Injured - The FindLaw Accident, Injury and Tort Law Blog

Who Pays After a Multi-Car Pileup?

Car accident liability is a huge area of contention when it comes to multi-car pileups. You've got 10 cars, 10 drivers and 10 different stories. Who's responsible?

It all comes down to negligence. Multi-car pileups are governed by the typical negligence laws and the rules of the road. Whose negligent actions set off the chain reaction? Were other drivers speeding or driving too close?

Responsibility is thus a product of the facts and not any specific legal rule. Consider the example below.

It's rush hour and Car A is in the far left lane when he comes along a massive pothole. That pothole pops his tire, causing him to skid into the dividing wall. Car B was too close behind and didn't hit his brakes in time. He crashes into Car A and skids into the next lane.

Car C, which is in that second lane, didn't see it coming. He was driving safely, but unable to stop. Who's responsible for the pileup?

Car A was a safe driver and had no way to avoid the pothole. His initial accident might be the responsibility of the government for its failure to safely maintain the roads. But Car B might also be responsible for Car A's backside damage because he was driving unsafely.

Car B may also be able to recover from the government. But Car C? Car C was also not negligent. He could probably recover from Car B and the government. He's also unlikely to be held responsible for Car B's back damage.

Based on the above, the government and each driver will each be assigned a percentage of the overall blame. Comparative and contributory negligence laws then kick in. In comparative negligence states, each person must pay for their percentage of damages.

In contributory negligence states, if a person is partially responsible, he cannot recover any damages. Car B would thus be responsible to Cars A and C, but unable to recover from the government.

Responsibility for a multi-car pileup is obvious an incredibly difficult calculation. Which means you should let your insurance company or attorney handle any negotiation for you.

Related Resources: