Though public transportation is pretty good in most metropolitan areas of California, large numbers of the population still depend on their own vehicles to get to school, work, and just about anywhere else. Needless to say, there’s traffic and lots of it. When it is stop-and-go traffic on many major highways, you will often come across a chain-reaction type car crash, also referred to as a multi-car accident. These types of crashes always result in property damage but do not always result in serious bodily injury. When there is a fatal multi-car accident, however, who is responsible? Knowing the latter pinpoints who you file a wrongful death claim against.
What are some major causes of multi-car accidents?
Multi-car accidents can happen in different ways, but the most common are:
- The driver who stops abruptly and causes a chain reaction with the cars behind him or her where each car crashes into the car in front of them; and
- The driver who doesn’t stop in time and smacks into the car in front of him or her, causing a chain reaction where cars in front are pushed one into the other.
Sometimes, the cause of the accident is not due to one of the above two scenarios, but due to a driver crossing over a median into oncoming traffic. Highway 101 and Freeway 110 are often home to pileup vehicle accidents where anything from three to thirty cars can be in one accident. Multi-car crashes on the highway or freeway are often deadlier and more complex than accidents that occur in town at traffic lights or intersections — though the latter can be dangerous, too.
How is responsibility determined?
If you or someone you love was in a fatal multi-car accident, you likely want to know who is at fault and liable for damages you incurred (and are incurring). In the simpler crashes, where a motorist fails to stop in time and strikes the vehicle in front of him or her, causing a chain reaction, the motorist who initially struck the first vehicle is often held responsible for all property damage and bodily injuries. The same may be true with the driver who crosses the median into the oncoming traffic; he or she, too, will likely be held responsible for all damages.
On the other hand, the driver who stops abruptly, causing the driver behind him or her to smack into him, which causes the driver behind the second vehicle to crash into the second vehicle, and so on and so on, may not be held liable for all or even any of anyone else’s damages. There is, however, an exception to the latter general rule: the motorist who initially stopped abruptly may have been acting in a way that would cause him or her to be partially responsible, like paying attention to his or her cell phone and not the rearview mirror. Nonetheless, in this type of scenario, the first driver is often not held accountable because in California you must drive at a distance that grants you ample stopping time. But when the roads are stop-and-go, you don’t have the benefit of stopping distance, and thus liability becomes a little murky. Responsibility may be spread among drivers in many of these cases.
So, who is responsible for your or your loved one’s multi-car crash really depends on the circumstances. Always start with the driver who initially stopped or first crashed into someone and then work your way out to help identify any other responsible parties. Knowing the circumstances, the traffic conditions, weather conditions, whether other drivers were distracted, among other details, will be important to the determination of whom is liable for your damages.
Who does a family member or beneficiary sue for wrongful death after a multi-car crash in California?
If you lost someone in a multi-car crash in California, then you can sue the person or persons at fault for the accident that led to your loved one’s death. As the above notes, finding responsibility in this type of crash may not be rocket science, but in some situations, it can get tricky. You want to ensure you are filing a wrongful death claim against all responsible parties so that you obtain the best, fairest, and most just compensation package allowed to you under the law. Losing someone in a car accident is tragic simply because of the mere shock of it all. You are no doubt suffering, so make sure you contact an experienced California wrongful death attorney today.