If you were in a multi-car collision, you’re probably wondering how the police or your car accident lawyer will decide which driver is to blame.
Your responsibility and potential liability often lie in where you were in the crash and how you were driving before it happened. Keep reading to learn more about chain reaction car accidents and determining who’s at fault.
Determining fault in a pileup crash
Determining fault in multi-car collisions starts with establishing which driver caused the initial crash. Your attorney and expert accident reconstructionists may take weeks to sift through the evidence and identify who’s at fault.
California car accident law recognizes a “joint and several liability,” meaning an injured party can pursue full compensation from several defendants.
California is also a pure comparative fault state, so even if one of the drivers is partly to blame for the accident, they can still collect damages for economic losses.
Responsibility of the driver who caused the initial collision
Assigning liability in a multi-car crash begins with pinpointing the initial collision. Many pileups start with a rear-end collision that leads to subsequent rear-end collisions.
However, a chain reaction crash could result from some other type of crash, such as a T-bone that causes a rear-end pileup.
One may assume that the driver responsible for the primary crash will be at fault for the entire thing and legally responsible for all damages for the victims, but there are still other drivers to consider.
Responsibility of drivers who subsequently collide
Although the driver who caused the initial crash can be held legally liable for the damages for every car involved in the accident, they may not be the only driver contributing fault.
For example, Driver 1 slams on their brakes and is rear-ended by Driver 2. But, Driver 3 was texting and driving and didn’t see Driver 2 slam on their brakes until it was too late, so Driver 3 hit Driver 2.
In this scenario, both Driver 1 and Driver 3 would share liability. Driver 1 for slamming on their brakes, and Driver 3 for inattentive or reckless driving. A judge will likely rule that joint and several liability law applies, holding both defendants liable for their portion of responsibility for the pileup.
Injured parties may file for compensation from both Driver 1 and Driver 3, as well as any other parties that the police and investigators determine share liability.
Responsibility of other parties involved in the crash
Other parties may contribute to the cause of a multi-car crash even if they weren’t driving a car. A local government responsible for maintaining safe roads may be liable if it failed to properly salt an icy road or didn’t fill in potholes that could cause drivers to swerve and wreck.
In the case of a multi-car pile-up, these other parties could be partially responsible and plaintiffs may name them in a suit for damages.
Challenges in determining liability in a pileup crash
The main challenge in determining liability is sorting out who shares blame and, out of those parties, what percentage of fault each has. Once a judge determines this, then the appropriate damages are paid by each defendant according to their share of the responsibility.