Whoís at Fault in a Multi-Vehicle Accident... A PSA
The moments directly following a car accident are emotional and confusing, which is a primary reason why insurance companies advise their clients not to admit guilt to the other driver(s). In the chaos, the question of who is to blame doesnít always have a clear cut answer. This is especially true of multi-vehicle collisions because the more cars that are involved in an accident, the more difficult it can be to pinpoint the cause. When it comes to proving fault, the police and the insurance companies will rely heavily on the information provided by those involved in the accident.
Careless and reckless driving habits are the main reasons people get into accidents. For example, drinking and driving, speeding, and disregarding traffic laws are the top three causes of vehicle collisions in the United States. Mitigating factors, such as inclement weather, traffic congestion, and poor visibility can increase the chances of a multi-vehicle car accident but, if external factors exist, it is each driverís responsibility to adjust his driving habits accordingly. When that doesnít happen, the likelihood of a car accident increases.
While external factors serve to establish setting, if someone was driving drunk, driving while distracted, speeding, or otherwise breaking the law, they can be deemed negligent. In such cases, the negligent driver would be at fault. However, there are three key components to showing negligence that must be considered in order to assess blame. These include:
● By law, the driver was legally required to be cautious and reasonably careful.
● The evidence shows that the driver was not cautious or reasonably careful.
● The driverís lack of reasonable caution and care caused injuries to someone and/or damage to their property.
If the evidence suggests that multiple parties are to blame, then the accident may be deemed as a result of contributory negligence. In the case of contributory negligence, blame for the accident is assigned based on the relevant actions of each driver (talking on a cellphone, illegal lane change, speeding, etc).
Remaining a vigilant defensive driver is the best way to avoid being involved in an accident. Of course, sometimes it is literally impossible to anticipate an accident. We canít possibly know that what is going on three cars behind us is going to force us into a chain reaction collision, or that a car is going to race across the intersection as we legally enter it. So, if you do find yourself the victim of a multi-car collision, your best defense is to document everything. That way, if it does come down to litigation, the evidence will show clearly that you were not at fault.
Itís easier to prove who is at fault in a rear-end collision than it is to prove fault in an intersection collision. So, be particularly detailed in your documentation when youíve been involved in an accident in an intersection. Along with details of the other driver, their car, and their insurance information, jot down the contact information of any witnesses who may have seen the accident and/or the behavior of the other driver prior to the accident.
Once youíve collected all of the information, report the accident to your insurance company and pass along everything youíve documented. Your job is not to determine who is at fault in an accident. Thatís the job of the police and the insurance companies. But, being an active participant in collecting information at the scene could potentially make the difference between you receiving compensation or paying money out of pocket.