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  • Writer's pictureBrad Keating

Who Is at Fault in a Multi-Car Rear-End Accident?

Updated: Jan 17

When three or more vehicles are involved in a collision, it is known as a multi-car accident. Chain reaction accidents happen when one car crashes with another, which then causes that car to collide with someone else, and so on and so forth.

Trying to determine liability in a multiple car accident is far more complicated than with just two cars since there are a lot more moving parts. Sometimes, however, it is easy to find the source of the initial accident.

Rear-end accidents are one of the most common types of multi-car accidents caused by a chain reaction. In most cases, the first driver to bump into another (usually the one at the rear end of the line) is found to be the at-fault driver.

Example of a Multiple Car Accident with Rear-End Collision

Example of a Multiple Car Accident with Rear-End Collision

A common example of a rear-end chain-reaction car accident is when a queue of traffic is waiting at a red light, stop sign or intersection. Crashes like this happen when driver A rear-ends driver B, who then goes into the back of driver C until the chain ends with the lead car.

Say somebody is texting or otherwise distracted as they crawl along in slow-moving traffic and drive into the back of a car that already came to a halt- this alone is enough to start a chain reaction crash with multiple damaged vehicles, but it is likely to be minor.

Another possibility is a chain reaction pile-up, which is far more dangerous. If a car traveling at speed along the highway runs into the back of another car, it can send them shooting into other lanes, causing multiple drivers to swerve or collide, including the possibility of head-on collisions.

A drunk driver who causes a multi-car accident like that could be looking at significant fines, criminal charges, and potentially jail time.

Who Is at Fault in This Type of Multi-Car Accident?

More often than not, the car at the back of the line is deemed responsible for a multi-vehicle accident. Because the rear car started the chain reaction, collisions are usually blamed on them.

It is generally difficult for the rear car driver in a multiple car accident to come out looking anything other than guilty.

If adhering to the driver's code of conduct, it should not be possible- other than in extreme circumstances- to drive into the back of another car, which is why driver A is often seen as the at-fault party.

In the case of more dramatic multiple car accidents such as the second scenario described above, the two cars and drivers involved in the initial collision are looked at. If one of the vehicles hit the other, that person is considered responsible at first glance.

Is The Back Car Always at Fault?

Although the assumption is usually to put the blame on driver A (the first car to collide with other vehicles), it is not always so straightforward to determine fault in multi-car wrecks or minor collisions. In some cases, it is possible to find comparative fault.

Comparative fault law, or comparative negligence, applies when more than one of the vehicles involved could have taken action to stop the chain reaction but didn't. Although they did not start the chain reaction, they failed to end it despite having the power to do so.

Driver B may also be found partially to blame if rear-ended by another car. Did they stop suddenly somewhere they shouldn't have? Perhaps they did not signal correctly, or their tail lights were out. There are plenty of reasons why driver B could be found partially guilty.

In cases with comparative negligence, the responsibility for the insurance coverage for the multiple vehicles that may have suffered damage is split in comparison to the weight of the blame.

Finding Fault in Multi-Car Accidents

A multi-car accident can be messy, even in a simple rear-end chain reaction accident. To determine fault in a multi-vehicle accident is not always as clean-cut as whoever started it gets the blame.

All of the cars involved may have played a part rather than just one car and driver.

Finding fault in multiple car accidents often starts with investigating the rear-end car, but that is not where it stops. Talk to an automobile accident lawyer for more information.

Who to Blame?

It is easy to point the finger a driver A, and a lot of the time they are, without a doubt, at fault. However, there are multiple other factors that contribute to multiple vehicle crashes.

Breach of Road Rules

More than one driver may have broken the rules of the road. Sometimes at junctions, someone misjudges their timing and pulls out into oncoming traffic, causing people to break suddenly and someone further down the road to run into driver B.

The same applies to people running red lights or stop signs, causing a chain reaction accident even they personally do not suffer any vehicle damage.

If multiple parties witness this breach, the rear-end driver may not be found at fault for the entire accident.

A Negligent Party

If one of the other drivers was speeding, driving too slowly, not paying attention, driving an unsafe vehicle, or is found to be under the influence, they may also be deemed to be responsible for the car accident, even if they are not the first party to have crashed.

If driver C turns out to have been acting negligently at the time of the accident, they could be found comparatively, if not completely, at fault.

Driving Conditions

Sometimes, the road or weather conditions play a significant role in multi-vehicle accidents, especially heavy rain, ice, and fog. The police report usually reflects the conditions at the time of the incident and states an opinion on whether or not they played a part.

How to Prove Fault?

A multi-vehicle car accident works the same as a normal car accident in terms of the investigation. As always, the more evidence a person can gather at the scene, the better chance they have of fighting their case should it come to it.

Witness Statements

When multiple cars are involved, there are usually a lot of witnesses, as they tend to be quite dramatic events. Statements from people who saw the incident happen are invaluable during a court case or insurance negotiation.

The Police Report

Calling the police should always be the first response in car accidents of any kind, as well as requesting medical assistance for any injured parties. The police report includes vital details of the incidents and is a non-biased official account of the facts as they appeared at the scene.

Traffic Cameras

Most car accidents these days are picked up on one or more traffic cameras, which makes it a lot easier to find out exactly what happened.

Back car drivers who believe they are not solely responsible can turn to traffic cam footage to back up their case. People from the same accident with expensive property damage can use the footage to enhance their insurance settlement.

Photographic Evidence

Every involved party should take as many photos as possible of the initial wreck or minor bump. The more vehicles there are, the more important this becomes.

The potential payout involved in a multi-car rear-ended pile-up can be high, so insurance companies look for as much proof as possible to place the blame somewhere else.

When to Seek Legal Advice

When to Seek Legal Advice

The time to call a car accident lawyer after this type of accident is as soon as possible. Insurance companies do not mess around when it comes to negotiating settlements, and the at-fault insurance company is sure to try to make the other parties involved settle for less than they are entitled to.

There are many elements involved in a car accident claim, including property damage, a potential personal injury claim, expenses for medical bills, and various other costly cases.

Having an experienced attorney to advise and guide during the negotiation process and a potential court case is the best way to ensure an optimal outcome either way.

Before you begin any discussions with other parties, at least speak with a lawyer to find out more about where you stand. Otherwise, you could get swept away in the aftermath and left with no compensation.

Final Thoughts

Rear-end chain reaction accidents are usually the fault of the first driver to go into the back of another car. Although multiple cars may have some part of the blame directed towards them, driver A is almost always the main person at fault in a multi-car crash.

Regardless of what part a driver plays in a multi-vehicle car accident, they should always inform their insurance company as soon as possible, seek medical attention, and think about contacting a car accident lawyer.

If you have been involved in a multi-vehicle car accident and require legal advice or assistance, contact The Keating Firm LTD today for a free case evaluation and consultation.


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