If you’ve suffered a personal injury for which there are multiple potential causes, joint and several liability may come into play. Although the terminology may sound complicated, joint and several liability is a fairly simple concept. It’s based on two ideas: (1) the notion that everyone who might have been involved in an accident or injury should be in the same lawsuit; and (2) the injured party should not miss out on a full recovery if one of the causes of the accident or injury cannot pay.
A person who has been injured and files a lawsuit to recover damages is known as the plaintiff. The person being sued is known as the defendant. You can read more about how Montana personal injury lawsuits usually proceed in our prior blog here.
Sometimes, it is not clear who caused an accident. For that reason, a plaintiff will sometimes sue more than one defendant. On other occasions, a plaintiff may only sue one defendant, but that defendant brings one (or more) additional parties into the suit.
Multiple-party lawsuits are encouraged in the American legal system. It saves time and money to have every potentially responsible party in one court at one time. Multiple-party lawsuits also reduce the risk that there might be different outcomes if the suits are tried separately.
If a plaintiff wins in a full joint and several liability state, any defendant can be required to pay the full amount of the recovery. This can be very important when one or more defendants cannot or will not pay the judgment, for example, if one of the defendants went bankrupt or was immune from being sued. Therefore, joint and several liability is a useful tool for a personal injury plaintiff. A successful plaintiff can require any defendant to pay the award, and then the defendants are stuck working out the details between themselves later.
Montana, however, is a modified joint and several liability state. Montana law provides that any defendant who is more than 50% at fault incurs joint and several liability to the plaintiff. However, this rule does not apply to a defendant whose negligence is “determined to be 50% or less.” These defendants are only responsible for an award up to their percentage of fault.
If you’ve been injured by the fault of another, it’s important to work with an attorney who fully understands Montana tort law, including how joint and several liability are applied by Montana courts. At Tipp & Buley, we believe in aggressively pursuing recovery on behalf of those who have been injured. Call us today at 406-389-4215 or visit us online to set up a free initial consultation..