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Who is at Fault in a Multi-Car Accident?

Who is at Fault in a Multi-Car Accident?

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What Is Common Law Negligence?

Under American common law negligence, a plaintiff must establish four crucial elements in proving that a defendant was at fault in an accident:

  • Duty: When suing a driver for the injuries you sustained in a multi-car accident, you must prove that the at-adult drivers had an affirmative, legal obligation to drive safely and responsibility and exercise care not to harm other road users. The element also entails obeying traffic rules and circumventing dangerous road conditions.
  •  Breach of duty: You must show that the driver failed to operate their vehicle diligently and carefully as a reasonable person would.
  • Causation: The element entails proving that the driver’s breach of duty directly caused the accident. Causation is satisfied with a two-pronged test of determining whether the harm would still occur without the wrongdoer’s action and whether their conduct was close in the chain of events leading to the accident.
  • Damages: The fourth element requires showing you sustained injuries in the accident. The injuries must have directly resulted from the driver’s breach of duty that led to the accident.

Proving these elements can be complex if you don’t understand personal injury laws in California. Consider hiring experienced car accident attorneys in Fresno to help you navigate the difficult task of proving how the other drivers’ conduct led to the accident that caused your injuries. That would be the starting point in demanding compensation for your damages.

What is the Statutory Negligence Law in California?

California is an at-fault state, meaning that drivers found to be at fault for an accident may be held liable for the damages or injuries resulting from the accident. The law requires them to compensate the victims.

Statutory negligence is often easier to prove than common law negligence. Insurance companies must demonstrate that the at-fault drivers violated the California Vehicle Code or another statute. Usually, the police report will state what rule the driver violated, a factor that mitigates much of the difficulty in the process.

Fresno car accident lawyers explain that California is a comparative negligence jurisdiction. So, each party’s compensation amount would be reduced proportionately to their percentage of fault in the accident. For example, if investigations reveal that you were 25% to blame for the crash, your settlement would be reduced by the same percentage.

What Are the Different Types of Fault in Car Accidents?

California recognizes different types of fault that can come into play in a car accident:

  • Negligence: Negligence is failing to exercise reasonable care when driving, such as texting while driving, a behavior that significantly contributes to many multi-car accidents.
  • Recklessness: Recklessness is the deliberate disregard for other people’s safety or property. For example, a driver speeding on the highway and causing an accident may be considered reckless.
  • Intentional misconduct: It is the deliberate act that causes an accident. For example, a driver who ignores a stop sign or intentionally jumps a red light, causing an accident, may be considered to have engaged in intentional misconduct.
  • Strict liability: Strict liability is when a driver is assumed to be automatically at fault for an accident, regardless of whether they engaged in intentional misconduct, were reckless, or negligent. For example, hitting a pedestrian on the crosswalk may be a strict liability case.

Several factors go into determining fault in an accident, and only skilled California car accident lawyers can help you evaluate them all to build a strong compensation claim.

What Are the Liability Basics in Multi-Car Collisions?

Determining fault can be complex when multiple cars collide, but general liability principles and assumptions provide a starting framework for unraveling responsibility in the crash. Your Fresno multi-car accident lawyers can give you insights into the factors so that you understand the risks, potential scenarios, and the steps you can take to protect yourself.

Typical multi-car collisions can involve three cars where the front car stops, often due to a hazard or traffic ahead. The vehicle in the middle doesn’t stop in time, hitting the front car and pushing it forward. A third car also fails to stop, crashing into the mid-car, and a chain reaction involving three cars happens.

Legally, the trailing cars are assumed to be liable because they failed to maintain a safe distance or react promptly to avoid crashing into the vehicles in front. Exceptions that can shift liability are when investigations reveal a mechanical failure that made it impossible for the trailing cars to prevent the collision reasonably, such as malfunctioning rear brake lights failing to alert drivers behind one is preparing to stop.

