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Multi-Vehicle Accidents: Who’s At Fault?

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Multi-Vehicle Accidents: Who's At Fault?

A multi-vehicle crash is also commonly referred to as a chain-reaction accident. It occurs when two cars bump into one another, followed by a strike from a third trailing automobile or more. At the end of this accident, you have multiple rear-end collisions. Therefore, it becomes challenging to pinpoint the perpetrator, making the liability all murky.

A huge misconception in the case of a multiple car accident is that the first or the last automobile is often at fault and is held accountable for the disturbing incident. However, this is just a myth.

This article gives you all the information you need to know about who is liable in a chain reaction accident. Moreover, it sheds light on why the tailing or last vehicle isn’t always responsible for the accident.

The most important thing to do in a case like this is to note down the contact information of all the involved vehicles. You will need to gather as much information as possible, including the insurance information of every car and a list of witnesses who saw the entire crash. This will help you piece the whole incident together.

How is the Fault Determined in a Multi-Vehicle Accident?

Like any other vehicular accident, it is essential to be well aware of the local traffic laws and the specific event of the accident. This is the only way to hold the at-fault driver accountable. Many people contact a personal injury lawyer to help determine who is at fault for an accident. A personal injury lawyer will consider all forensic evidence, eyewitness testing, police reports, and any available video recordings to determine who caused an accident.

Occasionally, the fault in multi-vehicle accidents is spread evenly amongst all the drivers involved in the accident. However, quite often, one driver is held accountable as the leading cause of the accident.

The most common type of multi-car accident occurs when the driver right ahead either slows down drastically or stops altogether. This causes the car behind to rear-end them and the third vehicle behind to rear-end into the second car, causing a chain reaction. In such a scenario, the lead car driver is held partly responsible for the incident, while other drivers are held accountable.

How Do Multi-Vehicle Accidents Happen?

Multi-vehicle accidents can occur in various ways. Knowing and understanding the type of multi-car accident you are involved in can help identify the at-fault parties of a car crash. Here are some instances of common types of multi-vehicle or chain reaction accidents.

Scenario 1 - Drivers 1 into 2, into 3

This first scenario is that Driver 2 and 3 are waiting at an intersection. Driver 1 loses control and rear-ends into Driver 2, naturally pushing Driver 2’s automobile into Driver 3. In this case, Driver 1 is the at-fault party for the collision.

Scenario 2 - Driver 4 into Driver 3 into Driver 2 into Driver 1

Another scenario is that Driver 2 is tailgating Driver 1 while speeding. When Driver 1 pushes their brakes without any warning signal, Driver 2 will naturally rear-end into Driver 1’s vehicle. Moreover, Driver 3 is also coming at a fast speed and ends up rear-ending Driver 2’s car. This can also make it impossible for Driver 4, 5, or even 6 to stop completely, causing them to collide into Driver 3.

Who Is at Fault in a Multi-Vehicle Accident?

Like we established before, it is not always the fault of the first or the last car in a multi-vehicle accident. The rule of thumb is usually the driver who caused the first or the initial crash. For instance, if Driver 2 rams into Driver 1 and Driver 3 collides with the other two cars, Driver 2 is most likely responsible for the crash. Like a chain reaction, every multi-vehicle crash always has a first collision followed by multiple accidents. Therefore, the driver that caused the first collision is most likely to be responsible for creating a series of crashes. However, this may not always be the case. Many times, other parties are also found guilty of causing a multiple-vehicle collision.

When a Single Party is at-fault in a Multi-Vehicle Accident

Here are some instances of liability when a single party is the cause of a multi-vehicle accident.

  • If the leading vehicle didn’t have functioning brake lights, had no brake lights at all, or failed to signal the drivers behind, this could force the oncoming vehicle to rear-end into them, followed by more cars. In this scenario, the first car that failed to show any lights or signals will be held responsible for initiating the series of accidents.
  • If the second vehicle were tailgating, the tailgating vehicle driver would be held accountable for the accident, even if caught in the pile-up.
  • If a driver, who is speeding or over-speeding, loses control of their vehicle and is unable to stop, causing an accident, they will be held accountable for the collision.
  • If the driver is absent-minded and distracted while driving and fails to stop at a stop sign, crashing into other vehicles, they will be held responsible for a multi-vehicle accident.

When Two or More Parties are at Fault

In the cases mentioned above, it is rather easy to determine the at-fault party. However, in some cases, there are multiple parties at-fault, making it challenging to decide on the liable ones.

