Who is at fault in a multiple car accident?
Earlier this year, a driver on the Congress Expressway, who was apparently having a medical emergency, slammed into the back of a pick-up truck before running into several other vehicles. The pick-up driver was killed. Eleven individuals were injured, seven of them hospitalized in serious or critical condition. A total of eight cars were involved. The driver who originally lost control was cited for “failure to reduce speed to avoid a collision.” It appears as though he was the one at fault for this accident.
On the icy roads one recent morning near Markham, 14 cars were involved in a multiple car accident. The impetus for the accident was not immediately noted, but law enforcement issued warnings, cautioning drivers to drive at slower speeds than usual and to watch for vehicles that might be losing control.
When there are only two cars involved in an accident, it is often still difficult to determine fault. When there are multiple cars involved, determining fault becomes, of course, more complicated.
Proving Fault in Multiple Car Accidents
Proving fault is important for adjusting claims and resolving disputes. The person at fault for the accident is legally obligated to compensate injured parties for their damages. Insurance companies generally jump to the defense of their insureds to try and say their client was not at fault.
But, proving fault is also particularly important under the comparative fault law used in Illinois. This decreases an injured person’s damages proportionately to the amount of fault that can be attributed to them. Drivers who are determined to be 50 percent at fault for the accident cannot collect for their injuries at all no matter how severely they may have been hurt.
Fault in rear-end crashes
When the multiple car accident involves rear-end crashes, where one driver rear-ends another, pushing that driver into the car in front of him or her, and there is a chain reaction, no matter how many cars are involved, the car in the back is generally found at fault for the accident. But, the case is still carefully investigated. There may be cars up the chain who are partially at fault, depending on all the facts.
For example, if all were stopped at a red light or stop sign, and the car in the rear was texting at the time and failed to stop for no other reason, that driver is almost always going to be at fault for the accident. On the other hand, there may be drivers up the line who, for some reason, failed to take an action that could have prevented them from hitting the car in front of them even though they had no control, and are not at fault for being hit from behind.
It is also possible that a car stopped at a green light may be at fault, at least partially, for multiple cars having a chain reaction rear-end crash.
Factors to consider to determine fault in multiple car accidents other than rear-end crashes
It is more often difficult to determine fault in multiple car accidents other than rear-end accidents. Some factors may be:
- Whether any driver violated a state or local traffic law.
- Where the accident occurred.
- What were the road conditions at the time.
- Whether one driver was making a left turn.
- Whether one driver was going too fast for the road conditions, no matter what the posted speed limit was.
- Witness statements.
- Data in the police report.
- Whether drivers, if any, were issued citations.
- Were there any unsafe road conditions at the time.
- Review of any video surveillance that may be available.
- Location and extent of vehicle damage.
- “Black box” data recorders.
- Position of the vehicles after they came to rest.
How an Attorney Can Help
If you are in a two-car fender-bender where no one was severely hurt, you may not need the services of an attorney. But, in a major crash situation involving multiple cars, where you were seriously injured, you owe it to yourself to at least get a free consultation with experienced counsel. You likely need an attorney with the experience and ability of proving fault which can make a difference in whether or not you are compensated for your injuries and damages.
If you were injured in a multiple car accident, or someone you loved was killed in such an accident, contact us at the Blumenshine Law Group or call (312)766-1000 for a free case consultation. We will assess how fault may affect your claim for compensation.