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Who Is Liable in a Multiple-Vehicle Accident?

A single-vehicle car accident can be terrifying and life-changing in and of itself. So, imagine the physical, emotional, and financial devastation that can result from a multiple-vehicle accident. Whether it’s two cars, three cars, or a pileup involving 10 vehicles or more, the aftermath is often a disaster that can take weeks, months, or even years to sort out from a legal standpoint.

One of the many things you will need to figure out following a multi-vehicle crash is who is at fault. Depending on the circumstances, determine who is liable after an auto wreck of any kind can be very difficult.

How to Determine Liability After a Car Accident

The moments after a car accident are often very chaotic. You, your passengers, and any others involved in the crash could be seriously injured. All the vehicles will probably still be in the middle of traffic, and injured or not, everyone involved in the wreck will probably be disoriented and struggling to figure out what just happened. Still, if you’re able to at that time, there are things you should try to do to help ensure that those liable for the crash are held accountable, including:

  • Exchange names, addresses, phone numbers, driver’s license numbers, license plate numbers, and insurance information with the other drivers, passengers, and any witnesses
  • Take pictures of the accident scene, your vehicle, your injuries, your passengers’ injuries, and the other vehicle or vehicles involved
  • Do not discuss the accident with the other drivers, passengers, or witnesses
  • Tell the police exactly what happened, but do not admit fault
  • Report the accident to your insurance company, but do not admit fault
  • Do not sign any statements that admit fault or verbally admit fault

In gathering evidence that can help determine who was at fault, you should make observations and take notes about any form of negligence you believe could have caused the wreck. Examples of the types of negligence you should make note of include:

  • If a driver was under the influence of alcohol or drugs
  • If a driver was texting and driving
  • If a driver was tailgating, ran a stop sign or stoplight, or was speeding or driving recklessly

These are just a few of several forms of negligence that can lead to auto accidents. In some cases, more than one type of negligence can be responsible for a multi-vehicle wreck.

Can More Than One Person Be Liable After a Multiple-Vehicle Accident?

You have probably seen those big 10-vehicle pileups either on TV or in real life and wondered who was at fault and if it was more than one driver. The answer to that question is complicated. Let’s say for instance that the multi-vehicle crash happened due to the lead car stopping suddenly because there was an object in the road. Then the car behind them tried to stop in time to avoid rear-ending them, but that car’s tires were faulty and didn’t have enough stopping power to help avoid the crash. To top it off, the third car in the wreck didn’t stop in time because the driver was texting while driving, and maybe all the vehicles after that just didn’t have time to avoid crashing into each other through no fault of their own.

In a situation like the example above, it seems easier to determine who wasn’t at fault than who was responsible for the pileup. Therefore, how is liability for a multiple-vehicle accident such as this determined? The answer is that it depends on what state the accident happened in. Traffic laws differ from state to state, including laws that determine who is responsible for a car accident. In California, we use pure comparative negligence to decide who is at fault in multi-vehicle crashes.

What Is Pure Comparative Negligence?

Pure comparative negligence is the system used in California to determine negligence following multiple-vehicle accidents. Basically, if two or more vehicles are involved in a crash, then each person or entity found to be responsible for the wreck is only liable for a certain percentage of any damages that resulted from the collision.

For instance, if two drivers were in a car accident and one was speeding and the other ran a stop sign, one of the drivers might only be held 70 percent liable for the crash while the other is held 30 percent liable. If the driver who was held 30 percent responsible suffered $100,000 in damages, that driver would only be awarded 70 percent of those damages, and he or she would also be liable for 30 percent of any damages the other driver suffered.

Statute of Limitations for Car Crashes in California

A statute of limitations is how long someone has from the date they were injured to file a claim against those they believe are responsible for their injuries or the death of a loved one. In California, as stated on the California Courts website, the statute of limitations for personal injury accidents, such as car crashes, is two years from the date of the injury. However, if the injury did not reveal itself right away, then the statute of limitations is one year from the date the injury presented itself.

As you can see, car accident survivors and their families only have a limited time to determine who was at fault for their auto accident and hold them accountable. Therefore, speaking to an experienced legal team about their injury claim should be priority number one for accident survivors, because time is of the essence, both for them to make sure those that hurt them are held responsible and to secure the financial help they need for damages, such as:

  • Car or truck repair or replacement costs
  • Hospital bills, rehabilitation costs, and future medical expenses
  • Loss of income, employment, and/or earning capacity
  • Funeral costs
  • Pain and suffering
  • Disability expenses

Need Help After a Multi-Vehicle Accident? Contact Us Now!

If you or someone in your family has been in a car accident and needs legal assistance, our legal team at Eliot Reiner, APLC is here for you. Let us help you determine who is liable for your multiple-vehicle accident and guide you through the claims process. Together, we can figure out the best options for you and your loved ones moving forward.

Call our office at (916) 778-3228 or contact us online to schedule an initial consultation today.

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