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Multi-Car Crashes: Who Is Responsible?

It can be challenging to determine fault in many car accidents—even those involving just one or two vehicles. Which driver was at fault? Did external factors cause it? A host of questions can be raised in connection with fault. However, the difficulty behind making this determination often increases exponentially when considering an accident involving multiple cars.

So, then where does the blame actually lie? Is it the first car that hit another car? The middle vehicle? Or does the fault fall on the car that caused the final impact? Appropriately referred to as a “chain reaction crash,” this type of accident occurs when one vehicle rear-ends another, propelling the next vehicle into the car in front of it, and so on. The resulting pile-up can result in multiple injuries, several wrecked cars, and possible property damage. It also triggers the challenge of determining which driver is at fault—a task much less straightforward than assessing a two-car accident. Notably, there may even be multiple drivers at fault!

The first point of interest in establishing fault in a multi-car accident is the driver whose vehicle first began the chain reaction, the first impact. However, if any driver in the chain caused the accident to become “worse” than it could have been, they can also be declared at fault. For example, if someone were to t-bone you, it would cause a two-vehicle accident. Consider, however, a driver who is speeding and following too closely behind the vehicle that caused the first impact, they could very well be unable to stop in time, thereby adding an additional vehicle to the fray. In doing so, they would also bear responsibility.

Maryland is a Contributory Negligence State

Given the complexity of establishing fault in a multi-vehicle accident, it becomes even more challenging to attach a percentage of fault for which each driver should be held responsible. With that in mind, in a multi-car crash, if you are found liable for any amount of the cause or worsening of the accident, you are ineligible to receive compensation. Maryland is one of only four states that still utilize a contributory negligence standard concerning vehicle accidents. Essentially, contributory negligence means that a plaintiff is barred from receiving any compensation if they are found to have contributed to the cause of the accident—even if only a small portion of the fault is attributed to them. Even a driver who is determined to have a 1% fault is barred from recovering damages in connection with the accident, which can impact whether or not you have a case. For example, even if you are involved in a significant accident in which someone cut you off, you will still not have any right to compensation if you were speeding.

What Should You Do if You’re in a Multi-Car Crash?

As with any accident, there are specific steps you can take during and after the accident to ensure you are in the best position to receive compensation. Be sure to always do the following:

  1. Go to the Hospital: If you feel any pain, it is critical that you go to the hospital preferably right after the accident. Trust that this is not the time to wait and see if your pain disappears. Doing so could risk the possibility of compensation as hospital medical records often play a key role in establishing the compensation you should receive. These records serve as proof of your injuries. Not only that you were injured, but of the severity of the injury and the pain and suffering experienced. 
  2. Provide Details: Always provide all details you can recall about the accident to the responding officer. It is essential to describe what occurred before, during, and after the crash in as much detail as possible, nothing is “too small” or “unimportant.” You never know when something you have shared could make or break your case. The report done by the responding officer is crucial in helping insurance companies determine who is at fault.
  3. Consult with an Attorney: If you, or someone you know, has been involved in a multi-car accident, it is vital to contact an attorney immediately. The experienced lawyers at Krum, Gergely & Oates will ensure you receive proper compensation for your injuries, pain, and suffering. We have worked with thousands of people in similar situations, always ensuring they receive the compensation they deserve. Let us help you make the best of a bad situation!