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Who Is at Fault in a Multi-Car Accident?

Published on Apr 9, 2024 at 8:52 am in Car Accidents.

fault in multi-car collisionIn Texas, fault determines whose insurance is going to pay for a car accident. Being found at fault also affects the ability to recover compensation if you are injured. Insurance companies will fight hard on this issue to limit what they must pay for claims as much as possible.

In multi-car accidents, the fault may rest with several motorists, including those who are injured. Each insurance company will investigate to determine who is liable for the accident. Fault is like a hot potato among insurance companies, which is why recording and preserving evidence after a car accident is so important for personal injury claims.

Why Multi-Car Accidents Occur

Multiple car accidents can occur for a variety of reasons. Weather conditions on the roadway can affect many vehicles at once, initiating a multiple-vehicle accident. Aggressive driving can cause motorists to react and further endanger others. A mechanical or equipment failure could stall a vehicle in traffic or spread debris on the roadway.

Although Texas does not have the most licensed drivers in the United States (it’s second to California), it does have the most total lane miles and had the highest number of deaths from multiple vehicle accidents (2,238) in the most recent year of reporting data.

How to Determine Liability in a Multi-Car Accident

determining liability fault in multi-car collisionThere may be a number of parties liable when a multi-car accident occurs, depending on the sequence of events culminating in the crash. Fault will be apportioned according to the relative significance of the contributing events.

The standard for determining fault in most car accident cases is negligence. Negligence is the failure to act as a reasonable person – that is, to act unreasonably – in a given situation. People have a legal duty to act reasonably in situations where the failure to do so could result in harm to others.

In addition to negligence, two other theories of liability can come into play after a multi-car accident. If a negligent motorist was conducting business on behalf of an employer at the time of the accident, the employer may have vicarious liability for the actions of the employee. If a defective part on a vehicle contributed to the accident, the manufacturer of the vehicle or the part may be liable for any resulting damage.

Vehicle Drivers

The actions of each driver involved in an auto accident will be scrutinized to determine if the driver acted negligently. Unsafe driving practices, distraction or inattention, and / or violating the law are all indications of negligent behavior.

Drivers who fail to look for other vehicles before changing lanes can cause multi-car accidents if they need to swerve back into their lane to avoid other cars. They could overcorrect and hit a car on the other side or rear-end a vehicle in front of them. This could lead to a third driver riding behind the first car to slam into that car. The chain reaction can build until several vehicles of all sizes are involved.

Untangling the liability of who is responsible for what damage can be extremely complicated without experienced guidance from a trained Houston car accident attorney.

Employers

An employer may be held liable for the actions of an employee if the employee was acting within the course and scope of their employment at the time of the wreck. Delivery drivers, couriers, and employees on their way to in-person meetings offsite could be found at fault for causing accidents, and their employers held liable, as well.

Maintenance or Service Companies

Careless or improper maintenance or servicing of a vehicle or roadway can contribute to a car accident. If a vehicle has had brake work done recently and crashes when the brakes fail, the company performing the work may have liability for negligently installing or adjusting the brakes. Similarly, companies hired to maintain or repair roadways may be liable when conditions they created or failed to correct contribute to accidents.

Manufacturers

Product liability law holds manufacturers liable for the defective design or manufacture of products. They can also be liable if they fail to give clear warnings about known hazards. If a manufacturing defect causes a car’s engine to stall suddenly on the freeway and the slowdown is too abrupt for other motorists to avoid a collision, the manufacturer may be strictly liable for the resulting damage.

Governmental Entities

Governments are generally responsible for maintaining roadways in a safe condition for motorists to use. This duty can include inspection for problems, repairs and upgrades, and adequate warnings of conditions in and around the roadways.

In the most recent infrastructure report card prepared by the American Society of Civil Engineers, Texas highways and roads received a D+ or lower grade. A grade of D indicates the infrastructure is in “poor to fair condition and mostly below standard” with significant deterioration.

icy roads act of God fault in multi-car collisionWho Is at Fault When an Act of God Causes a Car Accident?

When an auto accident is caused by a natural event and not due to any negligence on the part of a motorist, the at-fault party may claim an act of God as a defense to liability. For the defense to succeed, the event must be unexpected and happen too quickly for human intervention to affect the situation.

It might be tempting to claim an icy roadway is responsible for a multi-car accident. However, it is rare that such conditions are completely unexpected or happen so quickly humans cannot adjust their driving behavior to minimize the risk.

What Will Happen if You Are Injured and Are at Fault for a Car Accident

Having some fault for causing a car accident does not necessarily mean an injured person will be unable to recover damages. In Texas, if a person has proportionate responsibility for an crash not greater than 50%, they may collect the percentage of their damages for which they are not at fault.

As an example, an injured person who is found to be 10% responsible for causing an auto accident may still be able to recover 90% of their damages.

Who To Contact for Help After Being Injured in A Multi-Car Accident

Determining fault in a multi-car accident directly correlates with the ability of an injured person to recover damages. Depending on the circumstances, establishing fault may require considerable investigation and the opinions of experts. Insurance companies may do a lot of finger-pointing back and forth, and the issues can get complex.

The car accident lawyers at The Mejia Law Firm in Houston understand how to sort through the issues and determine fault in multi-car accidents. With decades of litigation experience and a commitment to serving the local community, The Mejia Law Firm offers reliable representation for persons injured by the negligence of others. Call today for a free consultation.

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