multiple defendants. Bringing an action against a single defendant is quite a bit different than suing multiple defendants, even if the case may seem uncomplicated upon first impression.
For example, if you have been injured in a motor vehicle accident where two speeding cars collided with yours (on the highway), then you would have to sue and recover from each defendant separately. Defendants are well aware of the fact that this burden is placed on the injured plaintiff, and may attempt to minimize their liabilities by shifting the greater portion of the blame to the other defendants in the case.
Arizona Implements Several Liability, Not Joint Liability
In Arizona, historically, the state implemented “joint and several” liability. Joint and several liability gave the injured plaintiff a great deal of power — the plaintiff could sue any one of the defendants who contributed to their injuries, and in turn, recover the full amount of their damages from that one defendant, even if the defendant was only minimally liable for the injuries at-issue.
For example, in a case with $1 million in damages, a defendant who was only 10 percent at-fault could be held liable for the entire $1 million!
Unfortunately, lawmakers came to believe that the system was unfair to defendants, and abolished “joint and several” liability, replacing it with a system of pure several liability. If you are injured in an accident in Arizona, you will therefore be subject to the state’s implementation of several liability.
How does several liability work?
It’s quite simple, actually. Several liability holds each defendant liable for damages that are proportional to their actual fault. The courts enter separate judgment against each defendant for the amount owed.
For example, in a case with $1 million in damages, a defendant who was 10 percent at-fault could only be held liable for their proportional amount in damages: $100,000.
Several liability puts a much greater burden on the injured plaintiff, as they can no longer sue and recover their damages (in full) from a single defendant. The plaintiff must identify all potentially liable defendants and file claims against them, accounting for their proportional contribution of fault.
Contact an Experienced Phoenix Injury Lawyer for a Free Consultation
If you have suffered injuries in a motor vehicle accident that was caused by the negligent or wrongful acts of another, then Arizona law may give you a right to recover damages as compensation.
Even if there is strong evidence pointing to the liability of the defendant, your lawsuit may be complicated by other issues, such as the existence of multiple fault-contributing defendants. If multiple defendants are found to be at-fault for your injuries — which is often the case in motor vehicle accident scenarios — then you will have to properly evaluate their separate liabilities and doggedly pursue your individual claims against each defendant.
Here at Hirsch & Lyon, we understand that serious motor vehicle accidents (and the legal consequences) can be overwhelming to plaintiffs who are unfamiliar with the complexities of the litigation process. As such, we strive to provide client-oriented legal representation — to that end, we consistently communicate case developments, make ourselves available 24/7 to answer any questions or concerns, and charge discounted fees so that our clients can keep more of what they recover.
Call (602) 535-1900 today to schedule a free and confidential consultation with an experienced Phoenix injury lawyer here at Hirsch & Lyon. We look forward to assisting you.