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Who Is Liable in a Multi-Car Pile-Up?

In an accident between two cars, it can be difficult to determine who is responsible. There are so many variables in such an event. One person could be mostly liable, but the other usually bares fault as well.

This reality creates complications for at-fault states like Arizona. Under this system, the person responsible for the wreck is also obligated to cover the damages. However, it’s difficult to prove that only one person is completely at-fault.

For this reason, Arizona is among the many states that use a comparative negligence model. Essentially, the system understands that in any accident, blame can go around. Therefore, it often assigns percentages of fault to everyone involved. One person may be 90% responsible, the other is 10% at-fault, and so on.

Comparative negligence restricts the amount of money you could get in a personal injury claim. You can receive only the percentage of compensation related to the plaintiff’s fault. Put simply, if they are 90% liable, you can get only 90% of the total reward. Arizona also uses the “pure” comparative negligence model. Even if you are 99% responsible for your injuries, you could still receive 1% of the total compensation in your case.

All these complications compound in a multi-car accident. If two people can share responsibility in an accident, imagine how difficult it is to determine liability among three or more cars.

In this article, we will explore different scenarios to help explain who is responsible for a multi-car accident.

Liability Shared Among Multiple Drivers

Most likely, several drivers will share liability in a multi-car pileup. Lawyers and insurance companies will work hard to prove that everyone must contribute to the total reward. They will find any example of negligence to protect their clients or their bottom line.

Let’s look at this situation by imagining a four-car pile-up.

  • Car A makes a sudden stop in traffic.
  • Car B hits Car A, but Car B was also too close to Car A’s bumper while driving.
  • Car C hits Car B. Car C had an appropriate amount of distance between itself and Car B, but Car C’s driver is knowingly driving with poor brakes.
  • Car D hits Car C, but Car D’s driver was distracted. They were playing with their radio console at the time of the crash.

It’s now up to the court to determine who, exactly, to blame for this accident. The outcome will depend on the arguments of the participants and their representatives. Then, the court must reach a decision based on these arguments.

Here is a potential outcome for the scenario above.

  • The court believes that Car A is mostly responsible for the accident. The other cars would not have hit one another if Car A hadn’t suddenly stopped. It holds Car A’s driver 70% responsible for the accident.
  • Car B was driving too close to Car A, so the court believes the driver was reckless and negligent. However, the driver hit only the car in front of them. Therefore, the court believes Car B is 10% liable.
  • Car C’s driver was negligent in keeping their car maintained. However, they hit only Car B, so the court rules that they are also 10% at-fault.
  • Car D is in a similar situation. The driver should have paid more attention, but they caused damage only to the car ahead of them. Therefore, they are also 10% responsible.

From there, the court must sift through all the degrees of compensation. It could, for instance, make everyone directly responsible for their percentage of fault. However, it could rule that different drivers owe one another compensation. Car A, for instance, may need to compensate everyone for causing the overall accident, and the other drivers may owe only one another.

Liability on Only One Driver

Even in scenarios like the one above, one driver could be burdened with 100% liability. This is an unlikely outcome, but it can happen.

In such situations, that driver will be responsible for compensating all other drivers. This money could come from their insurance company, or it could come from their own pockets. The driver may be forced to cover 100% of everyone’s damages, or they may need to give each driver an equal percentage. It all depends on the details of the case and the court’s judgement.

If you’ve been in a multi-car pile-up, you may be confused about what to do next. Our firm can help. For a free consultation, call us today at (602) 483-6114, or contact us online.

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