Who Is At Fault In A Chain-Reaction Car Accident?

Nobody wants to be involved in a car accident of any kind. However, car accidents are a regular occurrence in and around our area. One of the most important factors in the aftermath of a crash is determining which party, or multiple parties, were at fault for the accident. For chain-reaction crashes, determining fault can be incredibly difficult. According to the California Office of Traffic Safety (OTS), there were 3,602 total fatalities and more than 23,000 total injuries caused by traffic crashes during the latest reporting year. Many of these incidents involved multiple vehicles in chain-reaction crashes.

What is a chain-reaction crash?

The term “chain-reaction” refers to how these crashes typically occur. In most cases, two vehicles initially collide, and the force of the collision causes one or both vehicles to slam into other vehicles around them. Some examples of a chain-reaction crash include the following:

  • Vehicle 1 is rear-ended by vehicle 2 at a red light. The force of the collision causes vehicle 1 to move forward into oncoming traffic, slamming into vehicle 3. Vehicle 3 could them slam into another vehicle(s).
  • Vehicles 1 and 2 are at a red light when vehicle 3 approaches from the rear and fails to stop. Vehicle 3 slams into vehicle 2, and vehicle 2 is subsequently pushed into the back of vehicle 1.
  • A driver in vehicle 1 slams on their brakes to avoid hitting an obstacle in the roadway. This causes vehicle 2 (which was following too closely) to slam into the rear of vehicle 1. Vehicle 3, which was right behind vehicle 2, slams into the rear of vehicle 2.

What causes chain-reaction crashes?

In most cases, a chain-reaction crash will be caused by an error on the part of one or more drivers. Some of the most common causes of chain-reaction crashes include:

  • Speeding. When a driver is operating too fast for conditions, they lose valuable reaction time to avoid a collision.
  • Following too closely. Also called tailgating, this is when one or more vehicles are following each other too closely. If a vehicle upfront has to make a sudden stop, any vehicle following too closely could end up causing a rear-end collision.
  • No turn signal. Anytime a driver fails to use a turn signal to indicate a lane change or an impending turn, drivers around them will be unable to respond appropriately and could end up causing a chain-reaction crash.
  • Alcohol impairment. Any driver impaired by alcohol will lose the ability to operate their vehicle safely. Drunk drivers often follow other vehicles too closely, drive too fast for conditions, and have slowed reaction times.
  • Distractions. Distracted driving behavior, such as talking on the phone, sending or receiving text messages, eating or drinking, and more, are all common causes of chain-reaction crashes.

Determining fault for chain-reaction crashes

As with any car accident, determining fault can be complicated and often involves an extensive investigation. In a chain-reaction crash, all of the following may be used to determine the cause of the crash:

  • Available video surveillance from nearby buildings
  • Photographs taken at the scene of the crash
  • Statements from drivers and passengers involved
  • Statements from eyewitnesses to the incident
  • Physical evidence at the scene
  • The police report

In some cases, there may be more than one party at fault for a chain-reaction crash. Even partially liable parties could be entitled to recover in compensation, though the total amount they are awarded would be reduced based on their percentage of fault. For more information, contact an Orange County car accident attorney today.