By Pendergast Law on September 12, 2020
Nothing is more confusing than a multi-car accident. While sometimes it may only include three or four cars involved in a rear-end collision, it can be extremely devastating to be involved in a pileup on a major highway like the I-5 or I-90. Determining what has just happened can be next to impossible when you are injured, and it can be even more stressful if you do not know who to blame. Liability and negligence in multi-car accidents may be challenging to evaluate, but it is not impossible.
Who Do You Hold Responsible?
During a standard two-car collision, liability is often placed on the driver who caused the accident through an act of negligence or recklessness, such as driving at high speeds, not paying attention to the road, or having a high BAC. However, when determining liability in multi-car accidents, the process is much more complex. Because there are multiple points of contact, negligence may be distributed across multiple liable parties.
For example, in a chain reaction accident one driver may not brake in time, causing a rear-end collision with the car in front of them. The driver that was struck may then lose control and collide with another vehicle. Because the collision was caused by the first negligent driver, then they would be the primary liable party, and both the second and third drivers can file against them.
However, the third driver may also be able to file against the second driver, but only if they were also negligent, such as if they were tailgating. The second driver may demonstrate that they did not have enough time to respond to the collision and avoid the third driver. In that instance, only the first driver would be found liable.
Pileups, in turn, follow a similar path to defining liability. In many cases, the vehicle in the rear would be found liable, as the driver likely caused the accident. However, in a jackknifing or rollover truck accident where a truck driver loses control of a trailer, drivers in the rear may not be able to avoid the trailer. The resulting collisions can lead to catastrophic injuries and make the truck driver, or their parent company, liable for causing the accident.
In both instances, liability can often be traced back to a single party who acted negligently, but if multiple parties acted negligently, you may be able to file a claim against all of them.
Washington Liability Laws
The state of Washington operates under comparative negligence laws, meaning that multiple parties can be found at fault for an accident. In a multi-car accident or pileup, if you can prove that multiple drivers acted negligently and caused your injuries, you can pursue a claim against each of them individually.
However, because of comparative negligence laws, blame can also be placed on you if your case goes to trial. While only one in ten claims result in a lawsuit, there is still the possibility that your case is evaluated by a jury. When that occurs, if the jury decides you acted negligently, you can receive a percentage of the fault. This percentage will also decrease the amount of compensation you can receive overall. If you are found to be 50% at fault, then you would be barred from receiving compensation.
That being said, if you have the right attorney and enough evidence, you may still be able to receive compensation from multiple liable parts in a pileup.
Filing a Claim After a Pileup
With multiple liable parties, you will need to clearly demonstrate how the accident occurred, who committed negligence, and how their actions contributed to your injuries. This can be difficult on your own, but with the Seattle car accident attorneys at your side, you may have the right resources to investigate a claim.
Pileups and multi-car accidents will require detailed accident reports by local police officers and highway patrol who can break down the main causes of the accident, but more evidence will be required. An investigation will also require evaluating the damage done to multiple vehicles, witness statements from other drivers, photos or footage of the accident, and expert opinions from accident reconstructionists.
Once our team has determined the stages of the accident and the who acted negligently, we can begin preparing a case against the liable policies that apply. In a trucking accident, this will likely come down to the commercial policy held by the driver, but in a pileup involving multiple passenger vehicles, you could have several different auto insurance policies to review and file against.
All of this requires time, resources, and skills to properly sort through so that you can receive compensation. If you have been injured in a pileup caused by one or multiple negligent drivers, please contact us to schedule a free consultation. We work off a contingency fee basis, meaning there is no cost to working with us unless we win your case.