Published On: Wed, Oct 20th, 2021

Who Is Responsible After a Multi-Car Accident?

A car accident can be a frightening experience for drivers and passengers. Lawsuits related to car accidents can be confusing and legally complex for attorneys. When an accident involves multiple vehicles and drivers, determining responsibility can become extremely difficult. There are often multiple parties all claiming someone else is responsible for causing the accident.

In reality, responsibility for multi-car accidents is often shared among several drivers. Most accidents happen because of human error. While it is certainly possible for one driver’s error to cause an accident with several other cars, it is also possible that more than one driver was behaving negligently. A plaintiff can choose to sue one driver or several they believe to be responsible. However, when a driver is sued, they could react by “impleading” other drivers they believe share some or all of the blame.

Car accident cases can be complicated even when only two cars are involved. If you were hurt in a multi-car accident and now want to file a lawsuit, it is best to consult with an experienced car accident attorney first. Multi-car accident lawsuits can be unpredictable and may go on for much longer than anticipated. An attorney can help prepare you for what comes next.

crashed car scene of accident

Photo by Michael Jin on Unsplash

Determining Liability in Multi-Car Accidents

Car accidents involving multiple vehicles can be very complicated situations. The more people that are involved, the harder it is to figure out who is responsible and who was an innocent victim. You must also contend with figuring out who is responsible and how much responsibility they share. Some drivers could only be contributorily negligent in a very minor way, while others bear the bulk of the blame.

The exact causes of multi-car accidents are also difficult to determine. In some cases, the actions of one person set off a domino effect that causes damage to several other vehicles. Other times, multiple drivers could all be driving negligently when the accident happens.

For example, an accident could happen because a speeding driver is not paying attention and crashes into the back of another car at a red light. The impact could be so great that the second vehicle hits the car in front of it, and that car hits the next car in the line, and so on. Other times, one driver is speeding while another is making an illegal turn, and a third driver is merging without signaling, thus creating a perfect storm for a multi-car accident.

How Defendants Redirect Blame in Multi-Car Accident Cases

At least one defendant must be named, and personal injury attorneys often have different strategies when naming defendants in a complaint. Some prefer to name those most likely to be held liable in court. Others decide to name all possible defendants and weed them out as the case progresses. However, with so many vehicles involved in the accident, it is possible that named defendants might “implead” third-party defendants, bringing them into the case to redirect blame onto them.

While you are free to file a lawsuit against a defendant or several defendants, those defendants are free to respond to your lawsuit. One option defendants have is to implead other people. Impleading occurs when a named defendant sues another person within your lawsuit. Defendants often sue these new, third-party defendants because they believe those third-party defendants are at least partially responsible for the car accident. For example, you could sue a defendant for rear-ending you, but your defendant could implead another driver for slamming into them, thus causing them to rear-end you.

If successful, a defendant could claim contribution from a third-party defendant, meaning the third-party defendant must contribute some of the damages the original defendant is ordered to pay. This issue also highlights how important it is to identify all parties who are possibly involved as early as you can. In some cases, an impleaded third-party defendant could have been named as a defendant in your lawsuit. Avoiding any impleaders could help speed up your case.

Evidence of Fault in Multi-Car Accidents

As in any case, multi-car accidents require evidence to prove liability. The type of evidence available may vary based on how your accident occurred and how many vehicles were involved. Physical evidence, written or recorded records, photos, videos, and more can all be used to help establish liability.

Perhaps one of the most significant pieces of physical evidence from a car accident is the car itself. Evidence from each car involved may be necessary to establish liability. Attorneys and plaintiffs can talk about how they think happened all they want, but their words carry little weight without any evidence to back up the claims. Damaged vehicles with scrapes, dents, and other damage consistent with your theory of the accident will help you prove that one or more defendants are liable.

In the past, accidents were recreated through bits of evidence and testimony. Today, however, many accidents are caught on camera. Surveillance cameras are everywhere, from businesses to private homes. A nearby surveillance camera might have recorded your multi-car accident. Depending on how many stores or homes are in the area, tracking down any existing surveillance footage may take time. However, if such footage exists, it could completely reaffirm your claims or change the direction of the entire case.

Testimony is always important in a multi-car accident case. Witnesses include plaintiffs, defendants, passengers, and nearby pedestrians. Testimony from various witnesses may shine a light on what each driver was doing right before the accident. When testimony from different witnesses clashes, you may have to determine if someone has a reason to lie.

Finding Legal Representation for a Multi-Car Accident Case

If you were injured in a car accident case involving multiple vehicles, it is in your best interest to find legal representation. Cases like this can be extremely complicated, and even seasoned car accident attorneys may have some difficulty proving liability. An attorney who has experience handling car accident cases may be able to help you get compensation. They can also explain how the laws of your particular state may be different from those mentioned above.

Author: Roland Ellwood

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