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How is Fault Determined in a Multi-Vehicle Car Accident?

— April 12, 2022

If you hit a car in the rear and set off a multi-car accident, you could think you are automatically at fault.

Never admit fault! Your auto insurance agent will tell you if you were involved in a car accident. There is a good reason behind such advice. While it may seem easy to determine who is at fault in a car crash, it could be confusing. It is more complex in multi-car accidents. One must establish whose negligent actions set off the crash and how, or if, the other drivers contributed. 

If you are in a multi-car accident, don’t take the blame (even if you feel otherwise). Reach out to a car accident lawyer and let the law enforcement and insurance guys handle it. As the pros take care of the matter, you could be curious about what’s going on and what rules the examiners would use to determine who is at fault. Here are some of the rules and factors considered. 

What Accident Examiners Consider in Fault Finding

When a multi-vehicle accident occurs, finding who is at fault is not easy. The drivers have their opinions, and onlookers have their say. Examiners begin the assessment by considering the following factors:

  • Was there any driver violating traffic rules at the time of the accident? If you were driving under the influence (DUI), though innocent, you would be considered a possible perpetrator. 
  • The location of the accident matters. Was it at a traffic lights point, or did it happen near a highway exit? Several factors come into play due to location dynamics. 
  • What was the driving speed under the current conditions?
  • The police also consider eyewitness accounts and (where available) footage from surveillance cameras. 
  • The extent of the vehicle damage (often a value concern)
  • The police report 

The police report could give a clue about the driver at fault because it explains how the accident occurred. 

In many instances, one driver could be responsible for the entire crash. In some cases, many drivers could bear the blame, and in some cases, the weather is to blame. 

When the Weather is at Fault

Sometimes complex car accidents happen not because of a negligent driver but, you could blame the weather. Extreme weather conditions often wreak havoc in homes, on the roads, and pretty much everywhere. You cannot blame someone for weather-instigated multi-car accidents. 

However, if the municipality failed to warn road users about dangerous driving conditions, like fog and icy roads, you could sue and get compensation! 

But that’s a long shot, and you could spend plenty of resources trying to prove your case. Since more than 90% of car accidents are due to human error, it is better to focus on people. 

Accidents Due to Human Error

Several Drivers Could be at Fault

Sometimes investigators will not blame one driver but several. In such cases, insurance adjusters or the law enforcement officer determine the portion of responsibility. One driver (who is deemed most at fault) could take up 60% of the blame. The rest take what remains. In some cases, everyone involved takes their share of “fault.” Such cases are complicated. It’s best if you have legal help.

If it is a multi-car accident and it seems there is a driver at fault, the following scenarios could apply:

Finding Fault in Rear-End Car Crash

If you hit a car in the rear and set off a multi-car accident, you could think you are automatically at fault. After all, every driver should observe the 3-seconds rule and maintain a reasonable braking distance! But what happens when the person ahead suddenly slams the breaks while driving on the highway? What about at a green light? Would you (the driver behind) still be at fault?

Police officer leaning in window of car after accident; image by Matt Chesin, via
Image by Matt Chesin, via

Not in all cases. 

A sudden stop on the highway or at a green light is likely to set off a multi-vehicle car accident. In such cases, the assessors would examine the responsible driver, the environment, and other dynamics. If the driver ahead missed an exit on the highway and suddenly stopped, they could be at fault. 

The same verdict would apply at a green light, and there was no apparent reason to stop. 

Finding Fault in Accidents Involving Commercial Vehicles

It’s not an issue of finding fault but whom to sue. If a commercial driver is clearly at fault, but the accident happened due to fatigue or a faulty vehicle, it is possible to sue the employer. The employer would be responsible for the conditions that led to the accident. Therefore, they are at fault. Depending on whether you are in an at-fault state (liability insurance pays for the policyholder’s legal responsibility to others for bodily injury or property damage) or a no-fault state (drivers insurance covers for their injuries) the employer could compensate for the accident. 

Don’t be Quick to Leave the Car

If you are involved in a multi-car accident, don’t be quick to leave the car or to take the blame. There are many factors considered. The situation could be more complicated than you think.  

Stay put and keep your safety belt fastened. Turn your hazard lights on. If the cops are not yet at the scene, call them and call the emergency services. After the law enforcement officers have secured the location, you may alight from your vehicle (if you are fit to do so) and check out what happened. 

Remember to call your insurer and call a car accident lawyer. 

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