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Determining Liability for Multi-Car Accidents

In most car accident situations, the legal ramifications in terms of fault and damages are fairly simple. One of the two drivers is usually at fault, and may bear liability to the other in terms of physical or emotional damages.

At the offices of William Rawlings & Associates, our personal injury attorneys are here to help with these kinds of basic car accidents for clients in Draper, Salt Lake City, Provo and nearby parts of Utah, but also with a more complex type: The multi-car accident. Liability may not be so simple in these cases, and determining responsibility may take a bit more work. Here's a look at some of the key factors that tend to influence these cases, plus what to be thinking about if you're involved in one.

liability multi car accidents

More Than One Driver Can Be at Fault

For starters, it’s important to note that there’s no set method for listing fault in these kinds of accidents. In some cases a single driver will have 100 percent of the fault placed on him or her, while in others multiple drivers may have some responsibility.

As an example, let’s say a driver rear-ends another, pushing the front car into yet another vehicle that’s in front of it. In this case, the driver of the first vehicle to make contact will be responsible for damages to both other vehicles, as they caused the damage. In other situations, though, multiple drivers can contribute to an accident taking place – think of a driver who goes through a red light at far too high a speed, but is then hit by someone who ran the opposing red light at the same intersection in an accident that also impacts a third vehicle. In this case, both the speeder and the driver who ran the red light could be at some degree of fault.

Insurance Considerations

When a multi-car accident takes place in Utah, the first consideration for all drivers involved, even those who may not have been at fault, is their insurance. Utah is a no-fault auto insurance state, meaning that you’ll first use your PIP (Personal Injury Protection) insurance to pay for basic medical expenses or lost work time. Once this policy limit has been reached, which usually happens fairly quickly, drivers are able to use fault and liability to request damages from others involved in the accident.

Other Factors

Some other areas that may play a role in liability for multi-car accidents:

  • Driver sobriety: If an at-fault driver was drinking before the accident, it’s possible the local bar or restaurant that served them could be partially liable. This is particularly true if the establishment knew they were leaving behind the wheel of a car.
  • Type of vehicle: If a vehicle involved in the accident was commercial or the driver was on the clock for work purposes while driving, the company that employs the driver may have some liability as well.
  • Geographic features: In some cases, poor visibility or other driving conditions may have helped cause the accident. In this case, the city itself may bear some liability.

Mental Trauma Considerations

Like with any vehicle accident, multi-car collisions may involve mental trauma in addition to any physical injuries suffered. All car accidents are highly stressful in this manner, but those involving multiple cars – and potentially multiple successive dangerous scenarios – might make trauma symptoms even more severe. These symptoms may include the following areas:

  • Association issues: Your mind will try to protect itself from trauma by avoiding anything that associates it with the accident, such as driving by that same area or even, in some cases, getting behind the wheel of a car at all.
  • Sleep issues: The mind and body need rest to recover fully from a trauma, but this can be difficult to achieve due to stress. Some people find they can’t stop going back over the accident in their heads, and may find this creeping into sleepiness or fatigue during the day. If this is the case, speak to your doctor about solutions.
  • Eating concerns: Some people are focused on other things and struggle to eat due to anxiety. Others, however, may stress eat or emotionally overeat.
  • Anxiety: Some people become more anxious in general after an accident.
  • PTSD: Short for post-traumatic stress disorder, PTSD may be triggered by various memories or similarities to the accident. In some cases, PTSD can last for many years or even your entire life.

It’s important to note that anyone involved in an accident can experience this sort of trauma, even passengers who were not driving. It’s important to seek help for any of these concerns, and to document such help in detail – you may be eligible for damages in this area.

Receiving Compensation

In Utah, the first bit of coverage for your various accident-related expenses will come from your personal injury protection insurance, which is required under the state’s no-fault insurance laws. For this amount, it does not matter who was responsible.

However, once you exceed this limit, you may be due additional compensation in several areas:

  • Medical bills over the personal insurance limit, which can quickly be moved past.
  • Compensation for pain and suffering, including future quality of life.
  • Payment for hours missed at work, and resulting loss of compensation.
  • Any funeral and burial expenses associated with the accident if someone is killed.

And throughout this process, a personal injury attorney can prove invaluable in helping you to navigate the process. Multi-car accidents may have a variety of factors at play, but they are still very much subject to Utah’s laws and regulations when it comes to determining fault and collecting damages. An experienced attorney will know how to make sure you get the compensation that is due after an accident.

For more here, or to learn about any of our attorney services for clients around SLC, Draper, Provo and other parts of Utah, contact our team at the offices of William Rawlings & Associates today.

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