Determining Fault in a Multi-Car Crash

The Liability Determination

One of the first orders of business in a personal injury case is determining liability (fault).  The determination of fault is necessary before an insurance company will pay for injuries or other damages/losses.  The party who caused the accident is responsible for compensating those who suffered losses.  When the subject accident involved multiple vehicles, it can be difficult to determine which party or parties caused the crash.  In a complicated case with severe injuries and high damages, a skilled Sacramento personal injury lawyer may decide to hire experts in accident reconstruction to argue the issue of liability. 

Watch the YouTube video from MotorWeek examining the role of the accident reconstructionist.

Multi-Car Collisions

While accidents involving multiple vehicles do occasionally occur on residential and surface streets, most of the time, they happen on highways.  There are a few different scenarios under which multiple vehicle accidents commonly occur.  These include:

  • Semi-truck accidents.  Because of the size of commercial trucks, when one is involved in a collision, it frequently pushes the vehicle it hit into other cars.  Sometimes, the initial truck collision involves more than one vehicle being struck simultaneously.
  • Rear-enders.  Collisions that begin with one car rear-ending another often result in a chain reaction of other collisions behind the first crash.  This is especially true in heavy traffic conditions or when visibility is affected by darkness or fog.  In addition to the chain-reaction type situation, rear-end accidents also may involve the car in front of the struck vehicle, as it is pushed forward into the leading vehicle’s rear bumper.
  • Head-on collisions.  Head-on crashes most often occur on two-lane roads.  They can be devastating – and they occur without warning.  The sudden impact may result in cars following either of the two initially involved vehicles to also be involved in the wreck.  When people do not allow enough space between their vehicle and the one in front of them, any accident can turn into a multi-vehicle crash.
  • T-bone collisions.  Often occuring at intersections, T-bone type collisions can push the struck vehicle into oncoming traffic, and that may result in a second crash. Additionally, as always, cars following too closely may not be able to stop in time and crash into the vehicles that were initially involved.

Determining Fault in a Multi-Car Crash

With multiple involved drivers, chances are you will get multiple versions of the event.  Sometimes, one driver will step up and admit fault for causing the accident.  Often though, through intentional deceit or simple misinterpretation, the facts are jumbled.  Independent eyewitnesses can help sort out the details, as can dashcams.  However, if there were no witnesses and no recording of the accident, fault determination becomes an exercise in examining the evidence.  Insurance companies have a vested interest in not finding their own insured at fault, so it may become necessary to enlist the services of an accident reconstructionist to analyze the evidence in order to reach a fault determination.  

It may be that one person did not solely cause the accident.  Since California is a pure comparative fault state, after investigation the liability would be proportioned to each party whose actions contributed in some way to the accident, and any money received would be reduced by each party’s percentage of fault.

Sacramento Personal Injury Attorney

Hello and thank you for reading our discussion of fault determination in a crash involving multiple vehicles.  My name is Ed Smith, and I have been a Sacramento, California personal injury lawyer for more than 38 years.  Navigating a complicated insurance claim by yourself is a daunting task, especially when you are also recovering from injuries.  Our skilled injury lawyers can help – even if it is simply by offering free and friendly advice.  Call us today at (916) 921-6400 or (800) 404-5400.  If you prefer, send us your questions and comments through our Contact Us link.

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