Assessing Fault in 3-Car Rear-End Scenarios

If you understand the basics around multi-vehicle liability, you can take added precautions and document evidence that could help you protect your rights in rear-end pileups. Fault determination revolves around various specific circumstances and the available evidence.

However, Fresno car accident lawyers and other investigators generally follow some general guidelines:

  • Front car: The front car in a multi-car accident is not typically considered at fault if it stopped legally at a stop sign, traffic light, or in congested traffic. The exception is if it illegally and unsafely stopped in a way that directly caused the accident, for example, intentional double parking that caused it to block lanes.
  • Middle car: The mid car must demonstrate efforts to prevent rear-ending the front vehicle after being impacted from behind. The driver’s potential liability depends on evidence such as maintaining a safe following distance, leaving enough room for the rear car, and making efforts to decelerate.
  • The rear car: The car in the back position is presumed to bear much of the liability due to failing to stop in time. However, the driver can demonstrate mitigating factors such as mechanical failure or the middle vehicle stopping suddenly to enhance fault distribution.
  • Physical evidence and witness statements: Car accident attorneys in Fresno, CA, insurance adjusters, and other accident investigators rely heavily on eyewitness statements and physical evidence, such as vehicle damage patterns and skid marks, to determine what happened and the driver that was at fault.

If you were the front driver in a multi-car accident, you could be deemed partially liable for the collision depending on the circumstances and evidence collected. Working with experienced personal injury lawyers in Fresno enables you to put up a strong defense and claim to help you pursue the damages you deserve from the at-fault drivers.

What If More Than One Driver Was at Fault?

More than one driver could be at fault in a multi-car crash. This is sometimes the situation when the car in front reports feeling more than one impact from the rear. In such a case, insurance adjusters turn to comparative negligence laws to determine the compensation amounts. You could still recover compensation under this system even if you’re at fault up to 99%, less your percentage of fault.

Other Parties That Could Potentially Be Liable in a Multi-Car Crash

It can be a long time before investigators and law enforcement officers complete investigating the accident to determine fault and liability.

In some cases, it may emerge that other parties, in addition to the drivers, were liable for the damages:

  • Government and city entities: These can be held liable if the poor road conditions pose a dangerous condition of public property that contributed to the accident.
  • Bar owners, restaurants, bartenders, and hosts: If investigations reveal that a driver involved in a multi-car crash was drunk at the time of the collision, these parties could be held liable for supplying alcohol to the driver and allowing them to drive while intoxicated.
  • Car and part manufacturers: Investigations may reveal that the accident was because of a defective car part. Manufacturers can be held liable for selling a car with faulty parts.
  • Repair shops: If repair shops fail to repair or maintain a car adequately and it gets into an accident, they can be held liable for the accident.
  • Cargo companies: If an accident involves a truck whose cargo gets in the way, causing an accident, the cargo company or handle could be held liable for negligence when loading the truck.
  • Trucking companies: Employers can be held liable if a multi-car crash was caused by a driver under the company’s employ.

What Are Common Injuries Sustained in Multi-Car Crashes?

Injuries sustained in multi-car accidents can be more severe and devastating, partially because an accident can continue happening for several minutes or seconds after the initial impact as more cars continue to crash into each other.

Victims in multi-car accidents often sustain the following injuries:

  • Broken bones and dislocated joints
  • Burns
  • Bruises, road rash, deep cuts
  • Concussions
  • Whiplash
  • Traumatic brain injuries
  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Paralysis
  • Loss of sight, hearing, or speech
  • Loss of limbs
  • Heart attacks
  • Facial disfigurement
  • Internal bleeding and organ damage

Ensure you get proper medical attention, no matter how minor you think your injuries are after the multi-car accident. Some injuries may not be apparent initially and could escalate into more significant complications later. You need to prove that you sought medical care from the outset to receive the compensation you deserve for ongoing treatment.

Based on the extent of your injuries, your personal injury lawyers can help you collect compensation for medical expenses, disability, emotional distress, pain and suffering, and loss of consortium.

What Are My Options if the Damages I Sustain Exceed the Policy Limits?

