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Determining Liability in Multi-Vehicle Collisions

Determining liability in multi-vehicle collisions can get complicated. As the driver, you’ll want to know who’s responsible for the damages to your vehicle and any injuries. But depending on the number of vehicles involved and the circumstances of the accident, multiple drivers  can share fault, with liability percentages adding up to 100%.

Below, we’re taking a look at how liability is determined in multiple vehicle crashes and why it’s a good idea to hire a Los Angeles car accident attorney to fight for your rights.

Evaluating Accident Details & Evidence

The first step is to evaluate the details of how the crash occurred. Look for any factors that could have contributed to the accident like weather conditions, time of day, or road conditions. Check for any traffic controls or signals that were ignored. Look for skid marks or debris on the roadway.

These details will help determine how the vehicles collided and who may be at fault.

Review Police Reports

Ask the police officers at the scene for their official accident reports. These reports will document the officers’ assessment of how the crash happened based on eyewitness accounts and physical evidence. The report should indicate if any drivers were cited for speeding, drunk driving, or running a red light.

Interview Witnesses

If there were any witnesses to the crash, try to get their contact information so you can interview them. Ask open-ended questions about what they saw and heard to get an unbiased recollection of events. Look for consistency between witness accounts to determine the events leading up to the collision.

Assess Each Driver’s Negligence

Determine whether drivers violated traffic laws or acted recklessly by speeding, texting while driving, failing to stop at a light or stop sign, etc. Consider factors like a driver’s experience level, sobriety, distractions, or medical issues that could have contributed to the crash.

Compare each driver’s actions to a reasonable “prudent person” to evaluate if the driving behavior demonstrated a lack of due care. The driver who failed to act prudently and whose negligence caused the accident will typically bear the liability.

accidents involving several car lead to complex claims

California Comparative Negligence Law

California’s comparative negligence law allows for multiple parties to be found liable in accidents involving more than one vehicle. Rather than an “all or nothing” approach, each driver’s percentage of fault is determined based on their contribution to the collision.

To figure out the percentage of fault for each party, insurance companies and courts will evaluate factors like:

  • Which vehicle had the right of way?
  • Was any driver speeding or distracted?
  • Did any vehicle fail to signal or obey traffic signs/lights?
  • Were any vehicles improperly parked or disabled?
  • Were any drivers under the influence of drugs/alcohol?

All parties’ total percentage of fault must add up to 100%. So if Driver A is found 30% at fault, Driver B 50% and Driver C 20%, Driver B (the most at fault) would be responsible for 50% of the damages. But Drivers A and C could recover 70% and 80% of their damages, respectively.

Contributing Factors in Determining Liability in Multi-Vehicle Collisions

Multi-car accidents are often the result of a chain reaction. Even if a driver’s negligence was unintentional, if it precipitated a sequence of events leading to a pileup, they may still be found mainly at fault. The key is figuring out who started the chain reaction and how it unfolded.

This is why witness statements are key, as they can provide crucial insight into how the crash transpired. Passengers, bystanders and drivers not directly involved can all offer valuable perspectives to help determine liability. Their testimonies, especially if multiple witnesses’ accounts align, carry significant weight.

Another important factor is whether drivers committed traffic violations that contributed to the accident. Running red lights or stop signs, making illegal turns or lane changes, and failing to yield the right of way are all violations that could make a driver liable, especially if they directly caused the crash.

Schedule a Free Consultation With a Los Angeles Car Accident Lawyer

If you have been involved in a multiple vehicle accident in California, it’s important to speak with an experienced Los Angeles car accident attorney as soon as possible.

An attorney can help determine liability in multi-vehicle collisions, negotiate with insurance companies, and fight for the maximum compensation you deserve. Call our firm today at 818-960-6155 to schedule a free consultation and discuss your legal options.

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