Proving Liability in a Multiple Vehicle Accident

In order for an injured party to recover compensation for their injuries in a car accident case they must be able to convince the fact finder (whether it is the insurance adjuster, judge, or jury) that the other party is legally responsible, or liable, for the accident.

Typically, in order to establish liability against another party in a car accident case, you must be able to show that the other driver was negligent somehow. Determinations of liability and demonstrations of negligence are highly fact-intensive analysis. An experienced attorney will understand that every car accident is unique in some way and that it is important to understand exactly what occurred prior to and throughout the accident.

The most common car accident may be the “simple” two-car accident where one car collides with another single car. Oftentimes, in these instances the negligent party can be readily apparent. For example, if one car strikes another from behind at a traffic light. Or perhaps one vehicle fails to stop at a stop sign and broadsides the other vehicle that had the right of way.

While liability can certainly still be heavily contested in those accidents, liability is almost always going to be even more contested in multiple vehicle accidents. Simply put, a multiple vehicle accident is a traffic accident involving more than 2 vehicles. So why would liability be more contested just because there are multiple cars involved?

Two reasons. One, there are more people to blame for the accident. Two, there are more people to do the blaming. However, it is important to remember that while the facts (and other people’s version of the facts) may be more convoluted, the analysis remains the same. You need to know which driver is actually to blame for your injuries. The essential question is the same: Which driver’s (or drivers’) negligence actually caused your injuries?

For example, take the situation where three cars are all driving in a row on a highway. A collision occurs involving all three cars. Car A is in front, Car B is in the middle, and Car C is at the back. The collision results in Car A being hit by Car B and Car B being hit by Car C. So who is responsible for Car A’s damage?

It depends. This is where it is extremely important to know the facts and understand how to present those facts.

Scenario 1: Car A came to a stop because there was stopped traffic ahead. Car B was unable to stop in time and hit Car A from behind. Then Car C was also unable to stop in time and hit Car B from behind. Who is at fault? The most likely liable party in reference to Car A would be Car B. It was the driver of Car B who failed to stop and therefore hit Car A. Therefore, Car A’s injuries were caused by the driver of Car B.

Scenario 2: Car A came to a stop because there was stopped traffic ahead. Car B was able to stop in time to avoid hitting Car A. However, Car C was not able to stop in time and hit Car B, which was then pushed into Car A. Who is at fault? The most likely liable party in reference to Car A would be Car C this time. While Car B is the one that actually hit Car A, it was not due to the negligence of Car B. Rather, Car A was hit due to the negligence of Car C who started the chain reaction that led to Car A being hit.

Scenario 3: Car A came to a sudden stop for no reason at all. Car B was unable to stop in time and hit Car A from behind. Then, Car C was also unable to stop in time and hit Car B from behind. Who is at fault? While we would want to know more facts to make a definite determination, it is possible that neither Car B nor Car C is at fault. Rather, this might be a situation where the only negligent driver was that in Car A who stopped for no justified reason.

As you can see, while the facts can be less straightforward in a multiple vehicle accident, the analysis remains the same: Which driver’s (or drivers’ ) negligence caused your injuries?