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Factors at Play When Determining Fault in a Multi-Car Accident

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According to Fox News, two people were killed in a multi-car crash on July 22, 2014 in Warren County, Ohio. The Ohio State Patrol stated the accident happened about two o’clock in the afternoon at the intersection on Township Line Road and State Route 73. The driver of a 2005 Hyundai ran a stop sign and hit a flat-bed lumber truck, forcing the truck into a minivan traveling the other way. Both the driver and passenger in the van were pronounced dead at the scene.

In a two-car accident, it’s often clear who was at fault. The police report will usually point to which vehicle caused the crash, and the auto insurance will then use that information to handle payouts. In a multi-car accident, however, it may be less clear who caused it. Though it may be one vehicle, as was the case in this crash, sometimes more than one vehicle may share the fault, in which case both may be liable for damages.

Factors that Help Determine Who Is At Fault

Accident investigators take several things into consideration when evaluating a multi-car crash. These include, among other things, the following:

Weather conditions: Nasty weather such as snow, ice, rain, and fog, can affect road conditions, reducing visibility and making it more difficult to control a vehicle while driving. Drivers have a duty to drive appropriately for traffic conditions.
Speed: Were any of the drivers going over the posted speed limit? Those that were may be found to be partly or completely at fault in the accident.
Driver distraction: Were drivers talking or texting on their cell phones? Were they perusing the Internet or posting updates to social media sites? Were they eating or doing other things in the vehicle to distract them from driving? The findings may help determine fault.
Drowsy driving: Like distracted driving, drowsy driving can cause a driver to make mistakes he or she wouldn’t otherwise make. Drivers who fall asleep behind the wheel are likely to drift into another lane or collide with a car in front of them.
Drugs and alcohol: Drivers who are under the influence of drugs or alcohol suffer altered perception and focus that makes them dangerous drivers. Even those who have taken some over-the-counter or prescription drugs may experience drowsiness or altered attention to the point that they make poor driving decisions.
Following too closely: Drivers who fail to allow enough space between them and other vehicles are often guilty of crashing into cars ahead of them. This is often the case in rear-end crashes, and the car behind is most always at fault. An exception might be if the driver in front had faulty brake lights, for example.
License problems: Drivers who have suspended licenses (or no licenses at all) will be looked at with suspicion in multi-car crashes.
Failure to yield: Did one car fail to yield the right of way? This driver will most likely be at fault.
Failure to heed road sign: Drivers who fail to stop for stop signs, red lights, or otherwise disobey road rules will have to shoulder at least part of the liability in an accident.
Who struck first? The vehicle that collided with another vehicle first is considered the initiator of a multi-car crash.

Other Factors May Affect Multi-Car Accident Liability

Though all of the above factors can help police determine fault, there are other factors that may also contribute, and may point the finger to more than one driver.

Following space: The initial driver may have been following too closely, which would leave him at fault for the first collision. But if the next car is also following too closely, and hits a third car, he or she may also share in the fault for the damage on that third car.
Driver negligence: Even if one driver smashes into another, making the multi-car crash mostly his fault, if one of the other drivers is intoxicated, speeding, or talking on a cell phone, he or she may also share in the fault.
Vehicle malfunction: If it’s found that the vehicle malfunctioned—perhaps the air bags didn’t deploy as expected—the manufacturer may also share in the fault for any injuries.
Hit and run: The car that started the accident may leave the scene. In this case, the other drivers may maintain their innocence. Evidence at the scene helps officers determine fault.

If you were injured in a multi-car accident, you may want to speak to a lawyer. A thorough investigation that includes a review of the police report, witness statements, accident photographs, and more, will likely yield important information that could be critical to your case.