Who is responsible for damages in a multi-vehicle accident?

Multi-vehicle accidents present special issues in a personal injury claim because it’s not always immediately obvious which driver—or drivers—may be at fault

How Fault Is Determined

In any accident, the first priority is attending to the immediate medical needs of injured drivers, passengers, or pedestrians. After arrangements have been made for this care, law enforcement officers begin their investigation.

Evidence gathered can include:

  • Testimony from drivers.
  • Testimony from passengers.
  • Witness testimony from pedestrians or people who were nearby when the accident occurred.
  • Traffic camera footage.
  • Notes and photos regarding location and type of vehicle damage.
  • Past driving records to see if anyone involved has a history of reckless driving, DUI, or other unsafe behavior.
  • Black box data.

Fault Options in a Multi-Vehicle Accident

In a multi-vehicle accident, there are three possibilities for who is responsible for damages.

  • Single at-fault driver. In most cases, a multi-vehicle pileup happens when one driver makes a mistake that begins a chain reaction. This may include turning the wrong way down a one-way street, running a red light, or abruptly stopping.
     
  • Multiple at-fault drivers. Although the driver who sets off the chain reaction is primarily responsible for the accident, it’s likely that other drivers may also share some degree of fault. For example, consider an accident where driver A is tailgating and rear-ends driver B. If driver C was speeding, he could easily strike the back of driver A’s vehicle. Driver D might hit the back of driver C’s vehicle because he was distracted by texting and driving. In this case, everyone is partially at fault except for driver B.
     
  • No at-fault driver. In very rare cases, an accident may be determined to be nobody’s fault. For example, a driver who loses consciousness due to a genuine medical emergency can’t be held responsible for the damages that result. 

Collecting Compensation as an At-Fault Driver

When more than one driver is at fault, Georgia uses a modified comparative negligence system for assigning responsibility for accident related expenses. This means you can still collect compensation as an at-fault driver, but only if you were 49% or less at fault for the accident. If you are 50% or more at fault, you can’t recover any accident-related expenses.

Additionally, your percentage of fault proportionally reduces your ability to recover damages. For example, if you were 25% at fault for the accident, you’d only be able to recover 75% of the damages you’d receive if the other driver was 100% at fault.

How Policy Limits Affect Your Personal Injury Claim

Unfortunately, policy limits often play a big role in personal injury settlement for multi-vehicle accidents. Since accidents of this type often involve multiple people with serious injuries such as organ damage, traumatic brain injury, or paralysis, medical bills can be substantial. Lost wages can also add significantly to the settlement, especially when more than one person has been left with a permanent disability that prevents him or her from returning to work.

Although drivers are generally encouraged to take out substantial liability coverage to protect themselves in the event of an accident, most drivers only carry the state-mandated minimum insurance. Georgia’s minimum car insurance requirements are:

  • Bodily injury liability of $25,000 per person.
  • Bodily injury liability of $50,000 per accident.
  • Property damage liability of $25,000 per accident.

If an accident exceeds the policy limits of the people who are at fault, you may then go after any uninsured motorist coverage that you have on your own policy.  If there is not adequate insurance coverage, then you will need to try to collect from the at-fault driver(s) personal assets. This can be a difficult and time-consuming task.

How Rechtman & Spevak Can Help

Maximize your available compensation in a personal injury settlement by hiring an experienced attorney to line up the necessary evidence to document your expenses and negotiate on your behalf. The dedicated team Rechtman & Spevak serves clients throughout Georgia, advocating for the funds they need to recover from their car accident injuries. Call today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation.