Who Is Liable in a Multi-Vehicle Crash?

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Vehicle collisions typically involve just two vehicles, though sometimes, three or more cars or trucks are involved. This is known as a multi-vehicle accident. In some cases, auto accidents are minor. In other cases, vehicle collisions can cause very severe injuries or fatalities, such as those that occur in highway crashes or those involving pedestrians.

Determining Liability Can Be Difficult in Multi-Vehicle Collisions

People injured in multiple vehicle accidents can claim compensation through a civil lawsuit. These lawsuits are much more difficult to pursue than those involving only one plaintiff (the injured person) and one defendant (the at-fault person). Before recovery for an injury claim occurs, liability, or fault, must first be determined. Determining liability often becomes much more challenging when multiple vehicles and drivers exist.

Investigations and analysis by local law enforcement officials and several insurance companies will follow most multi-vehicle crashes. This adds another layer of complexity to any multi-vehicle accident case. A skilled and experienced Chicago car accident attorney can help those injured determine who was at fault for the accident and obtain compensation for their injuries.

Key Takeaways

  1. Navigating Complexity: Multi-vehicle accidents can involve complex liability issues, making experienced legal guidance essential for identifying the accident fault and pursuing compensation.
  2. Contributory Negligence: Illinois’ contributory negligence laws allow for compensation even if you’re partially at fault, adjusting awards based on fault percentage.
  3. Advocacy and Support: Engaging a skilled attorney can provide crucial support in dealings with insurance companies, ensuring your rights are protected and maximizing your compensation potential.

Negligence and Liability

Most multi-car accidents do not occur when three or more vehicles hit each other simultaneously. Typically, one vehicle hits another, which causes a chain reaction in which more vehicles become involved in the crash. It is important to analyze the sequence of events when determining who is liable or responsible for a crash. It is also important to remember that more than one party can be responsible for a collision.

Liability rests on the driver, who was negligent in the crash. Negligence arises from a person or company not meeting their “duty of care.” On our roadways, the duty of care is to drive safely and not endanger others. When that duty of care is breached, the individual who failed to meet it can be found negligent. That negligence will be the basis of a lawsuit against the driver due to injuries caused by his or her carelessness.

For example, three vehicles travel on a highway in the same lane. The first vehicle, the one traveling in front of the others, stops abruptly. Another car behind the first vehicle then crashes into the rear-end of the first vehicle in the pile-up. This causes the third vehicle to crash into the back of the second vehicle. The passenger in the first vehicle is seriously hurt. Who is at fault in a pile-up?

Upon investigation and analysis, it may be determined that each driver was responsible. The first driver acted negligently by stopping suddenly on a highway when they knew the vehicles behind them could not stop in time. The second vehicle driver may be liable because they followed the first vehicle too closely. This is acting negligently, so the judge or jury may find the second driver responsible. The judge or jury may also find the third vehicle driver responsible if the investigations found that he or she was also following the car in front too closely in the pile-up. Thus, in the scenario posed, all three drivers are liable. A good lawyer would pursue all the drivers and their insurers.

Contributory Negligence in a Multiple Car Accident

Because multi-vehicle crashes often involve more than one negligent party, the legal concept of contributory negligence is often an important part of any multi-vehicle lawsuit.

The Illinois Compiled Statute covering negligence also covers contributory negligence. It states that even when a plaintiff is partly at fault for the accident, he or she may still recover compensation for injuries. However, the amount of fault the plaintiff assumes for the accident is also considered. A judge or jury will assign the plaintiff a percentage of fault. If compensation is awarded, it will be reduced by that percentage.

Using the same example, it is possible that the first vehicle’s driver could sue the second vehicle’s driver for crashing into him or her. If a court finds that the plaintiff was speeding and, therefore, had to stop unsafely, such as too abruptly, the first driver may be assigned a percentage of fault. If the courts award him or her compensation, the total amount would be reduced by that percentage.

Determining Fault Can Be Difficult

In the case of Angela Antonicelli vs. Daniel Juan Rodriguez, Angela Antonicelli was the first driver struck in a multi-vehicle crash. Rodriguez hit Ms. Antonicelli while he was making a U-turn, which caused another defendant, Karl Browder, who was driving a truck, to hit Ms. Antonicelli from behind.

Antonicelli filed a lawsuit against both Rodriguez and Browder, eventually settling out of court with Rodriguez. Browder then filed a counterclaim against Rodriguez for initially causing the collision and Antonicelli’s injuries.

The trial, appellate, and Illinois Supreme Court found that, according to the Joint Tortfeasor Contribution Act, Rodriguez had settled with Antonicelli in good faith. This barred Browder, a party not involved in that settlement, from seeking additional compensation from Rodriguez.

A Multi-Vehicle Crash Attorney Can Help

The Illinois Vehicle Code, the Joint Tortfeasor Contribution Act, and other state statutes on negligence are a few of the laws typically involved in multi-vehicle crashes. The statutory authority demonstrates how multi-vehicle cases can become so complicated.

During the investigations following a multi-car accident, including those conducted by one or more insurance companies, one or more will likely wish to speak to injured individuals while trying to recover from their injuries. Accident victims often do not know what to say, or what not to say, to these companies, but a car accident lawyer in Illinois can help.

Call or text the Blumenshine Law Group today at (312) 766-1000 or email [email protected] if you have been injured in an accident involving multiple vehicles. We offer free consultations and will work hard to get you back to your pre-incident condition as soon as possible. We can speak to the insurance company on your behalf while fighting for your rights to ensure you receive any compensation you may deserve. Contact us today so we can start reviewing your case. We do not get paid unless you do.


In a 4-car collision, who is at fault?

In a 4-car collision, the fault is determined case-by-case, examining each impact separately. We thoroughly investigate chain-reaction crashes to establish liability for each driver involved and help injured clients recover maximum compensation. Our experienced legal team can navigate even the most complex multi-vehicle accident cases.

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