Getting into an accident can be a scary affair if you happen to suffer an injury or experience heavy vehicle damage. And while navigating through the insurance process after an accident can cause a lot of headaches, trying to figure out what to do after a 3 car pile up can be even more confusing.
Three-car accidents can lead to a lot of hassle over liability because it might not be immediately clear who was at fault. Usually, 3 car accident fault usually hinges on what position your vehicle is in regard to the other cars.
How Does California’s Contributory Negligence System Work?
The fault for a car accident is based on the legal theory of negligence. Put simply, negligence is the failure to act in a way that a reasonable and prudent person would have. Negligence can be shown by proving other drivers were careless before causing an accident, or if an accident led to physical or property damage.
California is known as a contributory negligent state. This means each party is just responsible for their share of fault in an accident. A judge or jury decides percentages of fault for each party after reviewing case details.
The system of contributory negligence means a party with a high degree of fault might still be able to recover after an accident. For example, if a driver suffered $1 million in damages and was deemed to be 99% at fault, they might be able to receive $10,000 in compensation.
No matter the circumstances of an accident, it is always vitally important to seek proper treatment for any injuries. Be sure to collect the insurance information from everyone involved to make the case filing process more seamless. Taking photos of all involved vehicles, any car damage, and skid marks on the road will give your attorney useful information to reference while building a case on your behalf.
Liability of the Front Car
In a three-car accident, the first vehicle is known as the front car. In general, the front car’s driver is usually not found liable for a three-car accident. However, this might not be the case if the front car slammed on the brakes quickly and got rear-ended.
If there is proof that a front car braked suddenly, then the liability for a three-car accident might be distributed in a different manner.
Liability of the Middle Car
In a three-car accident, the middle car will be seen as responsible for any damages to the front car. This holds true even if the last car actually caused an accident.
The driver of the first car has the ability to file a case against the middle (and last car) if necessary. This situation usually arises when a driver does not have enough policy coverage. For example, let’s say the driver of the front car suffers grave injuries in an accident. The middle driver just has a minimum policy. In that case, the front driver might file a case against the middle and end vehicles to receive compensation.
California law requires drivers to have a minimum insurance amount of:
- $5,000 for property damage,
- $15,000 for bodily injury, per each person, and
- $30,000 for total bodily damage.
Many insurance policies have much more coverage since these amounts are usually inadequate for many drivers.
Liability of the End Car
The last car in a three-car accident is usually the one seen as liable. However, the situation might change if the first or middle car suddenly braked. Often, the middle vehicle in a three-car accident will try to file a case against the driver of the last car for any accident-related injuries.