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Liability and Fault in a Pileup Accident

By Allen, Flatt, Ballidis & Leslie on April 10, 2020

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Multi-car pileups often happen when a driver rear-ends another vehicle and pushes it into the next vehicle, creating a chain reaction. This can become even more complicated if the original driver is rear-ended in turn by another vehicle, which may make it challenging to determine when the accident started. Other drivers may swerve to avoid the crash, sideswiping other vehicles and causing further accidents. When a tractor trailer rolls over, lying across several lanes of traffic, other vehicles on the roadway are likely to crash into it. These confusing – and often tragic –circumstances can make it difficult to determine liability.

Potentially Liable Parties in a Pileup Accident

Generally, liability in a pileup starts with an inciting incident or action that results in the first collision, such as:

  • A driver who slams into the rear of the vehicle ahead, pushing it into the next car, is typically found liable in a three-car pileup.
  • But what if the driver who caused the original crash was rear-ended in turn by another driver who was speeding, talking on the phone, and unable to stop in time? If the impact of that initial crash caused additional collisions between the vehicles ahead, the distracted or reckless driver is also liable.
  • Other drivers involved in the chain reaction accident may be found liable to some degree if they could have taken action to avoid the crash and failed to do so.
  • If a vehicle’s equipment malfunctions, such as brake failure, causing the crash that started the chain reaction, a vehicle or parts manufacturer may be liable.
  • If a fatigued truck driver who violated Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) hours of service lost control of the truck and caused a rollover and multi-vehicle pileup, the driver and the trucking company that hired him may be liable for resulting injuries.

Identifying Liability in a Multi-Car Accident Case

In a multi-vehicle pileup, determining liability requires a thorough investigation involving police reports, eyewitness accounts, surveillance footage, and an analysis of vehicle damage, skid marks, and other evidence at the scene. The factors to consider include:

  • Violations of traffic laws
  • Which drivers were issued citations
  • Location of the accident
  • Road conditions at the time of the crash, such as weather patterns and work zones
  • Positions of the vehicles when they came to a stop
  • Location and extent of the damage to all vehicles involved
  • Any video surveillance available
  • Black box data if a commercial truck was involved
  • Whether a driver was traveling too fast for conditions, regardless of the posted speed limit

What to Do If You Have Been Hurt in a Multi-Car Pileup

A pileup can result in shock, terror, and catastrophic injuries, making it extremely difficult to move past from. The added stress of a personal injury claim can be even more draining, and you may be tempted to take the first offer available. But insurance companies are known for offering low-ball settlements that do not take in the full ramifications of a multi-car accident. To get true compensation and, ultimately, the chance at a real recovery, your best course of action is to speak with an experienced lawyer as soon as possible.

With more than 40 years of experience, our Orange County car accident attorneys at Allen, Flatt, Ballidis & Leslie have a successful track record recovering hundreds of millions of dollars for our clients. We will take the necessary time to thoroughly review your case, from speaking with investigators to researching the driving records of every potentially at-fault driver. To schedule a free consultation and learn what options are available to you, call us at (949) 752-7474.

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Posted in: Car Accidents

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