What happens if I’m in a car accident involving multiple cars? Who is at fault? Who can sue?

Getting into a car accident can be frightening. Even a sudden “fender bender” in the middle of stop-and-go traffic can cause property damage or bodily harm.

And when more than two cars are involved, it can be confusing to figure out who was originally responsible. Even if you were injured and want to sue for your damages and medical bills, you may not know who to file a claim against.

All car accidents in Texas must be investigated to determine who was at fault. You also need to know whose insurance company to file a claim with.

Determining the right defendant (or defendants) is one of many tasks that an Texas auto accident attorney can help you with after a multi-car accident.

“Multi-Car” Accidents and Texas Traffic Laws

Car Accidents and Chain Reactions (Sequential Collisions)

Multi-car accidents are often caused by what accident investigators call a “sequential collision.” For example, Car A rear ends Car B, and the force of the impact pushes Car B forward, rear-ending Car C.       

Or Car A may hit Car B and push it into oncoming traffic. Car C may swerve to avoid hitting Car B and end up hitting Car D. Such multi-car collisions are also known as “chain reaction” accidents.

The Dangers of Multi-Car Accidents

More cars mean more drivers and passengers affected. It means more car wreckage flying around. Cars and vehicle debris may even skip across lanes or over a freeway divider. And when two cars collide hard enough to affect another car, it often means the speed and force of the vehicles was significant.

Unfortunately many multi-car accidents lead to serious injuries and can even be fatal.

Determining Who Caused a Multi-Car Accident Can Be Difficult

The Negligent Act in a Multiple Car Accident in Texas

To decide who should pay for bodily injuries and property damage caused by a multiple car accident in Texas, Insurers and courts try to figure out if there was a “negligent act” that caused the accident. The negligent act is the particular careless act that led to the collision. This might include:

  • Unsafe driving (faster than the speed limit, crossing lanes without signaling)
  • Distracted driving (driving while texting, eating)
  • Impaired driving (driving while intoxicated by a substance, or overly tired)

In some cases, there is more than one driver at fault. One driver might have run a red light, but the other driver might also have been speeding. When more than one party is at fault, different rules apply.

Mitigating Circumstances

There could also be “mitigating circumstances.” These are reasons that explain why the accident happened, even if no one is at fault. For example, there could have been ice or rockfall on the road that cause drivers to swerve, even if they are driving safely.

If there are mitigating circumstances, sometimes it is not possible to assign fault to anyone.

Insurance Adjusters Try to Reconstruct the Accident

After a multi-car accident in Texas, trained insurance adjusters will examine vehicular damage, passenger injuries, skid marks and traffic signal data. They will also examine statements made to the police after the accident.

Insurance adjusters and experts can plug this information into formulas to try and understand how the accident happened.

The insurance companies’ adjusters decide who they think is at fault, though they may not all agree. If they think their insured driver caused the accident, some may make an offer of settlement.

Insurance Companies Look Out for their Own Interests

Like any business, insurance companies have to think about profits when making a settlement offer. And even if a reckless driver causes a multi-car pile up, the driver’s insurance company may not see it the same way the rest of the drivers do. Even drivers who know it was their fault often don’t admit it to their insurance company.

You may get an offer for less money than you for car repairs and medical bills. Or worse, you might find the insurance company or another driver saying the accident was your fault.

 If you’ve been involved in a multi-car accident, call Justinian and Associates today.