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Who Is at Fault in a Multi-Car Accident?

When another car crashes into you unexpectedly, you know that it’s likely the other driver’s fault. If you get hurt, they may have to pay for your damages including your medical bills, lost wages, general damages (pain and suffering) and repairs for your vehicle.

However, when a multi-car accident occurs, who is at fault? And how do we prove that one party or multiple parties where responsible for the accident? Can you pursue damages from more than one driver?

By learning about multi-car accidents, you’ll discover who the possible plaintiffs may be, as well as how to take/collect evidence and why working with a personal injury attorney is going to be the best option for you.

Who Takes the Blame in a Multi-Car Accident?

When you get into a multi-car accident, one or several drivers may be at fault. We have to determine which car sparked the chain of events that led to the multi-car crash, or caused the injuries.

The driver who is responsible may be deemed negligent. More than one driver might have been negligent. In legal terms, negligence means that a party had a duty of care to uphold, which is driving safely so that others don’t get hurt. They did not fulfill that duty and because of their behavior, you are now contending with an injury.

Here are some examples of negligent behavior on the road: A driver is speeding, A driver is not stopping for stop signs or following directions and signals, A driver is on their cell phone or otherwise distracted, A driver is not using their turn signals, A driver is making sharp turns, A driver is weaving in and out of lanes, A driver is following other cars too closely and a driver’s car malfunctions (example: no brakes).

Many different scenarios could happen in a multi-car crash. For example, let’s say that one driver isn’t looking and doesn’t signal when they change into the lane next to them. At the same time, another driver in that lane is speeding by. They both get into a crash, and then crash into you even though you were driving normally.

In this case, driver no. 1 would be partially at fault for not properly changing lanes, and driver no. 2 would be partially at fault for speeding. As long as you were driving safely, then you may be able to seek damages from each of the parties.

There could be another party that caused a crash, even though that driver didn’t get into it. For example, two drivers may have been paying attention to the road when a truck cut both of them off. They had to make sudden moves to protect themselves and they ended up crashing into each other and/or into you. The truck driver and/or their insurance company could potentially be held liable/responsible.

Additionally, the local government responsible for maintaining the roads could be held responsible if an accident was a result of:

  • The government failing to install or fix traffic lights and stop signs
  • The government not clearing the road of obstacles or fixing broken roads and potholes
  • Defective signage, warnings, roadway conditions

What Is Comparative Negligence?

California is a comparative negligence state. This means that parties may be partially at fault but still may be able to collect limited (depending on the percentage of negligence that is attributed to them) compensation. You can be 90% liable for the accident and still receive 10% of your damages for your injuries. The amount of your damages will depend on what percentage of the accident was your fault.

What to Do After an Accident

After you get into a multi-car accident, or even involving just yourself and another, you should pull over to the side of the road, if you can, and ensure you’re in a safe area. Then, start collecting evidence by taking photographs of the crash, your injuries and damage to the vehicle and other belongings. Make sure you capture the make and model of the other vehicles, and their license plate numbers. Of course, do not do this if you are too injured or if it would put you in danger.

Ask the other drivers for their contact and insurance information, including the name of their insurance companies and their policy numbers. If they offer you cash on the spot so that you won’t report the accident to insurance, don’t take it. It is not going to be enough money to cover your damages and you likely won’t be able to ask for a larger settlement down the line.  Get their driver’s license number and full name and address as they appear on the license.

Dennis Stout

Dennis Stout is a native Californian with significant ties to the Inland Empire, where he continues to reside. A graduate of Upland High School, the University of California, Riverside (B.S. Economics), and the University of La Verne (J.D.), Mr. Stout has practiced law continuously since 1979. He has been married to his wife, Alicia (R.N., C.E.N., M.I.C.N.) since that same year, and they have three adult children, all of whom live in Southern California. View Attorney Dennis Stout's Attorney Bio Here.

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