​3-Car Accident, Who Pays?

Personal Injuries

When determining who pays for a three-car accident, you must know the details of the collision. One or two motorists may be liable for the accident. A Car accident attorney can review evidence, get your account of the collision, obtain the police report, and determine who should pay for your damages.

Three-Car Accident Scenarios and Explanations of Fault

To help you better understand who pays for a three-car accident, consider some common three-car collision scenarios (and explanations of fault for each accident).

Multi-Car Rear-End Collision

This is one of the more common three-car accident scenarios. One motorist rear-ends another, and the vehicle that gets rear-ended strikes the vehicle in front of it. This is known as a chain-reaction collision. In this collision type, the motorist who caused the first rear-end collision will have liability.

You might hold the motorist who was rear-ended and whose vehicle moved forward and struck another vehicle – liable because:

  • When you stop your vehicle, you must always leave sufficient room between your vehicle and the vehicle in front of you.
  • If a rear-end collision causes a vehicle to strike the car stopped in front of it, may indicate that the motorist did not leave sufficient room.

The motorist in the middle of a three-car rear-end collision may not always be liable. For example, if icy conditions caused the motor vehicle to slide further than the motorist might have possibly prevented, only the first rear-ending motorist will be liable.

A Collision Moves a Car Into Another Lane

Here’s a scenario: A motorist changes lanes without checking their blind spot. That motorist strikes a vehicle already occupying a lane, causing the second vehicle to veer into yet another lane, colliding with a third vehicle.

The motorist who changed lanes without checking their blind spot is likely responsible for both collisions.

Items in the Road Cause Multiple Vehicles to Collide

Debris, liquids, and cargo can fall or travel into the roadway when:

  • A trucker or cargo loaders fail to properly secure cargo or to fasten trailer doors
  • A cargo trailer or fastening device is defective
  • The trunk of a motor vehicle opens unexpectedly, causing items in the trunk to fall into the road
  • A vehicle carrying liquid or solid cargo is involved in a collision
  • The wind blows debris into the road

When motorists encounter hazards in the roadway, they may need to stop suddenly or swerve to avoid a collision. Liquid that spills into the road, such as oil from a tanker involved in a collision, can cause motor vehicles to slide into collisions.

Liability for these accident types can be especially complicated. As an attorney determines fault for such accidents, they may consider:

  • Whether the debris in the roadway is the fault of a negligent trucker, cargo loader, or trucking company
  • Whether a collision caused the debris to enter the roadway, and who is responsible for that initial collision
  • Any other factors that could affect liability for your accident

The key question is this: Who caused the debris, physical items, or liquid hazard to enter the roadway? This may be the party who is liable for subsequent accidents.

Intersection Accident Causes Multi-Car Collision

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) explains that more than half of fatal and injury-causing accidents happen in intersections. With traffic signals giving different instructions, vehicles crossing paths, pedestrians present, and other complicating factors, the risk of three-car accidents at intersections is abnormally great.

Three-car accidents at intersections may result from:

  • A motorist running a red light, striking a vehicle already in the intersection and causing a chain reaction of collisions.
  • A pedestrian crossed the street dangerously, causing a motorist to stop suddenly and spark a multi-vehicle rear-end collision
  • A motorist turns when they do not have the right of way, resulting in a multi-car wreck.

An attorney can review the specific details of your accident to determine fault. Each accident is unique, and applying blanket statements about the fault to multiple accidents is impossible. The specific details of your collision matter, and those details will ultimately dictate who is at fault for your damages.

How May an Attorney or Insurance Company Determine Fault for a Three-Car Accident?

​3-Car Accident, Who Pays?

Before an attorney or insurance company can determine fault for a three-car accident, they must gather all available information about the crash.

Steps that your lawyer may take to determine fault for your accident include:

  • Speaking with you about the accident: Your account of the accident matters. It is important to be truthful with your attorney. You should tell your lawyer, to the best of your ability, what you believe happened. This may set your lawyer’s course for their subsequent investigation.
  • Interviewing witnesses: An attorney may speak with any witnesses who saw your accident happen. They may get these witnesses’ information from you, a police report, or any other sources containing witnesses’ identification. Witnesses generally provide an unbiased account of an accident, making their testimony potentially valuable to an insurance claim or lawsuit.
  • Getting the police report: The police report may detail how a three-car accident happened to the best of the officer’s knowledge. The police officer may have relied on witness accounts, the words of those involved in the accident, and other evidence available to the officer just after the collision.
  • Seeking video footage: A video may show exactly how a three-car accident happened. While the majority of accidents are not on video, some are. Security cameras, traffic cameras, dash cameras, and cell phone footage may all be useful evidence of a three-car collision.
  • Reviewing physical evidence: Physical evidence, including vehicle damage, can help tell the story of a three-car collision. For example, if one vehicle has damage to its rear bumper, and another has damage to its front bumper, it is fair to conclude that a rear-end collision happened. Such evidence can help an attorney determine who struck who, how the vehicle collided, and who is at fault for the accident.
  • Relying on expert witnesses: Experts can be valuable when determining fault. An expert may reconstruct the accident or testify about who they believe is at fault for the accident.