For instance, Driver 1 rear-ends into Driver 2 because of tailgating. In this scenario, Driver 1 will be liable for the first accident. However, Driver 3 comes into the scene, driving while using their phone. Since Driver 3 wasn’t attentive, they crash into Driver 1’s vehicle, contributing further to the accident. Now, since Driver 3 was driving absentmindedly, they are liable for the second accident that caused further damage to Driver 1’s vehicle. Moreover, they might even have to pay for any injuries or damages caused to Driver 2’s car.

When more that one party is involved, how will the compensation be distributed and awarded?

Moreover, which party will be considered more at fault than the other? 

When multiple parties are responsible for a multi-vehicle accident, Contributory Negligence applies.

In case of a multi-car accident, the jury assesses all the evidence and witness accounts. It assigns some fault to each of the parties that were partially responsible for the crash. Under the rules of contributory negligence, the amount of responsibility allotted to a plaintiff reduces their compensation. For instance, if a victim is awarded a compensatory amount of $100,000, and the jury finds them to be 20% at fault for the accident, their compensation will be reduced by $20,000. Thus, the victim will be compensated with only $80,000.

On the bright side, contributory negligence still allows a party to be awarded a compensatory amount despite being partially responsible for causing the second accident.

In some other cases, the main driver that caused a multi-vehicle accident can be held responsible for the entire pile-up. However, this is a pretty rare occurrence. The main reason behind this is that multiple vehicles are usually tailgating one another for a chain-reaction crash to occur. This means that they aren’t following the traffic rules and are following other cars so tightly that it is almost impossible to stop in time.

However, if one driver is held accountable for the entire pile-up, they are liable for their property damage and injuries and injuries and damage to other vehicles. In this case, the compensation amount will be very high, especially considering there are two or more vehicles and passengers involved in the chain reaction.

In any scenario, the law will not always figure it out. Multi-vehicle accidents lead to a lot of blame being thrown around. Moreover, insurance companies try to bag their payday by blaming the victims involved in such accidents. The more responsibility is placed on you, the more you will have to pay rather than your insurance company. In such cases, the best thing to do is to hire an excellent personal injury lawyer to protect you.

What Do You Do If You are Involved in a Multi-Car Accident?

It may sound awful, but you need to be prepared in case any such scenario befalls you. It is better to be aware of what you should do when you are involved in a multi-car accident. You need to secure yourself before reaching out to an excellent personal injury lawyer.

Here are a few steps you can take if you are ever involved in a multi-car accident.

Stay Put

If you ever find yourself stuck in a multi-vehicle accident and have no immediate injuries, stay put in your vehicle. It is extremely dangerous for you to step out on the road during the hustle-bustle surrounding the pile-up. Moreover, you’re safer inside your car than outside in case any additional cars crash into the pile-up. It may be difficult, but you need to remain patient during this time and wait for the first responders to arrive and guide you on how to exit your vehicle.

Turn On Your Hazard Lights

You should always put your hazard lights on if you are involved in a chain-reaction accident on a dark road, street, or even the highway. Vehicles may be approaching the scene at high speed and may not be aware of the mess that lies ahead of them. So, it might be too late until they realize about the accident and crash into the pile-up. The first thing you need to do if you are conscious is to turn on your hazards to make other drivers aware.

Gather as Much Information as Possible

Once the first responders have arrived at the scene and told you that you are safe to exit your vehicle, you can begin collecting evidence. Make sure to remain safe during this time and without injuring yourself any further. You should get right to this only if you are safe and sound. You can gather information such as photos, license plate numbers, police reports, the contact information of all those involved, the contact information of eyewitnesses, and any other relevant information.

Go for a Physical Examination and Check-up

At times, your injuries might not be immediately visible. In this case, you should always go for a complete physical check-up and examination right after the accident. Make sure you do this even if you haven’t suffered from any significant or visible injuries.

Call Your Personal Injury Lawyer and Insurance Company

Once you are safe, you should call your personal injury lawyer immediately. They will help you figure out everything correctly. Moreover, you should also call up your insurance company to inform them of the scenario. Remember not to chat up with any other drivers’ insurance company.

Be Mindful of Your Statements

You might have to answer a lot of questions after the accident. So, make sure to remain vigilant and mindful when giving your account. Be truthful about the situation, but do not admit any fault. Moreover, make sure your injury lawyer is present when you are providing any statements.

Free Consultation

In a multi-vehicle accident, it can be difficult to determine who is at fault. If you are involved in a multi-car accident, you should consult the personal injury lawyers of Phoong Law immediately. They will help conduct a detailed investigation to determine fault and advise you in protecting your rights. Phoong Law Corp personal injury lawyers will make sure that you get the compensation you deserve, so don’t hesitate to call them.

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