Who is at Fault for Multi-Car Accidents? 

Multi-vehicle car accidents, also known as “pileups” occur when more than two cars hit each other and set off a chain reaction of rear-end accidents. Most often, they happen due to the force of the first collision; the last car in a line of cars (Driver 4) rear-ends the second-to-last in the chain (Driver 3), who then rear-ends Driver 2, who then rear-ends Driver 1, the first car in the line. If there were only two vehicles involved in this scenario—Driver 4 and Driver 3—then it would be clear who was at fault, since the vehicles behind are almost always solely responsible for rear-end collisions. With multi-car accidents, the issue of liability can be more difficult because it’s often tough to establish who did what and at what time. In this post, we’ll examine how liability in multi-car accidents works.

The biggest issue facing law enforcement officers who investigate multi-vehicle accidents is pinpointing causation. In cases where one driver admits to being distracted and being the first car to rear-end another car in line, then that driver will face liability for all of the accidents in the chain reaction. However, with multi-car accidents, there are often other issues involved, including bad weather, road construction, another car accident, and drunk driving.

When trying to get to the bottom of the causation issue in multi-car accidents, law enforcement will often focus on two questions:

  1. Whose negligent actions set off the chain reaction?
  2. Were other drivers speeding or driving too close?

The police will usually issue a citation to the car that was at fault if they determine that only one car caused the accident.

However, it is possible for two or more cars to share the blame for a multi-car accident. In those cases, the amount of fault will be determined either by the police officer who writes the report or by the insurance adjusters who handle the accidents. For example, law enforcement may determine that one driver is 80% at fault, while another driver is 20% at fault. It is also possible for several people to share in the fault, or even everyone involved sharing some of the responsibility.

In states that apply the doctrine of comparative negligence to liability determinations (including Georgia), any claimant’s recovery will be reduced by the percentage of his or her own fault. For example, looking back at our example of Drivers 3 and 4 from above, in a pure comparative negligence state, Driver 4 would be able to recover for his injuries even if the jury finds him 99% responsible for the accident. In modified comparative negligence states (including Georgia), Driver D will only be able to recover damages if he was less than 50% responsible. In either case, Driver D can only recover that percentage of his or her damages for which he was not responsible. Generally speaking, the more details, cars, and people that are involved the scenario, the more complicated the determination of fault becomes.

Contact an Atlanta Car Accident Attorney

If you were involved in a multi-vehicle accident where liability is at issue, you might want to seek the advice of an attorney to ensure that your interests are adequately considered. Contact the attorneys at Slappey & Sadd for a free consultation to discuss your case by calling 404.255.6677. We serve the entire state of Georgia, including the following locations: Covington, Augusta, and Rossville.

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