Fault in a three-way car accident could fall on all three drivers. The driver who primarily caused the accident bears the largest share of fault. However, if other drivers contributed to the crash in some way, the court could assign each driver some portion of the fault.
In a multiple-vehicle accident, determining who was negligent can sometimes present a challenge, as can collecting a fair financial settlement for any injuries you may have sustained.
How Do Three-Way Car Accidents Happen?
Many three-way car accidents are rear-end crashes, wherein a car strikes the rear of another car, potentially causing a chain reaction. In that scenario, the rear car is typically liable for the entire accident.
However, if a car strikes the rear of another vehicle, and then a third car comes along and hits the first two, the third driver may carry a portion of the fault as well. If the chain reaction injures the driver in the front car, the third driver might be partially liable for those injuries.
It is not always the rear driver who is at fault. If one driver cuts in front of another car and immediately slams on his brakes and the following driver rear-ends the first, fault will likely fall on the first driver. If another driver then rear-ended the second driver, he would be at-fault for any further injuries.
Three-way car accidents are not always chain-reaction crashes, however. A car turning in front of oncoming traffic could also cause a multi-vehicle crash, for example.
In many cases, these crashes may occur because a negligent driver got behind the wheel after drinking or a distracted driver looked down at his phone rather than focusing on the road.
How Might Insurers or a Court Portion Out Liability for a Three-Way Car Crash?
How insurers or a court portions out liability depends on who caused or contributed to the collision. Consider our first example above (one driver rear-ends another, the force sends that car into the car in front of it): in that case, the driver would likely be 100 percent at-fault for that crash. He would be liable for each driver’s injury and damage costs.
However, the second example is a bit more complex. The driver who caused the first accident (let’s call him Driver B) will likely be liable for 90-100 percent of the front driver’s (Driver A) injury and damage costs. The insurers would likely hold the rear driver (Driver C) who caused the second accident liable for all of Driver B’s injury costs and a small portion (10 percent) of Driver A’s costs.
How Can You Challenge Fault in a Three-Way Car Accident?
You can challenge fault by explaining what occurred to your insurance company. However, you must argue against the stories of two other drivers.
The most effective way to challenge fault in a multi-car crash is through the legal system.
This likely involves getting a car accident lawyer to argue on your behalf. Your lawyer can prove negligence by demonstrating that one or both of the other drivers violated their duty of care to you and others on the road, causing the accident that led to your injuries.
Based on the evidence presented by your attorney, the insurer or jury can determine and attribute fault and award financial damages.
How Do Florida’s Comparative Negligence Laws Affect Your Settlement?
Florida follows a comparative negligence rule when considering fault in car accident cases. The legal doctrine of comparative negligence affects how much you can collect in a car accident claim. Specifically, the court will reduce your damage award — however much it may be — by the percentage of fault attributed to you.
If a jury determines that your injuries and damages deserve an award of $100,000, for example, but it deems you are 20 percent at fault for the three-way car accident, the court will reduce your award by 20 percent, or $20,000. This provides you a net award of $80,000.
How Can You Obtain a Fair Settlement for a Three-Way Car Accident?
If you sustained severe injuries and other damages in a three-way car accident, you may need help from a lawyer, especially if the issue of fault is in dispute.
Because Florida laws allow multiple parties to be at-fault in an accident, you can be sure insurance companies will do everything they can to pin as much fault as possible on you.
Insurance companies employ teams of adjusters and high-powered lawyers to reduce their liability. So, if you were involved in a multi-vehicle accident, you may have to fight to get the compensation you deserve.
If the other insurance companies allege you had fault for the accident, but you believe you did nothing negligent to contribute to the crash, talk to a car accident lawyer.
We can examine the facts and review the available evidence in your case, and advise you of your options.