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Determining Fault for a Multi-Car Crash in Pennsylvania

line of cars on highwayMany car crashes involve only two vehicles, and the driver of one of the vehicles is at fault. There are also some car crashes involving three or more vehicles and liability is often shared among the drivers involved.

These incidents are also known as chain-reaction crashes, as there is often one collision between two vehicles that results in collisions with other vehicles. For example, if one vehicle rear-ends another, it could create a domino effect, resulting in the first vehicle hitting another vehicle and that vehicle hitting another and so on.

Determining liability for these accidents can be complicated, as multiple parties may bear a percentage of liability for damages that resulted from the crash. Victims should strongly consider meeting with a licensed attorney to discuss filing a claim.

At Schmidt Kramer, an initial consultation is 100 percent free, and you are not obligated to hire our firm after this meeting is over. Our Harrisburg auto accident lawyers do not get paid unless you get paid at the end of the legal process.

Common Examples of Multi-Vehicle Crashes

Many multi-car crashes are a series of rear-end accidents. One car rear-ends another in heavy traffic, and this propels the other car into another car. There could be several cars involved, depending on the force of the initial impact and how close the second vehicle is to a third vehicle.

While chain-reaction crashes can involve as few as three vehicles, they could also involve up to 10 or more. Typically, more vehicles are involved when first crash happens at high speed, such as on an interstate. The first collision could cause the affected driver to lose control and then there is no telling how many vehicles could get pulled into the accident.

Some of the most severe multi-car accidents involve semi-trucks. For example, if a semi-truck jackknifes (the trailer swings out at a 90-degree angle to the cab), suffers a tire blowout or the brakes lock up, it could result in a crash involving several vehicles. Other drivers may be unable to avoid a collision, even if they slow down or try to veer away. In a jackknife crash, the trailer can block off several lanes of traffic, make it nearly impossible for oncoming drivers to avoid a collision.

Multi-car crashes are often started by driver negligence, such as:

  • Speeding
  • Tailgating
  • Drunk/impaired driving
  • Drowsy driving
  • Distracted driving (texting and driving or looking at an accident instead of the road)
  • Failing to maintain a lane

Other Factors That Could Cause a Chain Reaction

Sometimes there are other factors besides driver negligence that contribute to a multi-car crash, such as:

  • Poor visibility (smoke, fog, heavy rain)
  • Snow or icy conditions on the road
  • Damage to the roadway (potholes or uneven portions of the road)
  • And more

Assessing Fault for a Multi-Car Crash

The driver who causes the first impact often bears significant fault for damages that result from the crash, particularly if he or she crashed into another vehicle due to negligence (distracted driving, tailgating, etc.).

That said, the other drivers involved may be partially at fault due to their own negligence. For example, did the driver whose car suffered the first impact have broken taillights? If so, he or she may be at least partially at fault for damages.

Other drivers who get pulled into the crash could be at fault for failing to take steps to avoid the collision, such as slowing down or moving into another lane. If they were distracted, they may be partially at fault for the accident.

While fault is often shared among multiple drivers, there are third parties that could be at fault as well. For example, the employer of the commercial truck driver involved in the crash may be at fault if they allowed the driver to exceed hours of service limitations. They could also bear fault if they allowed an unlicensed or unqualified driver to get behind the wheel.

What Happens if Fault is Shared for a Multi-Vehicle Crash?

Pennsylvania bars injured victims from seeking compensation if they are 51 percent or more at fault for their injury. If you are less than 51 percent at fault, you can recover compensation, but it will be reduced based on your percentage of fault. In other words, if you are 10 percent at fault, your compensation would be reduced by 10 percent.

If fault is shared between multiple parties, your attorney may need to file claims against multiple parties to recover full compensation for your damages. If one party bears 40 percent of the fault, your lawyer may be able to recover 40 percent of your compensation from that party’s insurance company.

However, it is important to note Pennsylvania is a no-fault, which means victims first seek compensation from their personal injury protection (PIP) insurance. If your damages exceed the value of your PIP insurance, you may be able to file a claim against another driver’s liability insurance.

Proving Liability for a Multi-Car Crash

Your attorney will need to conduct a detailed investigation to gather evidence to prove your case for compensation. Not only will your attorney need to discuss the crash with you and review the police report, but he or she is also likely to need pictures and any available video of the crash. Testimony from accident witnesses and expert witnesses may also be necessary. These accidents are complex, which means building a case is likely to be complicated.

Victims should strongly consider hiring an experienced attorney to help you seek compensation. Trying to manage the legal process yourself is often a bad idea, as the legal process can be overwhelming and insurance companies know how to take advantage of victims who are desperate for compensation.

Contact Schmidt Kramer for Legal Assistance

For more than three decades, our experienced attorneys have been helping crash victims secure compensation for damages caused by collisions. We have obtained millions on behalf of our clients at no upfront cost.

Schedule your free legal consultation today to learn how we may be able to help you. We are not paid for our services unless our clients receive compensation. Read what our clients have to say about the services we provided on our client reviews page.

Free Consultation. Zero Upfront Costs. Call (717) 510-1782 today.