Multi-car accidents can have devastating consequences that lead to substantial expenses. If several people are injured, the economic and non-economic costs can escalate quickly, exceeding the available insurance policy limits. Accidents involving three or more cars can easily cause disabling injuries such as paralysis, traumatic brain injury, and amputation.

If you and other victims become permanently disabled, the anticipated cost of current and future medical expenses and the loss of their earning potential may make up the most significant part of the compensation claim.

California has the following minimum auto insurance requirements:

  • $15,000 bodily injury coverage per person injured and $30,000 per accident minimum.
  • $5,000 minimum for property damage liability coverage
  • $15,000 per person and $30,000 per accident minimum for uninsured motorist bodily injury coverage
  • Uninsured motorist property damage coverage valued at a minimum of $3,500.

While it’s recommendable for drivers to carry more than the minimum insurance coverages, many don’t because they’re financially constrained or believe they will never get involved in an accident.

If your compensation claim exceeds the at-fault driver’s policy limits, another option could be to collect damages from them or turn to your uninsured motorist coverage. Your California car accident lawyers can evaluate your case and advise you accordingly.

What Are the Causes of Multi-Car Pile-ups?

The causes of multi-car accidents are diverse, with the most common reasons being:

  • Driver fatigue and drowsiness
  • Recklessness
  • Distracted and drunk driving
  • Defective vehicles and equipment
  • Debris on the road or icy roads
  • Dangerous weather conditions
  • Poor vehicle maintenance
  • Improperly loaded trucks.
  • Speeding dangerously over the speed limit
  • Road rage and other unacceptable road behavior

Skilled car accident lawyers can evaluate the cause of the accident in determining liability to hold the rightful party responsible for your damages. Based on the information, they can help you file a compensation claim.

What Evidence is Crucial in Determining Fault in a Multi-Car Accident?

The priority at the scene of the crash is to obtain medical attention if you sustain injuries. After attending to your medical needs, police officers or law enforcers at the location will take statements from all the drivers involved and applicable witnesses. The steps are crucial in establishing whether someone or several people violated traffic rules, leading to the crash.

The officers may determine whether any of the drivers should receive citations for violating the road rules. In addition to the medical evidence, other pieces of evidence crucial in determining fault in multi-car pile-ups are:

  • Location and type of vehicle damage: How and where the cars get damaged after a collision can help analyze the cause of the accident, a crucial factor in determining liability.
  • Traffic cam footage: Nearby shops and the area where the accident happened may have security cameras that captured the events leading to the multi-car collision and who might be at fault.
  • Police report: It contains each party’s account of the accident. Lawyers can evaluate it for similar statements, inconsistencies, or false accusations that could help them determine who was at fault. The report also contains information on whether any driver was intoxicated or distracted while driving.
  • Vehicles’ “black box” data: More recent cars have an event data recorder that records the pre-crash system status of the vehicle, such as the speed, when the airbags were deployed, whether the driver hit the brakes, whether seatbelts were worn, or the gear selection.
  • The number of times each car was struck and the bodily injuries the victims sustained.
  • Reports from accident reconstruction experts give a mental picture of what could have happened before the accident and how it happened. The information could reveal what the drivers could have done differently.
  • Past driving records of the involved parties, especially if they have a history of reckless or drunk driving.

A Skilled Personal Injury Lawyer Helping You Determine Liability in a Multi-Car Accident

California has significant freeways with multiple lanes, but cars still get into accidents due to various factors. Often, cars follow each other too closely, change lanes without signaling, or stop too suddenly, causing multi-car crashes. The accidents can have devastating consequences, and determining liability may be complex. However, skilled multi-car accident lawyers in Fresno can help.

Nunes Law Inc. has top-notch personal injury attorneys who can look into your case, investigate the causes, and determine liability to help you pursue compensation for the damages. We are committed to helping personal injury victims receive the compensation they need to rebuild their lives after a multi-vehicle accident. Call us at (559) 702-5124 to schedule a FREE consultation.

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