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Who Is at Fault in a Multi-Car Crash?

Posted on September 14, 2022 in

Car accidents are a constant personal injury and fatality risk in Arizona. According to the Arizona Department of Transportation, 121,345 car accidents were reported in 2021. Not all of these were single-vehicle or even two-car accidents. Many of them involved three or more motor vehicles. When a car accident involves more than two drivers, fault and liability (financial responsibility) can be even more difficult to determine.

Is Arizona a No-Fault State?

No. Arizona is a fault state, not a no-fault state. This insurance rule means that the driver or party at fault for causing the vehicle collision is responsible for paying for related medical bills and property damage. All drivers in Arizona must carry minimum amounts of liability insurance to pay for these accidents. 

In a no-fault state, on the other hand, all drivers seek benefits from their own insurance carriers, regardless of who caused the crash. Under Arizona’s tort-based insurance system, it is necessary to determine who is responsible for causing your multi-car crash before you can file an insurance claim.

How Is Fault Determined When Multiple Drivers Are Involved?

When a car accident involves two or more drivers, an investigation is typically required to determine fault. Investigators will return to the scene of the accident to collect any direct evidence, such as debris from the crash. Then, they will seek other forms of evidence, such as a copy of the police accident report, signed eyewitness statements, video surveillance footage and accident reconstruction to determine who caused the crash.

The goal of a multi-car accident investigation is to determine the source of the initial crash – the first driver or party that made a mistake or broke a law and collided with someone else. If this initial crash causes a chain reaction, such as a string of multiple rear-end collisions, the driver at fault for the first crash will generally be held liable for all resultant collisions. Not all multi-car crashes can be traced back to a single driver, however.

In some cases, multiple drivers will share fault for the car accident. If one driver pulled out in front of another vehicle, but the second driver was speeding, for example, both may share fault. If two or more drivers are found to be at fault for an accident, they will each be allocated a percentage of fault after an investigation of the crash. Each party will then be responsible for paying an amount equivalent to his or her degree of fault. 

Comparative Negligence in Arizona

Under the rules of Arizona’s comparative negligence law, a victim can be found responsible for a multi-car accident and still recover at least partial financial compensation. Since Arizona is a pure comparative negligence state, it allows a victim to collect financial compensation even if he or she is 99 percent at fault for a crash.

However, the victim’s degree of fault will reduce his or her monetary recovery by an equivalent amount. If you are eligible for $50,000 from another driver’s insurance company, for example, but are found to be 20 percent at fault for the car accident, your recovery would be reduced by $10,000 (20 percent of $50,000).

How to Establish Liability in a Multi-Car Crash

If you get injured in a multi-car crash in Arizona, you or your Phoenix car accident attorney will need to determine and prove fault to collect financial compensation for your hospital bills and vehicle damage repairs. Proving fault is generally synonymous with establishing negligence. Negligence means that someone failed to meet the required duty of care, or the responsibility to exercise reasonable care. 

Evidence of a breach of the duty of care and causation for the multi-vehicle accident is enough to prove that someone else is at fault and must pay for your car accident. For more information about a complicated multi-car accident case, contact a lawyer at Stone Rose Law for a free consultation.