chain reaction

Who’s at Fault for a Chain-Reaction Car Crash?

Understanding Fault laws are different in different states is the first step toward protecting your legal rights if you’re involved in a chain-reaction car accident.

Rear-end collisions are among the most common types of traffic accidents and are often the start of a chain-reaction in which one vehicle rear-ends another, that vehicle is propelled into the vehicle in front of it, and so on.

Chain-reaction car accidents take many forms, range in severity, and may involve any number of vehicles, drivers, passengers, pedestrians, and so on. Although these types of accidents can be the result of a single driver's negligence, chain-reaction accidents may involve instances of carelessness by multiple drivers.

Generally speaking, most factors that can cause a car accident can also cause a chain-reaction car accident: things like speeding, bad weather, drunk or distracted driving. Many chain-reaction car accidents are the result of several of these factors occurring at the same time. It's this combination of causes that often makes finding fault in a chain-reaction traffic accident so difficult.

As mentioned, Fault laws differ state-by-state, so if you travel for work or if you regularly drive out of state to visit family or friends, remember that what you know about one state’s negligence laws may not apply.

WHO’S AT FAULT?
Fault laws in the U.S. are complicated and differ by state. At least a dozen states, for example, require drivers to purchase no-fault insurance or personal injury protection (PIP) insurance, which means they are protected in situations where no driver is at fault. However, most states are tort or at-fault states, where insurance companies pay claims according to who is found to be at fault for the accident. Depending on where the accident occurred, the following negligence laws may apply:

  • Comparative negligence is a legal principle in which a court may reduce the maximum damage a victim can claim if it’s determined their own actions contributed to the incident. For instance, if the court rules that a plaintiff was 25% at fault in an accident, the most they can recover is 75%. Some states use modified comparative negligence rules that prohibit a person from recovering damages if their contribution to the accident is 50% or more.
  • Contributory negligence differs from comparative negligence by limiting a driver’s overall ability to recover damages depending on how much they are at fault for the accident. Some states use pure contributory negligence, which says if the plaintiffs are even 1% at fault, there can be no recovery. This differs from the pure comparative negligence model, which allows a person to at least receive a claim on 1% of damages, even if they are 99% to blame.

Contributory and Comparative Negligence by State
Understanding fault laws are different in different states is the first step toward understanding your legal rights if you’re involved in a chain-reaction car accident.

CLICK HERE for a map of contributory and comparative negligence by state.

HOW IS FAULT INVESTIGATED?
Responding officers typically start the process of determining fault. They may interview drivers, passengers and those who witnessed the accident. If it’s available, they may also examine dash cam and smartphone footage shared by those involved, as well as photographs of any damage. It may also be possible to obtain video recordings from other nearby cameras.

Insurance companies investigate accidents as well to validate claims made by one or more parties. The case gets assigned to an adjuster who reaches out for more information before coming to a decision.

If more than one driver caused the accident, injured parties may have to file claims for compensation with more than one insurance company, and it’s not uncommon for different insurance companies to point the finger at each other in an effort to deny any liability or to reduce the amount they have to pay. In cases like these, it’s important to get an attorney involved to assist you in this process.

Please share this information with family and friends and encourage all drivers to be safe and attentive on the road.

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