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Who is Liable in a Multi-Vehicle Accident?

Who is Liable in a Multi-Vehicle Accident? Motor vehicle collisions occur with frequency in Ohio, and many of these crashes are multi-vehicle accidents. According to the Ohio State Highway Patrol, there were a total of 1,244 fatal crashes in Ohio in 2021, which resulted in a total of 1,148 motor vehicle fatalities. Thousands more nonfatal accidents and injuries occur every year. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) reports that more than 60% of all crashes are multi-vehicle accidents. When multi-vehicle accidents occur, they can take many different forms. A multi-vehicle collision can be a two-vehicle crash, or it can involve a pileup accident in which dozens of vehicles are involved in the accident. If you were injured recently in a multi-vehicle accident in Ohio, it is critical to understand how liability works and who may be at fault for your injuries so that you can seek financial compensation for your losses.

In order to understand who can be liable in a multi-vehicle collision and who may be responsible in your specific circumstances, it will be important to learn more about common types of multi-vehicle collisions that occur, commonly responsible parties in multi-vehicle collisions, and how to prove fault and seek compensation. In some multi-vehicle accidents, the injured party who files a claim ultimately may be partially liable for their injuries or for their severity. Yet even in these circumstances, it may still be possible to recover damages under Ohio. The following information can clarify how liability works in a multi-vehicle accident, and how you may be able to seek compensation.

What is a Multi-Vehicle Accident in Ohio?

In order to understand issues of liability in a multi-car crash, it is essential to understand what the term multi-vehicle accident means in Ohio. The term multi-vehicle accident can refer to any collision involving multiple motor vehicles. Even a two-car accident may be understood as a multi-vehicle accident, in contrast to single-vehicle accidents. Generally speaking, single-vehicle accidents can occur when a driver’s negligence results in a collision with an object, or when a driver loses control of a vehicle for other means. To be clear, multi-vehicle collisions involve more than one vehicle. Differently, a single-vehicle collision involves only one vehicle.

The term multi-vehicle collision can mean any accident involving two or more cars. However, the term is often used colloquially to refer to accidents that involve three or more vehicles. A common example includes pileup collisions.

Common Kinds of Multi-Vehicle Collisions in Ohio

There are many different types of multi-vehicle collisions that can occur in Ohio. As we mentioned above, multi-vehicle crashes can involve just two vehicles, or they can involve many vehicles. The following are examples of common multi-vehicle accidents that occur in Ohio and elsewhere:

  • Rear-end collision involving Driver B striking Drive A from the rear;
  • Multiple vehicles in a rear-end collision that results in a pileup accident (e.g., Driver C striking Driver B from the rear and pushing Driver B into a collision with Driver A);
  • Chain-reaction crashes;
  • T-bone accident that occurs between two or more vehicles at an intersection;
  • Collision between multiple vehicles in a parking lot;
  • Crash that occurs when a motorist backs out of a driveway into oncoming traffic;
  • Sideswipe accident that occurs when a motorist drifts into another lane or attempts to change lanes;
  • Head-on collision that occurs when a driver drifts across a median or across double lines into oncoming traffic; or
  • When a motorist travels the wrong way down a one-way street, a head-on collision can occur.

What are Frequent Causes of Multi-Vehicle Accidents?

There are many different causes of multi-vehicle accidents. In many circumstances, driver error is the cause. Yet it is important to keep in mind that there are also other causes of multi-vehicle collisions. The following are some frequent causes of multi-vehicle collisions in Ohio:

  • Distracted driving, such as talking or texting on a phone, eating, grooming, or taking your mind away from focusing on driving;
  • Intoxicated driving, which may include drunk or drugged driving;
  • Aggressive driving, such as running a red light or stop sign, tailgating, weaving in traffic, or speeding;
  • Road rage, which can include intentionally causing a collision with another motorist;
  • Defective vehicle parts that cause a collision, like defective brakes or defective steering;
  • Tire blowout that results in a multi-car crash or pileup;
  • Burned-out or broken tail light that results in a rear-end collision;
  • Poorly maintained or repaired brakes, turn signal, or other vehicle parts or components;
  • Damaged roads, or debris in the road;
  • Distracted pedestrian steps into the road to cross the street in front of oncoming traffic and causes a pileup accident;
  • Inclement weather; or
  • Truck jack-knifing due to improperly loaded truck bed and causing multiple vehicles to collide.