An attorney must adapt to the realities of their case. They will gather the evidence and details available, then use what they have to determine liability.


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A Motorist Whose Unreasonable Actions Lead to a Collision May Be Liable for That Collision

All motorists have a duty of care. Someone acts negligently when unreasonable behavior harms others. Therefore, your lawyer will watch for any unreasonable actions that led to your collision.

Negligent behaviors that can lead to a three-car collision include:

  • Drunk driving, which is a factor in one in three fatal motor vehicle accidents
  • Speeding
  • Driving too fast for weather or road conditions, as motorist must reduce their speed in response to inclement weather, road work, or other dangerous conditions
  • Changing lanes without checking blind spots
  • Driving under the influence of illicit or prescription drugs
  • Driving while tired
  • Driving too closely behind other vehicles
  • Failing to use turn signals, headlights, and other tools that enhance the safety of all motorists
  • Failing to obey traffic signals, including traffic lights, stop signs, and yield signs
  • Failing to give the right of way to other motorists and pedestrians

There is a long list of behaviors that increase the risk of accidents, and these are just a few examples. If someone engages in a dangerous activity, there is generally a greater likelihood that they are liable for a collision.

Steps to Take After a Three-Car Accident

Victims of three-car accidents may have two priorities:

  1. Their health
  2. Their financial recovery

If you have not already received medical attention for injuries, do so as quickly as possible. As you receive medical attention and work toward recovery:

  • Keep a journal detailing your injury symptoms, including pain.
  • Keep and organize all records related to your injuries and treatment, including images of your injuries, medical bills, and doctor’s diagnoses.
  • Follow doctors’ orders for rest and recovery, as an insurance company or civil defense attorney may try to accuse you of being less injured than you claim to be

In addition to preserving your health and keeping medical records handy, you should consider hiring a car accident attorney to fight for your financial recovery.

How an Attorney Will Work to Secure the Money You Deserve

Three-car accidents can cause extensive property damage, medical bills, and other losses. If you need and deserve compensation for your damages, an attorney can lead your case.

A lawyer will handle every aspect of your insurance claim or lawsuit by:

  • Completing an investigation of your three-car accident: Your lawyer will gather evidence of negligence, witness accounts of your collision, a police report, and any other items that support your case.
  • Identifying all liable parties: Liability for three-car accidents is not always obvious. Even when you determine who caused your accident, the picture of liability may be more complicated. For example, a trucking company may be liable when its employee causes an accident. Your lawyer will identify every party who is liable for your damages.
  • Calculating and documenting your damages: Your lawyer may document your damages with medical care, expert testimony, proof of lost income, and other types of documentation. Your lawyer will also calculate the exact cost of your losses.
  • Completing the daily duties that your case requires: Lawsuits and insurance claims require significant administrative work. From drafting and filing paperwork to making phone calls and dealing with insurance companies, your lawyer will handle these administrative duties for you.
  • Fighting for a fair settlement: Whether your lawyer is negotiating with an insurance company or another liable party, they will fight for the financial settlement you deserve.
  • Completing your trial: If your case goes to trial and that is a big if your lawyer will make your case in the courtroom.

An attorney’s priority is protecting you. Insurance companies, defendants named in your lawsuit, and other parties may want to see your case fail. Your lawyer will deal with these parties and advise you about how to act when you must deal with the insurance company.

Recoverable Damages for a Victim of a Three-Car Accident

Motor vehicle accident victims may suffer:

  • Vehicular damage, which may require you to repair or replace the vehicle
  • Medical expenses
  • Lost income, lost earning power, lost bonuses, lost productivity, and other professional damages
  • The cost of temporary transportation
  • The cost of counseling, medication, and other treatments for psychological and emotional trauma
  • Pain and suffering
  • Damage to personal property, such as a cell phone

Each motor vehicle accident victim suffers unique losses. A lawyer will identify all of your damages, assign those damages a financial value, and fight for a fair settlement or judgment.

When Should a Motor Vehicle Accident Victim Hire a Lawyer?

You may want to hire a lawyer as soon as possible following a three-car accident because:

  • Evidence from your accident may disappear in a short time.
  • States generally limit the time you have to file a personal injury lawsuit.
  • Insurance companies may pressure you to make a statement or accept a settlement, and you may want a lawyer to advise you on these matters.

There is generally no reason to wait to hire a lawyer. Furthermore, there are real risks if you wait too long to retain an attorney.

Can I Afford to Hire a Lawyer After a Three-Car Accident?

Yes. Car accident lawyers generally use contingency fees. Clients do not pay these fees upfront, which means anyone can afford to hire a car accident attorney.

If your attorney wins for you, the firm will get a portion of your settlement or judgment. You will never pay out of your own pocket. You will owe your lawyer nothing if the firm does not win your case.

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