Multi-Car Crashes

Multi-car crashes, which involve three or more vehicles, are sometimes called chain reaction accidents, or pileup collisions. Such accidents frequently happen in California, where there is a high volume of traffic, especially during the rush hour commute. Many of the main arteries have 6 or 8 lanes of traffic going in one direction. As lanes are added because of traffic congestion, the lanes become more narrow, so the cars are traveling side by side, with little room to maneuver. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, 43 percent of all car accidents in the United States involve multiple vehicles. In California during 2017, there were 3,602 crash fatalities. Of these, 1,623 (45 percent) were multi-car crashes.

Why Do Multi-Car Crashes Happen?

Every crash happens due to a unique combination of circumstances. Sometimes drivers follow the vehicle in front too closely. They may stop too suddenly, causing the car behind to hit them from behind or veer into another lane of traffic. Drivers may change lanes without signaling, stop too suddenly, or perform other abrupt maneuvers too rapidly for other drivers to react, causing a chain reaction.

Multi-car crashes often happen in low-visibility conditions when drivers are following too closely and not accounting for road conditions. However, such accidents also happen when visibility is good. Despite the good conditions, drivers may crest a hill or come around a curve and suddenly encounter unsafe road conditions or hazards. In some cases, two cars collide, and the third car is not able to stop safely, causing more cars to become involved in a chain reaction.

Other causes include:

Distracted Driving

Distracted driving is the most common cause of motor vehicle accidents in the United States. Leading causes include using a cell phone while driving, eating and drinking while driving. California law makes it unlawful for a driver to hold and operate any wireless device, even to check a GPS. Drivers under 18 are not permitted to use any electronic device, such as a wireless phone, laptop, pager, even if hands-free, or to talk or text while driving.


Many people speed, but speeding is the second most common cause of car accidents in the United States. Speeding makes it difficult to control the vehicle or avoid accidents; therefore it contributes to the risk of involvement in a multi-car accident. The faster a car is moving, the longer it takes to slow down or stop if needed.

Drunk Driving

Driving a vehicle after drinking alcohol can have serious consequences. Drunk driving is also known as driving under the influence (DUI) or driving while intoxicated (DWI). A driver with a blood alcohol content (BAC) level of at least 0.08 percent is guilty of impaired driving. For certain drivers or those who are underage, the law is more strict. However, even a small amount of alcohol can lead to harmful situations. When people drive after consuming alcohol, their ability to focus and response time is sharply reduced, and their judgment is impaired.

Reckless Driving

Excessive speeding, changing lanes without signaling or looking, tailgating other motorists, turning in the wrong place and ignoring road signs are all forms of reckless driving. Reckless drivers put themselves and others at risk. It is now the fourth most common cause of road accidents in the United States.

Determining Liability in Multi-Vehicle Collisions

Multi-vehicle collisions are messy, complicated and usually involve multiple people, all of them upset and possibly injured. Determining who is at fault, therefore, can be difficult. To establish liability, the police must review the actions of each driver. In some cases, two or more drivers may share some degree of responsibility. The investigation may include establishing whether any of the drivers were impaired by alcohol or drugs, distracted by cell phones or driving recklessly. They will want to determine whether anyone is insured or was violating any laws.

Many chain reaction accidents are the responsibility of the driver at the back, but that is not always true. More than one driver may be negligent. All California drivers have a duty to exercise reasonable care. To establish negligence, your attorney will need to establish the other driver’s duty of care, one or more breaches of that duty, the legal causation and the actual damages. It may be necessary to use an accident reconstruction expert to look at the damage to the vehicles, review the police report and witness statements, and view skid marks and debris.

California is a comparative fault state which means that the judge or jury awards damages based on the amount of fault. If there is any fault on the part of the plaintiff, the award of damages may be reduced by that percentage of fault.

Damages in a Car Accident Case

Awarding damages in a multi-car accident case involves many factors. The injuries may range from minor cuts and bruises to permanent injury or death. Car accident injuries frequently include:

  • Soft Tissue Injuries
  • Spinal Cord Injuries
  • Other Neck and Back Injuries
  • Broken Bones
  • Burn Injuries
  • Head and Brain Injuries

Victims may also experience psychological or emotional injuries, such as depression or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). In cases of fatalities or long-term injuries, no amount of money will make the victim whole. Damages can, however, help the victim and his or her family recover some of the losses resulting from the accident.

Some of the most common types of damages awarded in car and truck accident cases include:

  • Reimbursement for medical costs
  • Provision for projected future or ongoing medical expenses
  • Pain and suffering
  • Compensation for past and future lost wages
  • Reduced quality of life
  • Costs of long term care and rehabilitation
  • Costs of therapy or psychological counseling
  • Property damage

Call Us and Protect Yourself After a Multi-Car Crash

A serious car accident can be a shock. Despite the chaos and trauma, the decisions you make after a multi-crash accident may have a lasting effect on your physical and financial future. Remember that symptoms or injuries may not become apparent until much later, so it is important to obtain medical care immediately.

Even if you believe the accident is minor, you should collect contact information from the other drivers and witnesses. Take pictures of the scene, including the vehicles, any skid marks, and debris. Also, request copies of any police reports made about your accident.

It is important to speak to a qualified and experienced car accident attorney as soon as possible. For more information, or to schedule a free consultation, call Aitken * Aitken * Cohn at (714) 434-1424, or contact us online today. We are here to protect your rights.