It is more difficult to assign fault in a multi-car accident than an accident involving only two vehicles. There are more factors to take into consideration and more parties with potential liability.
Witness accounts will also play an important role in determining fault after a multiple vehicle accident. When all parties involved agree on who was responsible for the accident fault is easy to decide but this is typically not the case. Each driver may have a different opinion on how the accident was caused and who was truly at fault.
As with other types of car accidents, fault will be determined based on negligence and liability. All drivers have a responsibility to practice safe driving habits in order to protect themselves and other people on the road. When a driver fails to act responsibly on the road resulting in an accident, they can be held liable for the resulting damages.
The four main factors to look at when determining fault are:
- Duty of Care: Did the responsible party or parties have a duty of care to the other vehicles involved in the accident?
- Negligence: Did the responsible party or parties breach their duty of care either through negligence or intent?
- Cause: Was the accident caused by the actions of the responsible party or parties?
- Damages: Were there injuries, property damage, or other financial losses caused by the accident?
Fault In A Multi-Car Accident After A Rear-End Collision
A multi-car pile-up is most commonly the result of a rear-end collision. When a car runs into the back of another car, the sudden stop may cause other cars to crash into the initial accident. The driver who first rear-ends another vehicle is usually held responsible. This is because the rear driver has the most ability and time to avoid a collision if they are driving safely.
The rear driver will also be held at fault in a rear-end collision where they crash into the vehicle in front of them and push that vehicle into other vehicles. In such a scenario, the lead vehicles were able to stop or drive without colliding with any other vehicle before being hit from behind and would not be responsible for the incident.
Comparative negligence can also play a part in a multi-car accident caused by a rear-end collision. The fault may be partially assigned to some or all parties in an accident in some cases. For instance, let’s say vehicle 1 is rear-ended by vehicle 2 on the highway. Vehicle 3 sees the accident and is able to stop before colliding with vehicle 2. However, vehicle 4 does not stop in time and crashes into the back of vehicle 3, pushing vehicle 3 into vehicle 2. Both vehicle 2 and vehicle 4 would be assigned a percentage of the fault for this multi-car accident.
Fault In A Multi-Car Accident After A Head-On Collision
The driver that was on the wrong side of the road is usually to blame for a head-on collision. This is often due to drunk driving, texting, and driving, or unsafe passing causing a driver to drift into oncoming traffic. Head-on collisions can be extremely forceful and cause the first two cars to collide to crash into other nearby cars.
However, there are some accidents where the driver on the wrong side of the road is not held responsible. A driver that is pushed into oncoming traffic after being sideswiped by another vehicle would not be at fault for the accident. The driver that sideswiped them is considered responsible. Another example would be if a driver had a sudden medical issue, such as a heart attack or seizure, causing them to drift into the wrong lane. That driver did not drive into oncoming traffic through any fault of their own.
Fault In A Multi-Car Accident At An Intersection
Multi-car accidents can also commonly occur at an intersection. This is most often a result of one vehicle running a stop sign or red light. In such an accident, the driver that failed to obey the rules of the road would be held liable. That driver should not have been in the intersection at that time and is therefore at fault. This is not always the case though. An intersection accident caused by a malfunctioning traffic control device would not be the fault of the drivers involved.
Drivers also commonly cause multi-car accidents at intersections when they are making a left turn. A vehicle may be waiting for oncoming traffic to clear before making its turn. However, as they make their turn they may strike or be struck by one or more vehicles and can careen those vehicles into others. Fault in this kind of intersection accident will be determined based on who had the right of way before the accident occurred.