Multi-Vehicle Car Accidents and How Fault is Determined

Human error is the cause of nearly all motor vehicle crashes. In traffic, driver mistakes can compound and lead to multi-vehicle car accidents that make it difficult to determine exactly how the crash started and who’s to blame.

Untangling the web of fault in a multi-car crash can involve a lot of finger-pointing, conflicting stories, and a lengthy investigation. If you are partly to blame for the accident, it doesn’t mean that you can’t recover compensation from other drivers, but it could reduce the amount of money you receive.

Multi-vehicle collisions tend to be legally more complex than collisions with just two drivers and make it more likely that you’ll need to consult with an Ohio car accident lawyer.

Serious Car Crashes on the Rise

Car safety has improved tremendously over the years. Driver safety has not. In fact, crash data shows that driving is becoming more dangerous.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 2022 traffic fatalities are on pace to be the highest since 2002. In 2021, fatal traffic crashes reached a 16-year high and were up 10.5% compared to 2020. And in 2020, fatal traffic crashes reached a 13-year high.

These national trends are reflected in Ohio, where deadly crashes were up nearly 10% from 2020 (1,230 fatalities) to 2021 (1,351 fatalities). Last year, Ohio ranked fifth in the country for motor vehicle fatalities.

Notably, fatalities are up in the following areas:

  • Speeding-related crashes
  • Alcohol crashes
  • Large truck crashes
  • Motorcyclist, bicyclist, and pedestrian-involved crashes
  • Multi-vehicle crashes

Also of note, 8% of fatal crashes, 14% of injury crashes, and 13% of all crashes were reported as distracted driving crashes in 2020.

Leading Causes of Muskingum County Car Crashes

Crash data from the Ohio State Highway Patrol indicates that from 2017 to 2021, there were more than 12,000 car crashes in Muskingum County. Some of the top causes of these crashes were related to:

  • Alcohol (579)
  • Distracted driving (542)
  • Drugs (279)
  • Failure-to-yield (1,440)
  • Speed (1,926)
  • Work zones (132)
  • Ran red light/stop sign (89)

Over the 5-year period, these 12,000+ crashes resulted in 55 fatalities, 244 serious injuries, and 1,366 minor injuries.

Liability for Multi-Car Crashes

It is important to understand why auto accidents occur because whether it is a single car accident, a two-car accident, or an accident involving multiple vehicles, the leading causes remain the same.

Accidents don’t just happen. Drivers act negligently. They speed, get behind the wheel when they shouldn’t, and fail to pay attention. In other words, drivers cause accidents.

In a typical two-car crash, the insurance companies for each driver investigate what happened and reach a conclusion about fault. Fault can be shared, and damages paid in proportion to each driver’s blame (for example, 50-50, 60-40, or 70-30). This is what’s known as comparative negligence.

The more vehicles that are involved in a crash, the more difficult it is to pinpoint the contributing factors. Sometimes, it is necessary to file a lawsuit to resolve a multi-vehicle crash.

Two-car crashes are relatively straightforward. While there can be differing stories about the events leading up to the accident, and it can take time to get to the bottom of how the crash occurred, a limited number of factors are at play.

But in multi-vehicle car accidents, there are many more factors to consider. This makes sorting through the tangled web of liability much more complicated. Insurance companies may need to wait for law enforcement to conclude their investigation of the accident, which could take months, especially if the accident involves fatalities and commercial vehicles.

It’s possible that multiple drivers were acting negligently. One driver could be speeding, another could be distracted, and yet another could be following too closely. There could also be problems with signage, lighting, and winter weather that complicates the investigation. For example, when approaching a work zone at night, there could be inadequate warnings to drivers, causing them to slow down too late and set off a chain collision.

When to Talk to a Lawyer

The more vehicles that are involved in a crash, the more difficult it is to pinpoint the contributing factors. It could be that one driver was clearly at fault and everyone else was blameless. Or, blame may be shared, leaving insurance companies and drivers to battle it out.

Sometimes, it is necessary to file a lawsuit to resolve a multi-vehicle crash. When that happens, the question of who did what—and who is owed what—is left to the court.

Graham & Graham has been helping car accident victims for nearly as long as cars have been around. To talk to a lawyer, free of charge, call 1-800-621-8585 or contact us.

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