Three-Car Accident – Who Is At Fault?

Posted by Impact Legal | Jan 05, 2022

A one-car or two-car accident can be complicated enough, but what happens when three or more cars are involved? Who's responsible? Whose insurance pays? How does it work? On the blog this week, we're addressing what happens after a three-car accident. 

If you've been hurt in an accident with multiple cars, and you have questions for our auto accident attorneys, send us a text at 602-345-1818. You can also call us at that number, or fill out our online form. Our initial consultations are completely free.

Who's at Fault in a Multi-Car Accident?

Multi-driver accidents are quite common. All it takes is one driver's negligence to cause a chain reaction that leads to a significant amount of property damage and potentially severe and costly injuries. The driver responsible for causing the chain-reaction accident will have the largest percent of fault assigned to them. Depending on the specifics of the accident, others may also be assigned a percentage of fault. 

Arizona and New Mexico Are At-Fault States

Some states, like New York and Utah, follow a no-fault system, which limits a claimant's legal options following an accident. In no-fault states, accident victims must turn to their own insurance. In Arizona and New Mexico, the person(s) who causes the accident will be liable for the damages that resulted. This is called a fault-based system. If fault falls on more than one person, both AZ and NM use a “pure comparative negligence” approach. This means that fault can be shared, and liability is divided among the responsible parties based on the percentage of fault each is determined to have contributed to the accident. Each party's settlement will also be reduced by the amount of fault they played in the incident. 

For example, if a plaintiff was rewarded $100,000 in damages, and they were found to be 20 percent liable, they'd receive $80,000 in compensation from the defendant who was found to be 80 percent responsible for the wreck.  

As you can imagine, when multiple parties with several different percentages of fault are involved in a car accident case, things can get pretty confusing quickly. To negate this confusion and get the settlement you need and deserve, especially if you are partially at fault in the accident, you should contact an auto accident lawyer.  

How Does This Impact My Insurance Settlement?

Determining the initial cause and at-fault parties in an accident may be more difficult when multiple cars are involved. Thus, obtaining a fair and appropriate settlement may also be more difficult in these cases. However, an experienced accident attorney will help you navigate the complexities and determine your settlement value. There are a few ways that multi-car accidents may impact your settlement. We've mentioned some of this above, but let's break it down in this section.

If You Shared Any of the Fault

If you've shared any of the fault in an accident, you will be assigned a percentage based on the amount of fault you shared, as per the theory of comparative negligence. This percentage will impact your settlement. Your total settlement will be reduced by the percentage of liability you are found to have played. 

The Evidence Is Crucial

Multi-car accidents sometimes cause a good amount of finger-pointing, so having evidence to back up your version of events is crucial, especially if someone is trying to pin liability on you. An injury lawyer will work to help you gather the evidence needed to clear up contested liability and maximize your chances of securing a fair settlement. 

If the insurance company is trying to place fault on you, you can and should absolutely challenge this decision with your lawyer. 

What Factors Affect the Liability Determination?

The insurance companies determine how liability is divided among drivers in a multi-car accident. Some factors that may be considered when determining auto accident liability include:

  • A driver's influence of drugs or alcohol
  • Whether any of the drivers were speeding or failed to observe other traffic laws 
  • Whether any of the involved parties were distracted while driving
  • If any of the drivers were following too closely 

Several elements will be considered when fault is determined based on the evidence obtained, such as the official police report, traffic videos, etc. 

The Importance of Consulting an Auto Accident Lawyer

Liability in a three-car or multi-car accident can be difficult to determine. With a lot of potential blaming happening, shared fault, and unclear circumstances, the best choice of action is to consult an experienced accident lawyer. An auto accident attorney will help you collect and sort out the evidence to ensure that you get the fairest settlement possible because your financial and physical recovery is important. At Impact Legal, we offer a free initial case review. To schedule this consultation, text or call us at 602-345-1818. We'll fight for your recovery. 

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