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Multiple Vehicle Traffic Accidents In Los Angeles: A Tangled Web of Liability

Multiple vehicle accidents are one of the deadliest types of traffic accidents out there. A car accident between just two vehicles or even one and a stationary object can already end in tragedy. When multiple vehicles are involved, especially large commercial freight vehicles, the damage, injuries, and death can multiply. What can start as a single impact between two vehicles can quickly escalate out of control due to inattentive drivers, drivers who are traveling too fast to stop in time, or poor weather conditions that impact visibility and create slippery road conditions.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, one-third of all car accidents involve more than two vehicles and Los Angeles is no exception. Not a month goes by in the Los Angeles metro area without a major multi-vehicle crash making the headlines in the news.

When it comes time to seek recovery for injuries after a multi-vehicle accident, it can be tough to know who to turn to in seeking compensation. Is it the person at fault for the original accident that ultimately caused the pileup? Is it the person driving the vehicle who actually caused a specific individual’s injuries after that person crashed? Can everyone recover from everyone else involved in the pileup? Is no one person at fault?

THERE IS NO SIMPLE ANSWER

Determining who is liable for causing injuries and damages in a multi-vehicle accident is a complicated process, but the analysis of the situation is the same as any other traffic accident. Each driver has a duty of care or responsibility to other drivers, passengers, and pedestrians on the road. That duty of care is to drive as a reasonably prudent or cautious driver would under the circumstances. Failure to exercise this duty of care can be a willful or negligent act.

When one driver’s willful or negligent actions becomes the direct or factual cause of injuries to another person, as well as the proximate or legally acceptable cause of the injuries, the injured person or people can recover from the negligent driver. It does not matter if only one driver was at fault for causing the accident or everyone contributed a little bit. Each person may carry some liability, all of it, or none at all.

FACTUAL DETERMINATION OF EVENTS IS KEY

Determining the facts of a multi-vehicle crash is a complicated process. The more vehicles in an accident, the harder it gets to determine what caused the accident and what negligent acts were involved. Police and insurance investigators will look for drivers who were:

  • Speeding
  • Not maintaining a proper distance between vehicles
  • Operating while intoxicated
  • Talking or texting on a cell phone
  • Not respecting any other rule of traffic

Engaging in reckless behavior that reduces the driver’s ability to focus on his or her surroundings is usually an indication that the driver may have been negligent in exercising a duty of care to other drivers and passengers on the road at the time of the accident.

The police and insurance investigators will also:

  • Interview drivers, passengers, and witnesses
  • Take photographs of each vehicle, the accident scene, the damage done, skid marks, guardrails, fences, surrounding property, etc.
  • Review the driver’s traffic records to look for:
    • Outstanding warrants
    • Speeding
    • Reckless driving
    • Prior arrests
    • Tickets
    • Accidents
    • History of driving while intoxicated

The conclusion that a police investigation or insurance investigation reaches is not necessarily 100% conclusive. If an investigation concludes that one person is primarily liable for the accident, it can be difficult but not impossible for that person to fight the finding. A skilled personal injury attorney is the best defense when being accused of being the cause of a multi-vehicle accident.

PURE COMPARATIVE NEGLIGENCE IN CALIFORNIA

Even if you are found to be at fault or liable for causing a multi-vehicle accident, it is not the end of the world when it comes to your chances of recovering compensation for your injuries. Very rarely is an accident entirely one person’s fault, especially in a multivehicle accident. The negligent acts of every driver, distracted driving or carelessness by each person can contribute to damages and injuries to others around them. When deciding how much each person should pay or each person should recover, California courts consider each person’s contribution to the accident.

California is what is known as a ‘pure comparative negligence’ state. This means that a plaintiff will still be able to recover damages after his or her percentage of fault has been deducted. Even if the plaintiff was 99% at fault, the plaintiff can still recover for that 1% of fault that he or she was not to blame for.

This is an important concept in multi-vehicle accidents. It is unlikely that anyone in a multi-vehicle accident is entirely blameless in contributing to the accident. Drivers may have been following too closely to the other vehicles and did not allow themselves enough room to stop in time, or perhaps they were driving too fast in poor weather conditions. Whatever the case, their recovery will be reduced by whatever percentage of fault a court finds them liable for.

A PERSONAL INJURY ATTORNEY IS YOUR GREATEST ALLY

Police and insurance investigators may be quick to assign fault to one person in an accident, and insurance companies are always eager to settle with those injured in a multi-vehicle accident as insurance payouts are typically higher in those situations.

When you are injured in a multi-vehicle accident, you need to know and understand what options are available to you and what the best path moving forward is. The personal injury attorneys at Glotzer & Leib, LLP can help you with all of your legal needs in your personal injury case. Contact them today for a free initial consultation to evaluate your case. Call today at (213) 988-6462 or fill out an online case form.

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