Who Decides Liability When Multiple Vehicles Collide?

Compared to a solo vehicle accident, multiple vehicle collisions create questions about liability. Multiple drivers may have different versions of the accident and who’s at fault for the collision and injuries sustained. An experienced accident attorney who’s familiar with liability issues involving multiple vehicle collisions can provide helpful legal advice.

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Multiple Car Accidents

Usually, when a single car hits the car in front of it, the car at the rear is held liable for the accident. It is assumed that the car traveling behind must stay a safe braking distance behind the car in front. In a multiple car accident, law enforcement will collect details from each driver and assess each car’s position to help determine negligence and speed.

Typically, the police report will cite which car is at fault based on evidence collected at the scene of the accident. In a multiple car collision, it’s usually one car that sets off a chain reaction collision, but it’s possible for two or more cars to be at fault. The amount of fault will be determined by the police officer who writes the police report or by insurance adjusters. One driver may be found to be 75% at fault, while other drivers share 25% of the blame. In a multiple car accident, the more cars that are involved, the more complicated the determination of fault becomes. Investigating a multiple car accident can be a time-consuming process that involves many different drivers and many different insurance companies that are fighting to avoid a payout for the accident. An accident attorney is essential for any driver involved in a multiple car collision because of increased liability:

  • Damage to vehicles involved in multiple car accidents is usually greater than damage to vehicles in a one or two-car accident. Vehicles are often hit from different directions and more than one time.
  • The likelihood of bodily injuries is much greater in multiple car collisions. Both drivers and passengers are statistically injured more severely.
  • Any driver found at fault in a multiple car accident, for any percentage of fault, can be sued by other injured parties.

Multiple car collisions in Chicago are common on busy highways, especially during peak driving times when traffic is more congested. Winter snow and icy road conditions also contribute to many of the city’s car accidents each year.

Drivers’ Responsibilities

In a multiple vehicle crash, more evidence is needed to determine the liability of all involved parties. All drivers should obtain a police report at the time of the accident, so statements and evidence are clearer at a later time when liability issues are discussed, especially if multiple injuries or fatalities occur. It’s important for each driver to get immediate medical attention, even if injuries are minimal, and not admit fault at the time of the collision. Each driver should also consult an accident attorney for legal advice on liability concerns before filing an insurance claim or accident complaint.

Determining Liability

In a multiple car collision, liability is typically determined either by contributory negligence or comparative negligence:

  • Contributory Negligence – Under contributory negligence, an injured person can only recover compensation for his/her injuries and damages if he/she did not contribute to the accident in any way. If it’s determined that the driver could not avoid the collision because of speeding, he/she can not recover compensation for any damages or injuries incurred.
  • Comparative Negligence – Under comparative negligence, liability will be determined in proportion to how the driver’s actions caused or contributed to the accident. The driver may recover damages based on his/her extent of liability for the collision. Damages may be increased, reduced, or even prohibited on the basis of the driver’s fault.

In a multiple vehicle collision, it can be difficult for a driver to recover monetary compensation from an insurance company or other parties involved in the accident without the help of an accident attorney who can prove lack of fault and reduced liability. Illinois law allows a person injured in a car accident to pursue multiple defendants for damages, even when the defendant is only partially at fault for the accident.

In states that have adopted proportional comparative fault, recovery is barred if a driver is more than 51% at fault for an accident. Illinois is one of 22 states that has adopted this rule. In Illinois, any driver found to be more than 51% at fault in any type of car accident is not entitled to recover any damages, regardless of injuries and the severity of those injuries. In Illinois car accidents, an accident attorney can be an important part of a personal injury lawsuit to help reduce fault and recover damages.