Fault determination in car accidents isn’t always so clear. Sometimes, it’s downright confusing, more so when multiple vehicles are involved. Even the drivers in the pile-up aren’t always sure who’s to blame.
That’s why there are rules in place to ensure that all multi-car accidents are evaluated in the same way, to ensure a consistent outcome whenever similar actions of a driver cause a similar scenario.
Fault determination in some accidents is pretty straightforward. In others, however, more investigation is required to determine which of the drivers is at fault and to what extent.
With that being said, the question remains: Who is liable in a 3 car accident? Here’s everything you need to know.
How Does a Three-Way Accident Occur?
First, you need to understand how a three-car accident might happen. More often than not, three-way pile-ups are rear-ending crashes where one car strikes the back end of another, which in turn crashes into the car ahead of it. It’s a chain reaction of sorts.
In such instances, the rearmost vehicle is generally liable for causing the entire accident. But apportioning liability in a multi-car accident isn’t always so obvious.
A car may crash into the rear end of the car ahead of it. And then, moments later, a third car comes along and crashes into the first two. In such instances, the third driver may also bear some level of responsibility for the injuries sustained.
In some cases, the rearmost driver isn’t always to blame in such incidents. If you’re driving along the freeway, for instance, and another driver swerves in front of your car and then immediately slams on their brakes, resulting in you rear-ending them, the fault will likely fall on the first driver.
In other instances, multi-car accidents aren’t always chain-reaction-type crashes. A driver may be turning on to on-coming traffic only to end up causing a multi-car pile-up.
How Does Insurance Decide Who Is at Fault?
Well, it depends on who caused the collision and the extent to which they were at fault. Consider the first scenario we described where a car rear-ends the one in front of it, which in turn, crashes into the one ahead.
In such instances, the fault determination is straightforward. The rearmost driver will likely be 100 percent at fault in that particular crash. So, they would be liable for each driver’s injuries, and damages suffered.
Now, the second scenario we detailed – where one car (B) rear-ends another (A) before a third one (C) crashes into the first two – isn’t as straightforward. In such a case, driver B would be 90 to 100 percent liable for driver A’s injuries and damages.
Driver C, who’s responsible for the second accident, would be 100 percent liable for driver B’s injury and damages and might be 10 percent liable for driver A’s costs.
What to Do When Involved in a Multi-Car Accident
If you’re involved in a multi-car accident, the first thing you need to do is file a police accident report as soon as possible. It’s also important to take photos of the accident scene to provide evidence to the insurance adjusters of how the accident occurred. The more information you can collect, the stronger your claim will be.
Keep in mind that your version of events may differ from the other drivers’ accounts. So, an insurance company will go with the findings of the reporting officer to determine if any of the drivers committed a traffic violation that directly or indirectly contributed to the accident.
How to Get a Copy of a Police Report
If you were involved in a 3-car accident and need to get your hands on the police accident report, it’s easier than you think. This is a crucial piece of documentation that can help you substantiate a traffic accident, personal injury, damage, and loss of property claim with your insurance company or in civil court proceedings.
While the exact process may vary from one jurisdiction to the next, the steps you need to take are generally the same across all states. You could always visit your local police department to find out how they handle Public Access Requests.
Once you do, you can file a request in-person. There’s usually a standard fee you have to pay before you can get a copy of the report.
Alternatively, you could get it via mail by downloading and filling out a Public Access Request Form/Letter and mailing it to your local police department. Once they acknowledge the receipt of your request, they’ll be in touch with you on how you can get it and inform you of the requisite fees you have to pay.
How Do You Fix an Incorrect Police Report?
Remember, police officers are human. Just like the rest of us, they too can make mistakes. Sometimes, the reporting officer may not have enough physical evidence to go on or eye-witnesses to back-up the drivers’ accounts of what happened.
They may also get inconsistent accounts of how the accident occurred. As a result, they may end up making errors in their police reports. If you feel that the report in question isn’t a true reflection of the events that occurred, get in touch with the officer as soon as possible and let them know (politely) that there’s an error in the report.
Tell them what you need corrected and provide documentary proof of the mistake. This could be in the form of medical records, vehicle registration details, or anything else that’s relevant to your case.
They will then look up the police report by case number. It is also a good idea to provide a statement detailing your account of events. Whether or not they’ll add it to the reports is entirely up to them.
Retain an experienced car accident lawyer to contact the police on your behalf. They stand a much better chance of getting the police to amend the report and can help you craft a strong statement.
Great Representation Is the Best Strategy
If you’re ever involved in a 3 car accident, hiring a car accident lawyer immediately after is the best strategy when pursuing an insurance claim or lawsuit. Having great legal representation is your best bet, whether you are at fault or not.
Timing is everything in such scenarios since those who act first will likely be able to claim a larger percentage of the policy liability limit. So, you’ll need to move with haste to get the best possible outcome.
If you have any legal questions concerning multi-car accident liability, contact a skilled accident attorney as soon as possible.