Who is Liable for a Multi-Car Crash in California?

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Most vehicle accidents involve one or two vehicles. When a crash occurs, it can be challenging to prove liability. This is particularly true for crashes that involve multiple vehicles, specifically those involving three or more cars. Here, we want to discuss the process of determining liability after a multi-vehicle crash occurs in California. It is crucial for any crash victim to work with a skilled car accident attorney who can use their resources to handle every aspect of these claims, including determining liability.

Determining Fault Occurs After a Collision With Three Vehicles

Most people think of a vehicle accident involving one or two vehicles, but it is certainly not uncommon for three vehicles to be involved in a single collision. Unfortunately, this can cause difficulties when it comes to proving liability for the incident. It is also not uncommon for more than one driver to be found at fault in these situations.

When a three-car collision occurs, liability will typically depend on which driver caused the initial impact. For example, one driver may be responsible for causing a chain reaction collision that caused two other vehicles to collide. For chain reaction types of collisions, liability typically falls on one driver – the one who initially made contact with another vehicle.

However, it is entirely possible to see a scenario where a three-car collision has multiple liable parties. For example, if one driver was distracted because they were reaching for something in their vehicle and they failed to see the erratic behavior of another driver, both of these drivers could be at fault if they collide and strike other vehicles on the roadway.

What if There Were More Than Three Cars Involved?

We have certainly all seen accidents involving more than three vehicles on the roadways of California. In these situations, properly determining liability becomes incredibly challenging. When there are more than three drivers involved in a vehicle collision, this can become a massive “he said, she said” situation. Stories can become convoluted.

Determining liability for a multi-vehicle accident will typically involve intensive investigations by police officers, the insurance carriers, and possibly even accident reconstruction experts. Evidence to prove liability in these situations can include:

  • Statements from eyewitnesses
  • Photographs taken at the scene of the incident
  • Video surveillance from nearby cameras
  • Police reports
  • Mobile device data
  • Vehicle “black box” data

What if More Than One Driver Was At-Fault?

As we mentioned above, it could certainly be possible that more than one driver holds liability for an incident. In these situations, we will turn to California’s “pure comparative negligence” system to determine compensation. Under this system, individuals can still recover compensation even if they are up to 99% at fault for the incident.

However, there will be limitations placed on how much compensation that a person can receive if there is shared liability. For example, if one individual in the crash sustains $100,000 worth of medical bills or property damage expenses, what happens if a court determines that they were 30% at fault for the incident? In this situation, that individual would receive $70,000 instead of the full $100,000 to account for their percentage of fault for the incident.