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How Is Fault Determined In a Multi-Car Accident?

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Posted By Legal Team | March 13 2024 | Car Accidents

The aftermath of a car accident is a chaotic scene, especially when motorists suffer injuries. When an accident involves multiple vehicles, the post-accident pandemonium is even more distressing. Often, drivers involved in multi-car accidents point the finger at each other and no driver voluntarily takes responsibility for causing a destructive crash. In fault-based insurance states like Georgia, it matters who causes an accident and the role other drivers played in the crash—if any. Determining fault quickly becomes complex in a multi-car accident.

What is Modified Comparative Negligence?

With the exception of a small handful of no-fault insurance states and several pure comparison negligence states, most states, including Georgia, have comparison negligence insurance laws. Under this law, car accident victims may recover compensation for damages minus their percentage of fault as long as they are less than 50 percent at fault for the accident. Georgia Code O.C.G.A. §51-11-7 states:

“If the plaintiff by ordinary care could have avoided the consequences to himself caused by the defendant’s negligence, he is not entitled to recover. In other cases, the defendant is not relieved, although the plaintiff may in some way have contributed to the injury sustained.” This makes up Georgia’s comparative negligence laws allowing accident victims to gain compensation even when partly at fault. Consider the following example:

If two drivers collide in an intersection because one driver tried to outrun a yellow light and crossed on red, they are at fault for the accident. But what if the other driver was speeding and otherwise could have avoided the accident? An investigation may determine that the speeding driver was 20% at fault and the driver who ran through the red light was 80% at fault. In this case, the speeding driver could recover $80,000 of $100,000 worth of damages. The driver who was 80% at fault cannot recover compensation because they were more than 50% at fault.

This complicated system becomes even more difficult to untangle in multi-car pileups.

Determining Fault in a Multi-Car Pile-up

When multiple drivers are involved in an accident, it takes a meticulous investigation to determine the cause of the accident and the role each driver played in contributing to the accident. Many car accident victims with serious damages like property damage, medical expenses, and lost wages hire experienced car accident attorneys to investigate and gather evidence to present to the insurance company of the party at fault. or mostly at fault, for the accident. Insurance companies hire adjusters to investigate accidents to determine fault. Unfortunately, a comparison negligence insurance system incentivizes the insurance company of a negligent driver to determine an injury victim as partly responsible for the accident because it lowers the amount they have to pay out on a claim. A skilled Atlanta car accident lawyer can often make a compelling case by documenting evidence. Determining fault in multi-car accidents often requires the following:

  • Examining any available videos from traffic cameras, dash-cams, or nearby surveillance cameras
  • Reviewing the police report, including eyewitness statements
  • Getting eyewitness testimony if one or more witnesses gave their names to law enforcement officers on the scene
  • Consulting with accident reconstruction specialists

Accident reconstruction experts can accurately recreate an accident using the available evidence and computer software. Together with eyewitness testimony, this helps prove how the accident occurred and how each driver contributed to the crash.

Fault in Multi-Car Accidents

In most cases, experienced personal injury lawyers in Atlanta suggest that the first vehicle to crash in an accident is the driver mostly at fault for the accident. When one car crashes due to driver error or distraction, a car following may then collide with the crashed car, and others as well. Multi-car accidents are most common on major highways with fast-moving traffic as drivers may not have time to avoid a collision with a crashed car in the roadway.

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