Multiple vehicle crashes, sometimes referred to as chain-reaction accidents, occur when two cars strike one another, then a third trailing vehicle strikes one of the first two and more follow. In the end, you have a series of rear-end collisions and liability becomes murky.
There is a common myth out there that the last vehicle in the pile-up is automatically at-fault for the entire accident. Today, we will dispel this rumor and set the record straight so that everyone is aware of how liability works in these unique cases, and why the tailing vehicle is not always the one responsible.
Most importantly, you should always get the contact information for every vehicle involved, even if there are ten of them. You want all of the contact information, insurance information, and identifying information about each car. Also, get the information of any witnesses that saw the crash, because they might help piece together the puzzle later.
Multiple vehicle accidents happen in a variety of ways, and understanding the type that you are involved in may help identify which parties are at fault for the crash itself.
Here are a few examples of common types of chain reaction collisions:
It is not always the last car in the pile-up. Instead, the rule of thumb is that it is the driver who caused the initial crash. For a chain reaction crash, there is always the first collision with multiple collisions following after. Therefore, the party that created that initial accident would be at fault for the entire series of crashes. Other times, various parties may be found at fault.
Some examples of liability in a chain reaction accident include:
Let’s say that Driver 1 rear-ends Driver 2 for tailing too close. In that case, Driver 1 is responsible for that accident. Driver 3 comes along, distracted by his phone and texting a friend. He is not paying attention to the road; therefore, he rear-ends Driver 1’s vehicle, adding to the pileup. Now, because he was not paying attention and was distracted, Driver 3 is responsible for the damages of the rear of Driver 1’s vehicle and for the damage or injuries from Driver 2’s vehicle.
As you can see, when more parties are possibly at fault, the problems only pile up further. After all, if the vehicle in the middle is partially at fault partially and also a victim, how is compensation awarded and who is more at fault than the other?
Whether it is a single party at fault or multiple parties, police reports and investigations will play a crucial role in portioning out fault, especially if numerous parties end up being to blame.
In cases like these, evidence that might help prove which party started the chain reaction include:
In cases with multiple cars, the jury will usually look at the evidence and assign a portion of fault to each party that was considered partially to blame for the accident. Under contributory negligence rules, the amount of fault given to the plaintiff would reduce their compensation. Therefore, if a victim was awarded $100,000 in compensation but the jury found them 30 percent at-fault for the accident as well, then they would reduce compensation by $30,000; leaving the victim with $70,000.
This allows for someone to receive compensation, even though they might have been partially at fault for the second accident in the chain.
In other cases, the car that caused the accident could be at fault for the entire chain reaction. However, this is rare. Usually, for a chain reaction to occur, tailing vehicles would be following too close and unable to stop, which means they violated their duty as a motorist.
If, however, one driver is at fault for the entire chain, they are responsible for not only their property damage and injuries but the injuries and damage to the other vehicles. This can be an insurmountable amount of compensation – especially if you have two or more cars and multiple passengers involved.
Please do not assume that the law will figure it out. Multiple vehicle accidents tend to lead to much finger-pointing, and insurance companies use it as an opportunity to put the blame on those who are innocent. After all, the more responsibility placed on you, the less insurance companies have to pay out.
To protect yourself, you need an attorney with experience in accident claims like these.
Talk with an attorney from Koonz, McKenney, Johnson, DePaolis & Lightfoot, LLP, now. We offer free, no-obligation consultations at any of our three locations. Schedule your consult by calling an office near you or by contacting us online.