In addition to the dramatic pileups that make the evening news, smaller accidents involving three, four, or five cars happen across the state of Texas every day. Because many vehicles are involved in these accidents, establishing fault is tricky.
If you are wondering who might be at fault for your multi-vehicle pileup, this guide from the car accident attorneys at the Hernandez Law Group, P.C. can help.
Determining the Details of the Chain-Reaction Car Crash
With so many variables at play, chain-reaction accidents are complicated. In most rear-end collisions, the driver of the car that slams into the back of another vehicle is at fault. In a multi-vehicle pileup, however, any driver can be at fault. In fact, more than one driver is often held accountable.
To establish fault, investigators must look at the details of the crash and how each impact happened. For example, if a vehicle stops on the road and causes the three cars behind it to slam into each other, those drivers may be held responsible for following too closely.
If a stopped car is hit and pushed into another car in front of it, the driver of that car will likely not be at fault because they didn’t contribute to the accident.
Role of Negligence in Establishing Fault
To establish fault for a multi-vehicle pileup, investigators will try to determine the negligent party. Negligence is defined as the failure to exercise the care that a reasonable or prudent person would in the same circumstances. These are the most common negligent actions that lead to multi-vehicle car accidents:
- Distracted Driving: Several actions fall under the definition of distracted driving, including texting, putting on makeup, talking to someone in the car, or anything else that takes your attention away from the road.
- Reckless Driving: Reckless driving involves any maneuvers a driver makes that may be considered reckless under certain road conditions. For example, driving the speed limit when the roads are icy may be considered reckless since most reasonable drivers would proceed slowly in such poor conditions.
- Disobeying Traffic Laws: Running a red light and speeding are examples of disobeying traffic laws that often lead to chain reaction accidents.
- Driving Under the Influence of Drugs or Alcohol: Driving under the influence of any substance may be considered negligent, even if the substance is prescribed. Drugs and alcohol are common contributors to multi-vehicle accidents.
Establishing negligence is important when determining fault in a pileup. For this reason, it is often a matter of great scrutiny and debate.
Other Factors That Increase the Risk of a Multi-Car Pileup
- Inclement Weather: Heavy rains or icy conditions often make the roads slick, increasing stopping distance. Heavy rains, fogs, and very sunny conditions can lead to reduced visibility, increasing the likelihood of an accident.
- Time of Day: Although it seems strange, time of day plays a role in road conditions and the state of the drivers on the road. Early mornings in the winter may cause slick roads due to lower temperatures while driving late at night increases the likelihood of encountering drunk or tired drivers.
- Location of the Accident: The location of the accident says a lot about a multi-car pileup. In urban areas, multi-car accidents often happen near stoplights and stop signs. On interstates and highways, they are often caused due to speeding or reckless and distracted driving.
Shared Fault for Chain Reaction Accidents
Only a perfect storm creates a massive pileup, so several drivers may be at fault. When this happens, attorneys and insurance agents determine—and sometimes fight over—the fault of each individual. It may be determined that one driver is 70 percent at fault and another only 30 percent depending on the role each played in causing the accident.
There is no limit on the number of drivers that can share fault. In some cases, every driver involved may carry some of the blame.
Determining Liability in a Multi-Vehicle Accident
There are three main ways that states determine who should be held accountable for paying damages after an accident:
- Comparative Negligence: In comparative negligence states, drivers are held liable for damages depending on their percentage of fault. For example, if a driver is 60 percent responsible for an accident, they would be responsible for paying for 60 percent of the damages.
- Modified Comparative Negligence: This is similar to comparative negligence; however, a driver must be less than 50 percent responsible for the accident to recoup money from another driver. If you’re more than 50 percent responsible, you will be responsible for paying your damages.
- Pure Contributory Negligence: Under this law, you must be completely without blame to recoup compensation from the other driver or drivers.
Texas uses the principle of modified comparative negligence, which means you must be under the 50 percent threshold to recoup your losses from another driver.
Have You Been Involved in a Multi-Car Pileup?
If you have been injured in a multi-vehicle pileup, you need Juan Hernandez—a Texas board-certified personal injury attorney—on your side. Only two percent of Texas attorneys have this certification. Contact the dedicated car accident team at the Hernandez Law Group for more information about how we can help with your case or schedule a free no-obligation consultation.