How Is Fault Determined in a Multi-Car Crash?

Determining liability in a multi-car accident is in some ways similar to what happens in a two-vehicle accident. Generally, it’s still about finding out who was the first driver to have acted negligently. It’s not as easy because the actions or behavior of drivers in between may have been inadvertent consequences of being sideswiped or bumped by another car.

There are also instances when one of the cars involved in a multiple car accident was just avoiding a more proximate impact and had to swerve to another lane or head for what is thought to be vacant spots. If you need a lawyer for an accident, you can search online but ensure that you approach only reputable ones. 

Here’s a brief discussion on how fault is determined in a multi-car accident.

multi-car crash

Who Is Liable

The first thing to know in a multi-car accident is who was the driver who failed to perform his duty to keep other drivers or passersby safe. The driver who was first to be negligent would most likely be held liable. It’s not always that simple or apparent, though. Every multiple-car collision is a complex and unique accident.

In multiple-car accidents, sometimes there are pileups where the outcome or arrangement of the cars doesn’t seem to reflect what happened. Some accidents just start and happen so fast, that not even bystander witnesses could say what started it. As a response, some auto manufacturers are already developing rear crash prevention systems.

How To Prove Who’s At Fault

A chain reaction pileup starts with one car that bumps or crashes onto another car. This is followed by several cars that collide with one of the cars bumped by the pileup.

To prove which among the several drivers was first to be negligent, the investigators would have to find and gather as much evidence. This should be enough to demonstrate and prove the negligence of the driver.

In many instances, eyewitness accounts are indispensable. Those who first saw what happened would be in the best position to say who started it all. There are several ways to prove liability aside from eyewitnesses’ accounts. You can also look for possible evidence from:

  • Video footage from CCTV security camera
  • The extent of damage to the vehicles
  • Evidence at the scene of the accident, such as skid marks
  • Damage sustained by nearby shops and other establishments

Factors To Consider

The evidence gathered by investigators and law enforcement agents will be crucial to the case outcome if it does go to trial. The judge would weigh other factors if the case comes up for adjudication and decision. Here are some of those:

  • Evidence – This includes the positions of the vehicles right after the collision, extent of damages, and debris.
  • Eyewitness AccountsIf everyone who saw the accident can be found, they will have to tell their version of what happened.
  • Road Conditions – The judge would also ask about the road condition of the vicinity where it happened.
  • Unlawful Driving – If one or some of the drivers were found to be driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, they’ll be assigned fault. The same goes for those driving without a license or beyond the speed limit for that area.
  • Road Signs – Even non-drivers can be assigned fault. If there was a construction site nearby and they didn’t post road signs, they can be found to be partially at fault.

Different Scenarios

Multiple car collisions would involve different scenarios and result in different, often unique, outcomes. The common thing is that one car bumped onto another in the first collision; then one, two, or more, and the rest followed in a chain-reaction pileup.

  • Rear-End Collision – In a rear-end pileup, the rearmost car is generally regarded as at fault. This is the basic principle of fault. The rearmost vehicle had the best opportunity to avoid the collision because it could see the car in front. It’s also possible that more than one car is at fault. In such an incident, you’ll have to use the principle of comparative negligence to find out who’s at fault.
  • Head-On Collision – In a multiple vehicle head-on collision, the general rule is that the car that swerves to the other lane is at fault for the impact. However, if the car swerved to avoid a collision in front of it, and in the process hit another car, it won’t be at fault. The first car that caused the collision ahead of the car that swerved will most likely be the one to be adjudged at fault.


Determining who is at fault in multiple car accidents is both similar to and different from a simple car accident. There are unique and complex multiple car accidents that sometimes make it difficult to identify exactly who was at fault. Judges usually employ principles of fault and negligence to resolve these complex issues. Some of these were discussed here.

Photo Attribution

Image by estelle heitz from Pixabay

Image by Tumisu from Pixabay.

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