Under California law, the party responsible for causing a car collision (person at fault) will be accountable for compensating for losses and damages. In many car accidents, liability is only between two drivers. The fault will go to the driver that broke a roadway law and caused the collision. However, in a multi-car crash, fault and liability can be more challenging to determine.
Let’s explore differences in assessing fault indifferent scenarios …
Three Car Collisions
In a three-car collision, the fault will go to the driver who initially broke the law and caused a chain collision involving other cars. Even if the second car had to violate a rule for the driver’s safety and the safety of others, the fault would fall back on the initial driver and vehicle that triggered the accident.
What about a multi-car collision or “pileup?”
A multi-car pileup is trying and traumatic for all parties involved and it is also challenging determining fault and liability.
A multi-car pileup is a crash including and affecting numerous vehicles, drivers, and passengers (who may have sustained injuries due to the crash’s impact).
These unfortunate large-scale collisions are complex to litigate. Multiple drivers may yield fault for a multi-car accident, or one driver may be deemed responsible for everyone else’s damages. Understanding what happened can be difficult. Each driver may have a different account of the events, and all may deny fault.
Several other factors play a part in determining fault and liability…
Can dash-cam footage be valuable and is it legal?
The short answer is “mostly,” although because dash cams are also equipped with audio recordings, the driver must post a visible notice (a sticker or sign that doesn’t pose a hazard to other drivers) informing passengers that they are being recorded. If the passenger protests to their audio being utilized, then the dash-cam audio must be turned off, but the remaining video footage is still permissible when determining fault (even in court). Footage can be beneficial in determining liability. This also applies to rear and front bumper cameras (should the vehicle be equipped with them).
*It is important to note: The dash-cam footage may also be used against you should something be discovered, placing you at fault for a portion or all of the accident.
Are there any potential witnesses present?
Another essential tool in assessing cause and fault in a multi-car crash is witnesses.
Witnesses (who weren’t involved in the collision) are critical in any car accident, but especially in a multi-car pileup. Witnesses are unbiased observers and likely will base their statements and descriptions on precisely what they observed. Drivers involved in the accident generally are vested in denying blame.
Suppose several witnesses at the scene of the accident corroborate each other. In this instance, the chain of events and initial wrongdoing is established and confirmed when it may have otherwise been difficult to verify and work through.
It is imperative to get the information (when possible) of bystanders involved that may later become witnesses helping to recount and determine liability. Collect contact information of potential witnesses and take notes, so long as you are able.
Witnesses can offer decisive information to the accident report, to the insurance companies assigned with the task of determining what percentage of liability each driver holds, and your attorney.
Call the police right away.
Lastly, but most importantly, call the police right away. The police will write the crash report and pay close attention to the facts involved. Additionally, police take photos, review video surveillance footage (like traffic cameras where available), and gather detailed information.
What should you do if you are injured in a multi-car accident?
Regardless of the severity of your injuries, it is wise to seek medical attention following an accident. Adrenaline may mask some of your symptoms and it is prudent to document any conditions right away in case you need to file a claim later on.
You may be entitled to financial recovery for injuries or property damages. You’ll want someone to advocate for your best interests and the best possible outcome for your case and our team of experienced attorneys at The Law Office of Daniel H. Rose are here to help you do just that. If you have been involved in a multi-car accident, call us today at 415-496-8900.