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Causes of Multi-Car Crashes and Legal Considerations

Multi-car accidents tend to be serious for several reasons which are very particular to these types of collisions. The majority of all traffic collisions involving three or more vehicles will involve multiple impacts, which only increases the risk of serious injury and significant property loss.

Let’s dissect the components of a multi-car collision.

There is a first, or primary, impact which occurs when an at-fault driver crashes into another vehicle. Then there is a secondary impact which comes after the initial impact. This chain reaction of collisions usually happens when other drivers are desperately trying to avoid hitting one another or other objects.

Multi-car accidents, however, are often worsened precisely — and ironically– by drivers trying to avoid a collision in the first place.

What Are Common Causes for Multi-Car Accidents?

Multi-car accidents tend to occur on freeways rather than on city streets. Driving at higher speeds on freeways makes it that much more difficult for drivers to avoid and react to what are typically sudden and unexpected collisions.

Below are several reasons why multi-car collisions occur:

  • Weather Conditions– Poor weather conditions will inevitably impair a driver’s ability to see the road ahead, reduce their ability to control the vehicle, and diminish reaction times in the event of a sudden pile-up on the freeway. Fog and snow, for obvious reasons, are the two most challenging examples of inclement weather a driver may face.
  • Texting While Driving – – The problem of texting while driving has become so pandemic that many now believe driving and texting is comparable to drinking and driving, as both behaviors can severely impair a driver’s focus and ability to drive safely.
  • Reckless Driving-Instances of aggressive driving are increasingly common. Behaviors such as tailgating, unsafe lane changes, and speeding will only increase the likelihood of a multi-car collision.
  • Driving While Drowsy– Driving while drowsy is a serious threat to everyone on the road. All it takes is one driver to doze off, and the potential for a pile-up can become almost inevitable.

Causes and Considerations for Multi-Car Crashes

The most complex issue in cases involving multiple vehicles is identifying the negligent or at-fault driver. These cases tend to involve high dollar amounts, and special investigators may be assigned by the insurance companies to untangle what can become a logistical mess.

The question, therefore, in determining liability, will depend on two legal concepts called duty of care and proximate cause.

  • Duty Of Care:All drivers have a responsibility to drive safely and behave in a reasonable manner while behind the wheel. If a driver is found to violate this responsibility, he or she may be found liable for the accident.
  • Proximate Cause: Once issues regarding duty of care have been assessed, a clear connection between that breach and the accident in question needs to be established. Simply put: it must be proven that a driver’s behavior was the proximate cause of the accident.

Another important legal consideration in multi-car collisions is the issue of comparative vs. contributory negligence. The state of California abides by the rules of comparative negligence, which means that a claimant involved in an accident may get compensation against the at-fault driver even if the claimant is partly responsible.

Other Factors to Consider

Multi-car accidents often result in multiple claims and, therefore, usually become severely contested, drawn out affairs. For one, there’s no real standardized method for assigning liability in these types of collisions. Sometimes, one driver will be deemed 100% responsible, and other times multiple drivers may share in the responsibility.

To make sense of this, let’s consider an example. Imagine that one person rear ends another. In doing so, they inadvertently push the car they’ve just hit into another one in front of it. In this case, the driver who initiated the initial impact is responsible for the damages to both.

There are instances when more than one driver can be found liable for contributing to an accident. An example would be when one driver is speeding and runs a red light, but then that driver gets hit by yet another driver who also ran a red light. This second driver then hits a third vehicle in the process. In this case, both drivers who ran their respective red lights would share a degree of responsibility.

Available Damages

Economic Damages

Economic damages are intended to compensate a plaintiff for losses that a dollar amount can readily be attached to. Economic damages are calculated by determining the amount of out of pocket losses an aggrieved individual has or will expect to incur as a result of their injuries.

A few examples of economic losses include:

  • Loss of Earning Capacity
  • Medical Bills
  • Lost Wages

Non-Economic Damages
Non-economic damages are essentially intended to cover losses that are thought of as subjective and will not necessarily cover out of pocket losses. Non-economic damages may include compensation for:

  • Emotional Distress
  • Pain And Suffering
  • Loss Of Enjoyment Of Life
  • More

Punitive Damages
The third type of damages a California court may award are known as punitive damages. Punitive damages are intended as punishment and are only awarded when a defendant’s behavior is especially harmful. Punitive damages are relatively rare and in fact were only incorporated in 5% of all verdicts.

Contact Us To Find Out How We Can Help

If you have sustained injuries as a result of a multi-car collision, an attorney at West Coast Trial Lawyers can help you recover financial compensation for the losses you have suffered, including medical bills, property damage, lost wages, and pain and suffering. Call us today at (213) 927-3700 or email [email protected] to schedule a free consultation with our experienced, caring, and compassionate legal team.

Read More About Car Accidents

Our excellent team of car accident attorneys has created several other resources for you to read through concerning car accidents. Feel free to browse these other topics and read the ones you would like to learn about more.


If you have been injured in an accident, you can count on the legal team at West Coast Trial Lawyers to fight for your rights every step of the way. Contact us today to schedule your free case evaluation with a personal injury attorney.
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