I Was In A Multiple Car Pile-Up Accident. Can I Make A Claim Against All of Them?

Car accidents do not just always involve one or two vehicles. In fact, with the large number of cars on the road every day, car accidents involving more than two vehicles are a frequent occurrence. It only takes a moment and a crowded road, and you can find yourself in an extremely serious and dangerous situation. In these situations, fault is not always so easy. So how do you know who is at fault and from whom to seek relief?

We have asked attorney, Alaina Sullivan, about what you should do. Here is what she had to say:

What to Do After the Accident

If you are every in a multiple car accident, immediately after the accident you should stay in the car with your seatbelt still on and make sure everyone is okay. Also make sure that if you have other people in your car that they have their seatbelts still on too. Then you should your hazard lights on.

Wait until law enforcement or EMT official lets you know that it's safe to exit the vehicle after the multiple car accident. Once you are out of the vehicle, you take down any paperwork from others that were also in the multi-car accident. When you get home, make sure to notify your insurance company.

Contact Your Insurance Agent First

When it comes to multi-car accidents, a lot is at stake, including a lot of money. Yes, you can sue all drivers involved, but not all of them will be held liable. It can be complicated to determine fault, and for this reason, it is important you contact your insurance company first. Unless you have a driver who openly admits to liability for the accident, some serious investigation will need to take place.

Insurance companies will assign an accident investigator to the claim, and this person will investigate how the accident happened and who was at fault for the chain of events. Your insurance company, since they will be the ones representing you initially, will be the person or entity responsible for making that initial determination.

Cause and Effect

Many factors can go into why a multi-car accident happens. You could be driving in severe weather conditions, including snow, ice, ran or fog. You could be in a pack of cars traveling at a high speed. Someone could be on his or her cell phone while driving, or one or more of the drivers could be intoxicated. Whatever causes the accident, one mistake can lead to a huge and devastating chain reaction.

Chain Reaction Accidents

Your typical multi-car accident happens when traffic is at a stop, and someone hits one car in the rear, that car hits the car in front of them, that car hits the other car in front of them, and so on. If you are in the middle, does that mean the person directly behind you is the one responsible for your damages? No, that might not be the case. In fact, depending on your state, the one person who hit the very first car is the sole person at fault. The other cars involved in the accident were obeying the law by being at a stop. In this situation, usually the rear vehicle will pay for everyone’s damages. That can be tough, then, if the driver’s liability is limited in their insurance coverage.

Middle Car Hitting Front Car First

Sometimes, the first car is at a stop, and one of the middle cars fails to stop on time and slams into that first car. The drivers behind them might not expect traffic to stop so suddenly and are not able to react quickly enough before hitting the car in front of them. These types of accidents involve a lot of investigation. Insurance companies and lawyers will look into the facts to determine fault.

One question that will be asked is to the first car. How many impacts did they feel? If they felt more than two impacts, odds are the middle car hit them first and then the car behind the middle car hit them because of the chain reaction. If they felt one impact, then it is more likely than not that one of the cars at the rear of the line of cars caused the accident.

Front Vehicle at Fault

When there are multiple cars involved in an accident, determining fault becomes more complicated. Proving fault is essential when dealing with disputes. There are many factors to consider such as, whether the driver violated a state traffic law, where the accident occurred, road conditions and more.

The evidence you collect is crucial when determining who is at fault in a multiple car accident. Make sure you keep track of policed reports, medical notes, and any eye witness statements. In cases with multiple cars, the jury will usually look at the evidence and assign a portion of fault to each party that was considered partially to blame for the accident.

If the driver in the front suddenly slams on their brakes, causing cars behind them to crash one into another, then that front driver would be the one at fault. Therefore, suit would logically go towards that person.

Elimination of Fault

A handful of situations do exist where honestly no one is at fault. Sometimes an accident simply cannot be avoided. Think of what happens on a snowy or icy day. Each driver on the road can be driving as cautiously as humanly possible, and it only takes that one patch of black ice to bring about a huge chain reaction, even if the driver is going well below the speed limit. In these situations, it is essentially impossible and unfair to assess fault.
What is considered?

A lot is considered in the investigation of a multi-car accident. These factors include involvement of drugs or alcohol, speed, outstanding criminal warrants, reckless driving, no insurance, or failure to abide by the rules of the road. Forensic examiners are trained to interview witnesses and passengers and then view the scene of the accident as well as the damages done to both cars to be able to come to a logical conclusion.
Driver duty of car and proximate cause

Every driver has a duty to use care and reason when behind the wheel. This duty extends to the other drivers around them. Not meeting this duty of care results in negligence, and if a driver is deemed to be negligent, that person can hold liability in a car accident. This liability amps up when the driver is considered to be the proximate cause of the events leading up to the accident.

What if Fault is at Dispute?

If it is unclear, it is recommended you file your insurance claim through each person who may be at fault. Go through your own agent to get your car fixed but then seek compensation from each company. Once fault is determined eventually, if ever, then you can drop claims as cars are eliminated from the line of “who is at fault?”

What if No One can Decide?

If no one can determine who is at fault, you should hire a lawyer to file claims for you through your collision coverage if you have any and for your medical bills through your health insurance company. Consult an attorney if you are not sure if this is the situation you are in.

Contact an Attorney Today

A licensed personal injury attorney will be able to evaluate your case and determine if you have a claim against the other party’s insurance company. For the best chance of receiving the compensation you need to pay for medical bills, auto body bills, and pain and suffering, you should speak with a personal injury attorney in your area today.

Additional Resources

How Do I Prove I'm Not at Fault for an Auto Accident?
Auto Accidents and Personal Injury Claims