After some motor vehicle collisions, fault is relatively easy to establish. One of the drivers involved was under the influence of alcohol or did something else very clearly illegal or unsafe that directly caused the wreck. The other driver can then pursue a straightforward claim against the party at fault for the collision.
However, not every scenario is so clear-cut and simple to analyze. A small but noteworthy percentage of collisions involve more than two vehicles. The parties involved in multi-vehicle collisions are often unsure about how to handle the aftermath of the wreck. Determining fault is as important after a multi-car crash as it is for a two-vehicle collision. This process often involves one critically important step.
Recreating a timeline of the wreck
Unlike a crash with two vehicles involved, there may have been multiple stages in a multi-vehicle collision. Determining who caused the initial crash and also who played a role in any subsequent collisions will be very important.
Some multi-vehicle collisions are entirely the fault of one party. For example, a jackknife or rollover incident with a semi-truck would likely all be the fault of the commercial vehicle that struck multiple other vehicles in a short amount of time. However, other crashes may have multiple parties that are to blame. For example, vehicles that exceed the posted speed limit or don’t maintain a proper following distance might rear-end other vehicles that have just gotten involved in a crash. They will worsen the initial collision by striking the vehicles already involved, possibly compounding the property damage and injuries for the people in the affected vehicles.
Each of those parties that strikes the stopped vehicles may have some degree of responsibility for the damage caused. It may be necessary to go over witness statements, crash reports and any available footage of the collision very carefully to identify who is at fault and who has grounds to pursue compensation after a multi-vehicle collision. The courts could potentially assign a percentage of fault to each of the drivers who contributed to the wreck using comparative fault rules.
Both insurance claims and civil lawsuits require that someone first identify who is actually at fault for a collision. Seeking legal guidance and assistance with the often-complex process of establishing fault for a multi-vehicle wreck can benefit those who are saddled with large losses after such crashes.