When large pile-up accidents occur, figuring out who is to blame can sometimes be impossible. Liability depends on how the accident happened, and for every vehicle involved in the accident, there will be a different account of what happened. Frequently, multi-vehicle accidents require accident reconstruction experts to figure out who is to blame.
Nearly all car accidents are the result of negligence, and most multi-car accidents are the result of multiple instances of negligence. At the end of the day, it may be that multiple individuals are liable for damages, or that no one can be held liable.
One Bump or Two?
When a multi-car collision occurs, frequently drivers at the front of the pile who were impacted are asked how many collisions or bumps they felt. This question is rather significant because it can help explain the sequence of events. For instance, in a three car rear-ender, if the front driver (D1) only felt one impact, then it is likely that only the rear car (D3) is at fault.
However, if the front car felt two impacts, then it is likely that the rear driver (D3) and the middle driver (D2) share fault to the front car, but the rear car will also be liable to the middle car. If the front driver feels more than one impact, it is presumed that he (D1) was hit (by D2), and then the person that hit him was hit after (by D3).
After a big accident, in order to figure out liability, accident reconstruction experts will usually be asked to examine all the evidence. The goal of an accident reconstruction expert is to take all the witness statements, drivers' statements, information in police reports, photographs of the scene, photographs of the damages, and any other available information, to explain the chain of events.
Comparative versus Contributory Negligence
While every state recognizes negligence as a cause of action, states split on what they do when more than one party was negligent. In comparative negligence states, if a driver is found to be 25% at fault then their recover will be reduced by that percentage. In contributory negligence states, if a driver is found to be 5% or even 1% at fault, they cannot recover at all.