Who Is Liable for a Multi-Car Crash in California?

Car Accidents | February 24, 2021

In California, under the state’s traditional tort-based law, the person or party at fault for causing a car accident will be responsible for paying for damages. In many car accident cases, liability is between only two drivers. Fault will go to the driver who broke a roadway rule and caused the collision. In a multi-car crash, however, fault and liability are more difficult to determine. You may need to speak to a car accident attorney in Los Angeles for answers.

ambulance parked in front of a smashed sedan on a busy road with cars and trucks coming. text: "When multiple drivers are involved in a crash, who is at fault?"

Who is at Fault in a 3-Car Crash?

When a car accident involves three vehicles, fault will go to the driver who caused the initial collision. Even if the initial accident causes a chain reaction that involves a third vehicle, liability will go to the driver responsible for causing the first collision. Most three-car collisions take the form of rear-end car accidents.

In a rear-end collision involving more than two cars, Driver A is typically the driver who initially makes the mistake and does not stop on time to avoid colliding with Driver B, who has hit the brakes in front of Driver A. If the velocity of the collision was powerful enough to propel Driver B into Driver C, Driver A will be liable for the entire collision.

In this example, Driver A will have to pay for both Driver B and Driver C’s damages, since he or she caused the initial collision, even though it was technically Driver B who caused the damage to Driver C’s vehicle. This is how fault is determined in most three-car crashes: the driver responsible for starting the chain reaction will be liable for everyone else’s losses.

Who is at Fault in a Multi-Car Pileup?

A multi-car pileup is a crash involving several different vehicles and drivers. These can be especially difficult to litigate. Multiple drivers may share fault for a multi-car accident, or one driver may be liable for everyone else’s damages. Understanding what happened can be difficult, as each driver may have a different version of events and all may deny fault.

It may take investigators and law enforcement officers a long time to examine a pileup in detail to assign fault. Evidence investigators may use to determine fault for a multi-car crash can include eyewitness statements, police reports, photographs, any available video footage and information from crash reconstruction specialists. Reconstructing how the pileup happened, piece by piece, is necessary to determine fault.

Fault may go to more than one party for a multi-car pileup in California. Two or more drivers may share fault for behaving carelessly or breaking a roadway rule and contributing to the collision. If this is the case, California’s joint and several liability law will hold each defendant liable for only his or her portion of fault for the accident. Injured parties in these crashes can recover compensation from multiple drivers’ insurance providers.

What If You Share Fault?

If an investigation of the multi-vehicle crash assigns a portion of fault to you, do not be discouraged. Under California’s pure comparative negligence law, you could still recover at least a portion of financial compensation from another driver’s insurance company. However, the courts will reduce your financial recovery by an amount that matches your degree of fault. It is important, therefore, to hire an attorney to bring your percentage of fault as low as possible.

Get Help From a Los Angeles Accident Attorney

If you have been injured in a car accident involving more than just you and another driver, consult with a personal injury lawyer in Los Angeles for assistance with the legal process. A three-car crash or a multi-car pileup can be extremely difficult to litigate.

Your lawyer will have the resources to thoroughly investigate the crash, including hiring experts to get to the bottom of which driver caused the initial collision. Your lawyer can also gather evidence to prove that driver’s fault, helping you obtain financial compensation so you can move forward.

During the COVID-19 crisis, The Ryan Law Group is open for business and continues to be available to existing and new clients through virtual meetings and teleconferences. We can handle all of your legal needs without you leaving your house. Please, call (310) 321-4800 or contact us here to be connected to our attorneys who can get to work on your case.