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Who Is at Fault in a Chain Reaction Car Accident?

Posted on January 24, 2020 in Car Accidents

In California, it is necessary to determine fault before you can begin the insurance claims process. The state’s tort claim law states that it will be the at-fault party’s responsibility to pay for everyone else’s damages after a car accident. In a collision involving three or more drivers, however, assigning fault can be difficult. Three-car accidents may require deeper investigations to determine liability so speak with a Los Angeles personal injury lawyer experienced in 3-car accidents if you have any questions regarding liability.

3 Car Accident

Who Caused the Initial Collision?

In a typical car accident claim, the legally responsible party will be the one behind the proximate, or main, cause of the collision. The same is true for a three-vehicle crash if it is a chain reaction accident. While multiple parties may have suffered injuries and vehicle damages, the party accountable for the initial crash will be the one responsible for the accident.

Take, for example, a chain of rear-end collisions between drivers A, B and C. Driver A started the crash by colliding into the back of Driver B. The collision occurred with such force, however, that Driver B crashed into the back of Driver C. Although Driver A and Driver C never made any contact, Driver A would still be responsible for Driver C’s damages for causing the initial collision that started the chain reaction.

It may take an investigation of the three-car accident to determine who or what started the initial crash. In a three-car crash involving a lane change, for example, it can be more difficult to determine fault. Either Driver A or Driver B could be at fault for making an unsafe lane change and causing Driver C, driving behind them, damages. Either or both drivers may owe Driver C compensation depending on the circumstances. It may require a thorough investigation to determine which driver bears fault.

Multiple Drivers May Share Fault

Some three-car accidents do not involve the fault of just one driver. Sometimes, multiple drivers share fault for causing the crash. California uses the legal principle of joint and several liability, meaning two or more parties can be independently responsible for damages. Multiple parties may each be 100% liable for the victim’s economic damages, but only partially liable for noneconomic damages based on percentages of fault. In a crash involving multiple at-fault drivers, therefore, a victim could receive full settlements from more than one insurance company.

Even if a victim contributes to the three-car crash, he or she could remain eligible for partial compensation under California’s pure comparative negligence law. The pure comparative negligence law states that even if a plaintiff was 99% at fault for the car accident, he or she could still receive 1% of a compensatory award. Fault for an accident will not bar the plaintiff from financial recovery as long as someone else was also at fault.

Who Is Liable for a Pile-Up Accident?

A pile-up can involve three, four or more vehicles in the same accident. Pile-ups can cause catastrophic and fatal injuries in multiple cars. The process for identifying fault for a pile-up is similar to a three-car crash. Fault will end with the driver responsible for the initial collision, if that collision is what caused the other vehicles to crash. If a commercial truck driver, for example, lost control of his truck and flipped it onto three other vehicles, then other cars crashed into the wreckage, the truck driver would be responsible for everyone’s damages.

Multi-vehicle car accidents often take specialists, crash reconstructionists, experts and investigators to determine fault. Many drivers may each be partially responsible for causing or contributing to the pile-up, or just one driver may be liable. Unraveling how a multi-vehicle accident occurred may take photographs of the crash, examinations of vehicle damages, interviews with eyewitnesses and opinions from accident experts. Victims injured in three-car crashes or pile-ups should partner with aggressive Los Angeles auto accident attorneys for assistance assigning fault and obtaining fair compensation.