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Who Is Liable for a Multi-Car Crash in Washington?

January 30, 2023

Determining and proving liability after any car accident requires investigation, collecting evidence, and interviewing eyewitnesses and experts. Even a simple accident involving only two colliding vehicles can be challenging when proving liability. But when a crash involves multiple vehicles, not only does it increase the trauma of the accident for those injured, but it also increases the challenge of determining and proving who is liable for the damages.

Multi-car accidents, pile-ups, or chain reaction crashes become complex when it comes to navigating the legal system and determining liability in Washington to meet the requirements of the state’s comparative fault system.

Who Is Liable for a Multi-Car Crash in Washington?

How Liability Becomes Complex in Multi-Car Crashes

Legal liability in car accidents depends on proving negligence based on the premise that drivers owe a duty of care to others on the road to keep them safe by following traffic laws, avoiding distractions, and taking all reasonable measures to prevent an accident. If one driver rear-ends the car in front of him/her because they were following too closely or became distracted by a text, they are liable for the damages. However, if the car in front lacked working brake lights, they may be liable for the accident. If the driver who hit the car could have stopped if they weren’t distracted by a text, despite the lack of tail lights, they might share liability.

If two cars collide and then a third car slams into them, liability becomes even more complicated. As the number of involved cars increases in an accident, the more difficult it becomes to untangle liability issues.

Sometimes determining who crashed into whom first, and whether or not the subsequent collisions in a multi-vehicle accident could have been avoided becomes necessary when multiple injury victims and several insurance companies become involved. In some cases, only a single driver is liable, but in other circumstances, several drivers may share a percentage of liability.

Determining Liability in Multi-Car Accidents in Washington

Because every car accident is unique, and many different factors come into play in multi-car accidents, an investigation is necessary to identify the liable party or determine the percentage of fault in complex accidents. Most often, the first car to go awry bears the greatest percentage or full percentage of liability because the remaining collisions would not have occurred if the initial accident hadn’t happened. However, investigations may determine that fault was shared depending on the reactions and circumstances involved in the subsequent crashes.

An experienced accident attorney in Seattle can help determine liability by thoroughly investigating the circumstances of an accident in the following ways:

  • Reading the police report or accident report
  • Studying any available traffic camera footage or dash-cam videos
  • Interviewing eyewitnesses to the accident
  • Hiring accident reconstruction experts to better understand the role each vehicle played in a multi-car accident

In some cases, other entities may bear liability in multi-car accidents. For example, if a malfunctioning traffic signal caused the first accident that led to a multi-car pileup, the city or county may bear liability. If a defective car part such as malfunctioning tail lights caused the accident, the manufacturer could ultimately bear liability for the crash and all the injuries from multiple vehicles.

If you’ve been injured in a complex, multi-car crash in Washington, the state’s comparative negligence system means it matters who caused the accident and what percentage of liability all involved parties bear for the injuries.

It’s more important than ever to seek the help of a highly experienced injury attorney in Washington after an accident involving several drivers.

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