Who Is Responsible in a Multi-vehicle Accident?

Car accidents in Missouri take many shapes and forms. They are not all simple accidents involving only two vehicles and a driver who is clearly at fault. Some are multi-vehicle collisions and pileups that make it difficult to determine liability. If you get involved in a multi-vehicle accident, find out who could be responsible for paying damages, or financial compensation, and whether you could face the comparative negligence defense for your own part in the collision.

What to Do After a Multi-Vehicle Accident?

After a Kansas City car accident involving three or more vehicles, call the police right away. Having an officer at the scene can help sort out what happened and who is at fault. The police can begin investigating the crash right away, such as by speaking to eyewitnesses and documenting the facts. This police report can be used later, during the insurance claims process, to determine fault.

Once you’ve been cleared to leave the scene and been to a doctor, call your car insurance company to report the accident. Your insurance provider will assign a claims adjuster to your case to investigate the accident. The insurance company’s investigation may involve collecting information from you and the other drivers, assessing property damage in person, and looking at your proof of loss documents. 

It is important not to admit fault at any point during a crash investigation or the processing of an insurance claim. Do not apologize to the other drivers involved in the crash while you are at the scene, as this could be taken as an admittance of guilt. Instead, wait for the investigative process to determine who caused the crash.

How Is Fault Determined in a Multi-Vehicle Accident?

In a multi-vehicle accident case, fault could go to any driver involved – or multiple drivers could share fault. Fault depends on the mechanics of the crash. Investigators will first need to establish the order of the impact. In most cases, liability for this type of accident will go to the driver of the vehicle that caused the initial impact. If this impact triggers a chain-reaction accident involving multiple vehicles, the driver of the first vehicle will most likely bear fault. Here’s an example:

Driver C > Driver B > Driver A

If these three vehicles are in a line waiting at a stoplight when Driver D falls asleep behind the wheel and crashes into the back of Driver C, it could propel Driver C’s vehicle into the rear of Driver B, which could then force Driver B into Driver A. In this example, Driver D would be liable for the damage to all other vehicles, even though Driver D’s car never actually touched Drivers B or A. This is because Driver D is responsible for causing the initial collision that triggered the chain reaction.

Not all multi-vehicle accidents are chain reaction crashes. Some take place on highways when drivers make unsafe lane changes and cause pileups. Others occur at intersections, with multiple drivers in the wrong for failing to yield the right-of-way. Multi-car accidents are frequently caused by driver mistakes such as speeding, running red lights, tailgating and distracted driving. Investigators will need to determine which driver or drivers broke Missouri’s traffic laws and are at fault for the initial impact before you can file a claim.

Comparative Negligence and Multi-Vehicle Accidents

Comparative negligence is a legal doctrine in Missouri that states that if a plaintiff, or injured accident victim, is partially responsible for the car crash, he or she may only collect damages in proportion to the defendant’s percentage of fault. This means that if you are found to be partially liable for a multi-vehicle accident, your financial recovery will be reduced by your degree of fault. You will still be able to collect compensation for the fault of the other driver or drivers, however. 

If you suffer injuries or property damage in a multi-vehicle crash in Kansas City, contact a car accident lawyer to protect your right to recover compensation. An attorney can help you minimize your degree of comparative negligence to maximize your financial recovery.