Many accidents on the road involve more than one car, especially accidents that occur in hazardous winter conditions or on the highway. Multi-car accidents often involve more serious injuries and bigger liability than two car crashes. In addition, once the accident has happened, the danger has not necessarily passed. Moreover, liability—or who is responsible—can be especially difficult to determine. So, how can you figure out who is at fault, and what should you do if you have been involved in a multi-car accident?
Consider Your Safety First
If you have been in a multi-car crash, your first priority should be staying safe. Stay in your car with your seat belt fastened until the police or EMTs tell you it is safe to exit. The biggest risk at this point is getting hit by another car after leaving your vehicle.
Make sure everyone else in your vehicle is OK and still wearing their seat belts as well.
If you are badly injured, call 911 to alert them to the fact that you need an ambulance and wait for the EMTs to come help you and transport you to a hospital. Of course, this also applies if anyone else in the car is seriously hurt.
Put your hazard lights on to warn oncoming traffic to slow down and steer clear of your car.
If you are not seriously injured, as soon as law enforcement lets you know that it is safe to exit your car, collect paperwork from the other drivers. Jot down a detailed recollection of the accident, take photos if possible, and talk to the police officer in charge to tell them your story.
Notify your insurance carrier or agent as soon as possible.
See a doctor soon after the accident for a follow-up. Some injuries are not immediately apparent, especially soft tissue injuries. Insurance companies may doubt you if you do not seek medical help after your accident but claim an injury later.
Get Help to Determine who was Responsible.
It can be quite complicated to determine fault in a multi-car crash if no one admits liability, so you will most likely need your insurance company and an experienced car accident lawyer to do some investigating.
Typically, your insurance company will assign an accident investigator to your claim, and he or she will investigate the chain of events. However, if you have been injured in a serious accident, you should have your own lawyer doing a separate investigation on your behalf. He or she will speak to law enforcement and get details about the chain of events, what the weather was like, the location and severity of damage on the cars, the position of the cars after the accident, the condition of the drivers involved, and any other detail that will help recreate the accident. Then he or she will be the one to communicate with the insurance companies and decide against whom to file a claim.
In general, the amount of blame will be decided by the police officer who writes the report or the insurance adjusters. More often than not, the first car to start the chain reaction in a multi-car pile-up will be held liable. However, sometimes, more than one driver can be at fault, for example: one driver may be 60% at fault and another driver may shoulder 40% of the blame. This is why it is critical that you are protected. Your lawyer should be involved in the investigation from the beginning, to determine if small details—like a car speeding or driving too close to the car in front– point to one driver or another as the culprit.
For these reasons, the complications involved in multi-car accidents make it especially important to speak to an experienced attorney. He or she can represent your interests throughout the process and ensure that you are treated fairly and receive the compensation you are due. If you have been injured in a multi-car crash, call The Collins Law Firm and talk to an experienced car accident attorney for free.