Who Is at Fault in a Multi-Car Accident?

March 24, 2021 Posted In Car Accidents

After a car accident, determining fault can be difficult when it is a multi-car pileup. It’s easy to point fingers, and drivers who are at-fault will seldom admit responsibility. Oftentimes, more than one driver will be liable, but there are significant factors that will determine that. 

The Last Car

The individual who was driving the last car is generally considered responsible for causing the multi-vehicle accident and can be liable for all other accident victims’ injuries and property damage. However, if there is a sudden stop by the front or middle car, California’s rule of comparative negligence can be argued, but more on that later. 

The Car in the Middle

The driver of the middle vehicle will typically be at least partially responsible for the damage to the front car, even if the last car forced them to crash. The middle vehicle will pursue a claim against the last car for damages. If the driver in the back can prove he or she did not have enough time to react to the middle vehicle, the driver in the middle vehicle may be held responsible for the accident. 

The Front Car

In general, the front car is not held liable in a multi-car accident. However, there may be an instance in which the middle car can prove the front car suddenly slammed on their brakes to avoid a collision and was subsequently rear-ended. Then the rule of comparative negligence may distribute liability differently. 

What is Comparative Negligence?

Multiple drivers can be at fault in a multi-car accident. That’s because California follows the rule of pure comparative negligence. Injured drivers can pursue claims against other drivers’ insurance companies, even when they are partially to blame for the collision. However, the compensation awarded will be reduced or eliminated according to a driver’s percentage of fault. For example, if the car in the back is awarded $5,000 in compensation, but found 80% at fault for the multi-car accident, they will only receive $1,000. The middle car is awarded $10,000, but found 20% at fault, which means they will recover $8,000. The front car avoided responsibility. 

How an Insurer or a Court May Assign Liability 

Here are some scenarios that show how an insurer or a court may assign liability: 

  • The last car (Driver C) causes the first accident by running into the middle vehicle (Driver B), causing a force that sends the middle vehicle (Driver B) into the front car (Driver A). In this case, Driver C is 100 percent responsible for the accident and liable for each drivers’ damages. 
  • The middle car (Driver B) causes the first accident by running into the front car (Driver A). The last car (Driver C) doesn’t stop in time and runs into the middle car (Driver B). Driver B will likely be liable for 90-100 percent of Driver A’s damages. Driver C, the last vehicle, will probably be responsible for all of Driver B’s damages and a small portion of Driver A’s (10 percent). 

Speak to a Multi-Car Accident Attorney Right Away

It is crucial to speak to an attorney immediately after a multi-car accident. As experienced litigators and trial lawyers, we can ensure that comparative fault is properly assigned, so that you recover enough compensation to fully cover your losses. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation. 

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