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Who Is at Fault in a Multi-Car Accident?

September 7, 2020

When only two vehicles are involved in a motor vehicle accident, it can be relatively straightforward matter to assign fault between them. However, when more than two cars are involved in a crash, determining fault becomes a far more complicated task. If you or a loved one have been involved in a multiple car accident, you should familiarize yourself with the law governing liability for such accidents.

General Fault Rules in Multiple Car Accidents

The driver at fault for a car accident is legally responsible for compensating everyone else involved in the accident for their personal injuries and property damage. Where multiple cars are involved in a crash, each driver’s insurance company will look to point the finger at the other drivers to avoid as much financial liability as possible for the damages caused by the accident.

Multiple car accidents also tend to trigger New Jersey’s comparative negligence rules. Under the state’s comparative negligence law, an injured party may recover from another at-fault party so long as the plaintiff’s fault is not greater than that of the party from whom he or she is seeking compensation. If the injured plaintiff does bear some share of fault for an accident but is still eligible to recover from another at-fault party, the injured plaintiff’s compensation will be reduced by his or her share of fault (according to the agreed-upon percentage of fault in a settlement or the percentage of fault as determined at trial).

Fault in Rear-End Accidents

In rear-end accidents involving multiple cars (e.g. a chain reaction of rear-end collisions), the vehicle furthest in back that sets off the chain of collisions is generally held responsible for the entire accident. However, other circumstances may point to other drivers in the chain of collisions being partially at fault for collisions further down the chair. For example, if a driver in the middle of the chain could have taken steps to avoid hitting the car in front of them and stopping further rear-end collisions (such as being distracted and failing to apply brakes at the time of the collision).

In rare cases, the front-most vehicle in a multiple car rear-end accident may bear some fault for the crash (such as if that driver stops at a green light or in the middle of the freeway, setting off a chain reaction of rear-end collisions stretching backward)

Factors Used to Determine Responsibility in a Multi-Car Crash

As noted earlier, insurance companies and juries often have a difficult time trying to assign blame for multiple-vehicle car accidents. Some of the factors and circumstances that insurers and courts use to determine liability include

  • The location of the accident
  • The weather/lighting/road/traffic conditions at the time of the accident
  • Whether any driver violated traffic codes or criminal laws
  • Whether any driver was attempting a left turn
  • Whether any driver was speeding or going too fast for the road conditions
  • The police accident report
  • Eyewitness statements
  • Surveillance video or dashcam footage
  • The specific vehicle damage suffered by each vehicle
  • The positions of vehicles when they came to rest
  • The presence of any skid marks on the road
  • Vehicle data recorder information from any vehicles involved in the crash

Contact a Morristown Personal Injury Lawyer to Discuss Your Car Accident Case in New Jersey

Did you or a loved one sustain serious injuries due to a car accident in New Jersey? Don’t let the medical bills pile up while you wait for the negligent party or their insurance company to do the right thing. Right now, you need an aggressive personal injury attorney on your side, fighting to get you the compensation you need, want, and deserve. The skilled attorneys at Hoyt & Hoyt, PC represent clients injured because of car accidents in Parsippany, Mount Olive, Rockaway, Roxbury, and throughout New Jersey. Call (973) 292-2299 or fill out our online contact form to schedule a consultation about your case. We have an office conveniently located at 67 E. Park Pl., 5th Floor, Morristown, NJ 07960, as well as offices in New Brunswick.

The articles on this blog are for informative purposes only and are no substitute for legal advice or an attorney-client relationship. If you are seeking legal advice, please contact our law firm directly.

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