How is Fault Determined in a Multi-Car Accident?

Car accidents can be complicated if you are trying to determine fault. If there are more than two cars involved in the accident, fault determination can be even more complex. There are many factors that come into play when trying to determine fault in a multi-car accident. If you have been involved in a multi-car crash, you may be asking yourself, how is fault determined in a multi-car accident?

Multi-car accidents, sometimes called multi-car pileups, can be complex, especially in determining fault. In multi-car pileups, it is possible that only one driver will be held at fault, while at other times, more than one party will be faulted for the accident. In general, any driver who did not practice their duty of care to make sure that any surrounding drivers are safe will most likely have some responsibility in the accident.

When we talk about duty of care, we should discuss the causes of multi-car pileups. As in two car accidents, the causes will most of the time determine fault.  Some of the main causes of multi-car pileups include:

  • Aggressive driving
  • Driving under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol
  • Distracted driving
  • Speeding
  • Following the car in front of you too closely
  • Going through a red light.
  • Poor weather conditions.
  • Rubbernecking.

Generally, the first car that hits the bumper of a vehicle in front of them is typically the driver at fault.  This is so because the driver in the back is usually in the best position to avoid hitting the car in front of them. If the driver in the back is driving at a safe speed and distance and does make any strange maneuvers, an accident can probably be avoided.

Sometimes, the one responsible for the accident is easy to determine and is obvious, but other times it is not as cut and dry. In addition, each driver involved in the multi-car pileup may point blame at the others for causing the accident. Those investigating the accident will have to look closely at all of the factors involved in order to come to a determination of fault.

It is also important to get information from any eyewitnesses to the multi-car crash. Since witnesses are not involved in the crash itself, they will most likely be impartial in their description of what happened.  More importantly, if there are numerous witnesses to the crash, they will hopefully verify each other’s account of the accident, which goes a long way in terms of the credibility of what actually happened. If you were involved in a multi-car pileup, make sure to get the contact information for all witnesses at the scene.

Another helpful factor in determining blame is the presence of police at the accident scene. As with any accident, the police should be called so that a report can be written that can help determine liability at a later date. Having police at the accident can also prevent any physical altercations that may occur. Multi-car pileups can be stressful, and emotions may get out of hand.

Other aspects of the multi-car accident that should be looked at are damages to the vehicles as well as evidence from the site of the crash, which would include vehicle debris and skid marks on the road.

Who is Responsible in a Multi-car Accident in New York?

If you are injured in a multi-car accident, you will want to figure out who is responsible, so that you can get compensated for your injuries. New York state follows the pure comparative fault systems rule, which means that an injured person can recover some money, even if they are held as partially at fault for the accident.

As an example, if a car was rear-ended and the driver of that car reacts to it and hits another car in front of him, the car in the “middle” can still get compensated even if he is held to be partially responsible for the second part of the accident.

Also, you should be aware that New York is a no-fault insurance state in that those involved in an accident will normally obtain damages from their own insurance company. That said, negligence is still a factor and those injured can still receive compensation for their injuries.

In addition, New York has a “Joint and Several Liability” law, which means that even if more than one party is at fault, those injured can still look to recover 100% of their losses from a single at-fault driver.  In this case, it may only be necessary to show that one driver was at fault.

Below are some examples of common multi-car accidents and who is most likely to bear responsibility.

  • Chain reaction accidents – These occur when one car hits another car from behind and the front car goes into the car ahead of him. More than likely, the car in front will not be held responsible.
  • Multi-Car Intersection Accidents – These types of multi-car accidents are common. Some of types of intersection accidents include: running a light or with a left turn. In the case of running a red light, the car that ran the light will most likely be held responsible for the crash. In the case of the left turn, the car making the left turn may be held responsible if they do not have the right of way.

In any accident scenario, there may be many factors at play. Your case could be more complex than the typical multi-car accident. That is why it is important to get in contact with an experienced car accident attorney.

Who is at Fault in a Multi-Car Rear-End Accident?

As we mentioned above, in a multi-car rear-end accident, most of the time called a chain reaction accident, the rear car is usually at least partially at fault. This is because they have the most opportunity to avoid hitting the car in front of them. If they are driving at a safe speed, is not under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and is not driving erratically, in most cases they will be able to stop quickly enough to avoid an accident.

There are some situations where more than one driver could be held responsible in a multi-car rear-end accident.

Take the example of a four-car chain reaction crash. If the second car is not paying as much attention as it should be and hits the first car that stopped at a traffic light, he would most likely be the one responsible for the initial crash.  Then a third car is right behind the second and the first and is able to stop in time, but the fourth car rams into the third.  In this case, the second and fourth cars would be at fault.

In a similar scenario, if the first car is stopped at a light and the second car runs into the first car, and then a third car runs into the second car, both the second and third car would most likely be at fault.

Interestingly, if the first car is stopped at a green light and two cars run into it, it is probable that the first car would be held partially responsible because they were not supposed to be idle at a green light. Another scenario where the front-most car may be held responsible for a multi-car accident is if they suddenly stop in the middle of traffic without reason or if they move suddenly into a different lane suddenly or without looking.

In all multi-car accidents, fault will be determined by the police as well as the insurance companies of the various individuals involved.

Call Tucker Lawyers to Help with Your Muli-Car Accident Claim

The attorneys at Tucker Lawyers know that there are a lot of personal injury attorneys in New York that are willing to help with your case. However, you only get one shot at getting compensated for your injuries and you do not want to use an inexperienced law firm.

The attorneys at Tucker Lawyers have over 40 years of experience representing clients who have been injured in all types of car accidents, including multi-car accidents like the ones described above.

When you hire Tucker Lawyers to represent you, we will be with you every step of the way, from the initial consultation to the day you receive a settlement or judgment check. We have had settlements in the millions of dollars and our past clients have written to us praising the way we handled their case.

If you have been in a multi-car accident, give us a call at (516) 399-2364.

john tucker

Managing Attorney John. J. Tucker, Esq.

John has personally handled thousands of clients who were victims of another’s negligence and fights relentlessly for their rights. John enjoys bringing closure to a client’s matter so that the injured party can move forward with their life. His background enables him to evaluate complex liability related claims and bring resolution to claims in a record time frame. [ Attorney Bio ]

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