Determining liability in a car accident with only two cars can be a difficult task. But what about when three, four, or eight cars are involved? Who is determined to be at fault? Furthermore, if you are injured in a multi-car accident, who will pay out your personal injury claim?
The short answer is that the person who is liable for the accident pays your claim. The liable person is the person “at fault” for the accident. In other words, the person whose negligence caused the accident is at fault.
Some states are “no-fault liability” states. This means that it doesn’t matter who caused the accident, each driver’s own insurance company will handle their claim. In very serious accidents, a personal injury claim may be filed against to recover damages not covered by one’s own insurance company.
At Fault Liability
Immediately following a car accident, the police will conduct an on the scene investigation and prepare a report. But most insurance companies will also assign an accident investigator to investigate claims. These investigations will be used to determine who is at fault for the accident. Once determined, claims can be made against the driver who caused the accident.
Multi-car accidents are often referred to as “chain reactions”. A chain reaction accident occurs when three or more vehicles rear-end each other, often caused by a single initiating collision from the car in the back of the chain. Visually, it looks something like this:
Car D rear-ends à Car C, who rear-ends à Car B, who then rear-ends à Car A
In a chain reaction accident, determining which driver is liable is a matter of determining which driver’s negligence caused the accident. In the example above, it seems clear that Car D caused the accident. However, each driver has a responsibility to maintain a safe distance from the car in front of them, if Car C was too close to Car B, Car C may be found partially liable for the accident.
“Pile ups” are also accidents involving multiple cars. Often, pile up accidents occur in low-visibility, extreme weather conditions on crowded and high-speed routes, such as freeways. Heavy fog, slick rain, dust storms, and “white out” blizzards are often listed as the cause of multi-car pile ups. These large accidents have been known to involve more than 100 cars. Determining the exact person(s) whose negligence caused the pile up is often an impossible task for investigators. In such an accident, driver’s often file claims with their own insurance companies to seek damages.
If you’ve been injured in a multi-car accident and don’t know where to begin, contact an experienced lawyer, for a free consultation.