You may be entitled to compensation if you have been injured in an auto accident. However, before that can be decided, the at-fault driver must be determined. This is the driver responsible for causing the crash in question. Depending on how the accident unfolded, it can be one driver or many.
Types of Multi-Car Accidents
Accidents involving multiple cars can take many forms. For example, you can have a simple two-car accident where one strikes the other. However, there are also situations where several cars are involved. Looking at each common type can help you understand how liability is assigned in each case.
A rear-end collision is a relatively straightforward one. In this situation, another driver hits the first driver from behind. Driver one may be stopped or moving at the time. A rear-end collision can turn into a chain reaction crash when additional cars are involved.
Head-on collisions are precisely what they sound like: Two cars collide while heading in opposite directions. The opposing forces can cause traumatic injuries and extensive vehicle damage.
When a vehicle hits the side of another, it is called a T-bone accident. This commonly occurs at intersections or when a car turns into or out of a driveway entrance. It is important to note that the driver who strikes the other is not always at fault in this type of accident.
Pile Up or Chain Reaction Accidents
Pile-ups happen when one driver stops suddenly and is then hit from behind. The first driver may have been able to stop without hitting anything but is still involved in the accident. As the second driver stops, another vehicle may hit her.
This is one of the more complicated accident situations since it can involve many vehicles, the drivers of which may or may not be liable for damages. As a general rule, any driver who fails to stop in time to avoid hitting another will be at least partially responsible for the accident. In the above situation, that would mean drivers two and three are at fault and will share liability.
How Fault Is Determined After an Accident
It is important to remember that more than one driver can be at fault in a multi-car accident. Generally, when a driver fails to stop in time to prevent an accident, they will bear some responsibility and be liable for a portion of any damages. An attorney may be able to help you get compensation for the costs associated with injuries and damages if the other driver is found at fault.
Law Enforcement Investigation
The primary investigation into your accident will happen after you file a police report. If you plan to move the vehicles from the roadway, document their location and any evidence on the road surface before you do. Provide complete answers to any question the police ask when filing an accident report while remaining as calm as possible.
Investigators may speak with witnesses to your accident to get a clearer picture of what transpired. This may include looking at available video footage taken from cell phones or doorbell cameras. This is why getting contact information for anyone who stops to help immediately after your accident is so important.
Insurance underwriters will perform a damage assessment as part of their estimate process. This can often uncover details like the angle of impact or the approximate speed a car was traveling when it struck another. While this information is used to establish an insurance payout, it can also help fill in details about the accident.
What To Do Immediately After a Multi-Car Accident
You must take specific steps after an auto accident on California roadways. These steps are designed to create a uniform process of accident reporting and investigation and to ensure maximum safety in an accident's wake.
The first thing you should do is assess yourself and any other involved parties for injuries. If there are no serious injuries, move the vehicles to a safe location. Before removing the cars, you should document the accident scene as much as possible.
It is usually a good idea to notify authorities of an accident so an official report can be filed. However, even if you do not notify the police immediately after an accident, you may still need to file a report. Accidents that cause property damages greater than $1,000 or any personal injury must be reported to the California Department of Motor Vehicles. You have 10 days from the accident to file the information on form SR-1 to fulfill this obligation.
Form SR-1 should include the names, contact information, and insurance coverage information of everyone involved. It will also ask for a description of any injuries or damages. Be sure to get this information at the accident scene to facilitate the process.
This process can be confusing if you have been injured or suffered a significant loss of personal property in a multi-car accident. Hiring an experienced attorney allows you time to recover while he handles the legal aspects of your accident and any resulting claims.
The Complexities of California Accident Law
California is an at-fault (i.e., tort) state, meaning that the at-fault driver is liable for damages in a multi-car accident. Under this system, you can recover damages from the other driver and their insurance carrier after an accident. However, the state must determine fault before this can happen.
Additionally, California law also uses a system of comparative fault. This means that more than one party may be at fault, and each is held responsible based on their level of involvement. So, if you are in an accident where the other driver is found to be 95% responsible, you can still be held liable for the other 5% of damages.
Knowledgeable personal injury attorneys like the team at Johnson Attorneys Group can help you navigate California's complex legal system. We'll ensure your claim is investigated thoroughly to determine liability and work with you to recover compensation promptly.
Statute of Limitations
In most cases, you have two years from the date of your accident to file a personal injury claim in California. However, California law allows you three years to file a claim if it is for property damages.
There are a few exceptions where you can extend, or toll, the statute of limitations, such as:
- The victim is incapacitated
- The victim is a minor
- The defendant is imprisoned
- You cannot locate the defendant
Additionally, if your injuries are not discovered immediately, you may be able to extend the statute of limitations. It will generally be tied to the date your injuries were diagnosed.
Let Johnson Attorneys Group Work for You
According to the National Highway Safety Administration, U.S. roads see approximately 14,386 car accidents each day. Some involve only a single vehicle, where the fault is relatively clearly defined. However, determining who is at fault in multi-car accidents involving two or more drivers can be more complicated. The injury attorneys at Johnson Attorney Group will work with you to establish who was at fault in your accident so you can pursue compensation for injuries and property damage. Contact us to schedule your free, no-obligation case evaluation.