How Is Fault Determined in a Multi-Vehicle Accident?

November 23, 2020

Not all car accidents are simple two-car collisions. Many involve multiple vehicles, such as three-car collisions or pileups. A car accident involving multiple vehicles will be more difficult to understand from a legal perspective. Knowing who is liable for your medical bills and property repairs may take assistance from a car accident lawyer in Phoenix.

Proximate and Actual Cause

Arizona is a fault state. If you get injured in an auto accident, you will seek damages from the auto insurance company of the at-fault driver or party. It will be up to you to prove that party’s fault for your car accident before the insurance company offers benefits. The burden of proof rests with you during a civil case as the plaintiff. In general, proving liability during a car accident case requires evidence of four main elements.

  1. The driver or negligent party owed you a duty of care.
  2. The party breached or violated the standards of care.
  3. The breach was the proximate and actual cause of your car accident.
  4. You suffered compensable damages.

The third element is the most relevant for determining fault. The party at fault for the collision will be the one responsible for the proximate and actual cause of the accident. Proximate cause is the legal cause of the crash, while actual cause means the cause in fact. The proximate cause may or may not be the initial event that set the multi-vehicle collision in motion. It is the action that produced the foreseeable consequence of a car accident.

Factors to Consider

Determining fault for a multi-vehicle accident is tricky. On a broad scale, you or your lawyer will need to determine which driver failed to adhere to his or her duty of care to keep others on the roadway safe. Which driver committed an act of negligence such as texting while driving or drunk driving? In some cases, the identity of this driver is obvious. The rearmost driver in a rear-end collision, for example, may be the driver who initiated the chain reaction and subsequent rear-end collisions. Other cases, however, require careful consideration of key factors to determine liability.

  • Where the car accident occurred (e.g. intersection, highway, parking lot, etc.)
  • Which driver made the initial impact
  • What eyewitnesses saw
  • How a police report describes the collision
  • Whether one driver failed to yield the right-of-way
  • Which driver violated a roadway rule or traffic law
  • If any dangerous road conditions contributed to the crash

The driver at fault for your multi-vehicle accident in Phoenix may come forward and admit fault upfront. This is not likely, however, as all auto insurance companies tell their policyholders not to claim fault. Do not worry if the other drivers involved in the wreck refrain from admitting fault. Call the police and wait for an official investigation to determine liability. Then, contact a car accident lawyer to help you prove fault during an insurance claim.

How to Prove Fault for a Multi-Vehicle Accident

Even if you think you know the identity of the at-fault party, you or your lawyer will need to prove liability based on a preponderance of the evidence. This is enough evidence to establish a party’s fault as more likely to be true than not true. Proving a multi-vehicle accident case may require multiple forms of evidence.

  • Police reports
  • Photographs and videos
  • Eyewitnesses
  • Expert witnesses
  • Crash reconstructionists
  • Traffic safety experts
  • Engineers
  • Medical records
  • Injury journal
  • Pay stubs
  • Damage estimates

Luckily, you do not have to establish fault for a multi-vehicle car accident on your own. A personal injury attorney in Phoenix will have the resources and connections to help you establish fault and prove your multi-vehicle car accident claim. Contact a lawyer as soon as possible after a serious multi-vehicle collision in Arizona.