It’s not unusual to pass by a multi-car pile-up (also known as a chain reaction crash) on Southern California freeways and even on surface streets. They usually occur because someone stops quickly and unexpectedly, and then the person behind them crashes into them and so on until a driver is able to avoid the line of smashed cars.
If you’re caught in a chain reaction crash, could you be held at fault? If a rear-end collision involves only two cars, the driver of the car in the back would typically be considered at fault based on the assumption that they were following too closely behind the other vehicle to brake and avoid hitting it.
What do law enforcement investigators look at?
When multiple vehicles are in a chain reaction crash, one driver may not have 100% of the fault for the collision. Law enforcement will need to determine:
- Which driver started the chain reaction crash? It could be whoever was in front. However, sometimes the person in the back because they rear-ended a vehicle that was pushed forward into the vehicle ahead of them — and so on.
- Why was that driver unable to avoid stopping suddenly (for example, had they been speeding or not looking ahead to see an obstruction)?
- How close were the other cars to those in front of them? Were they following at a reasonably safe distance or not?
- Were any of these drivers speeding? How did their speed factor into the accident and any injuries?
The police report of the crash is typically used by insurers as they sort out who pays whom. It’s crucial to present the law enforcement agency handling the crash and your own insurance company with any evidence you have, including photos and videos you took at the scene. If you don’t believe you’re being offered the compensation you need to deal with medical costs and other expenses, it’s wise to explore your legal options.