Who May be Liable for a Multi-Vehicle Crash?

Liability for a multi-vehicle accident can be complicated since multiple drivers are usually involved in the collision. Fault or liability for a crash may be attributed to more than one party. In those circumstances, it may be possible for an injured person to sue more than one person or entity. Generally speaking, the following parties are commonly liable for multi-vehicle accidents in Ohio:

  • Negligent driver who causes the crash, which may be a car or truck driver, or a motorcyclist;
  • Distracted pedestrian who causes the accident;
  • Negligent mechanic who improperly maintained a vehicle;
  • Vehicle owner who failed to have the vehicle properly serviced;
  • Employer of a negligent driver, liable under the doctrine of respondeat superior;
  • Company that improperly loaded the bed of a large truck;
  • Designer of a defective vehicle part;
  • Manufacturer of a defective vehicle part;
  • Retailer of a defective vehicle part or of the vehicle itself; and/or
  • Owner of the hazardous premises where the accident happened.

To be clear, more than one party could be liable for a multi-vehicle crash. In cases of pileup accidents, multiple car or truck drivers could be partially at fault.

What is Liability Based on Negligence?

Most forms of liability are based on a theory of negligence. In order to prove liability and to obtain compensation after a multi-vehicle collision, you must be able to prove the elements of a negligence claim. In general, the elements of a negligence claim include the following:

  • Duty of care: Defendant owed you a duty of care;
  • Breach of the duty of care: Defendant breached the duty of care by acting negligently;
  • Causation: Defendant’s breach of the duty of care was the cause of your injuries; and
  • Damages: You suffered damages as a result of the defendant’s breach of the duty of care.

How can you prove the elements of a negligence claim in order to show that the defendant (or defendants, in some cases) is liable? An injured plaintiff in a multi-vehicle collision will show duty of care based on the circumstances of the accident and injury. If another driver’s error caused the injury, it is important to know that motorists owed one another a duty of care the moment they get behind the wheel of a car or truck. As such, it is easy to show that there was a duty of care when a collision results from another motorist’s actions or inaction. A duty of care also attaches in many other circumstances. For example, when you pay a mechanic to repair your vehicle, or when you are lawfully on public or private roads, those parties owe a duty of care.

Proving a breach of the duty of care as a result of negligence will again depend upon the circumstances of the case. Generally speaking, a person is negligent when they act in an unreasonably safe manner, and a reasonable person would believe that their behavior (either through an act or omission) was unreasonable under the circumstances.

Causation will require you to show that the defendant’s negligence was the cause of your injuries. You can prove damages as long as you can show that you suffered losses as a result of the injury.

Ways of Proving Fault in a Multi-Vehicle Collision

Proving liability will be critical for winning your case and obtaining compensation. How can you prove fault in a multi-vehicle collision? There are many different ways you could be able to prove liability or prove fault in a crash. The following steps can help:

  • Photographs you took at the scene of the accident: Pictures you take at the accident scene can often help immensely in proving fault. When you have images that depict the overall scene and close-up images of property damage or injuries, these images may be valuable evidence in your case. Your car accident attorney may be able to introduce these photos as evidence in a car accident lawsuit. Or your car accident lawyer may be able to use the images to obtain a fair settlement. You can also have an accident reconstruction expert on your legal team. An accident reconstruction expert may be able to use your photos to demonstrate how the defendant or defendants are liable for your injuries.
  • Witnesses: In multi-vehicle accidents, witnesses are often crucial for proving liability. At the scene of the accident, you should obtain contact information from any witnesses that observed the accident. In addition, you should get contact information for anyone else involved in the crash. Other motorists, as well as vehicle occupants, may be able to provide valuable testimony. When witnesses provide details about how the accident happened, their statements can be useful for showing liability.
  • Police report: After most multi-vehicle accidents in Ohio, it will be important to contact the police. Whenever anyone is hurt in a multi-vehicle accident, the police will need to be informed. When the police are called to the scene of a crash, they may issue ticket(s) and will write up a police report. That police report can be essential for showing that another motorist was at fault, for example. You should obtain a copy of the police report from the accident so that it can help you with your claim.
  • Expert witnesses: In multi-vehicle accidents, it may be necessary to have an expert witness testify on your behalf.

How to Seek Compensation After a Multi-Vehicle Accident?

The aim of determining and proving liability after a multi-car crash is to seek compensation for your losses. How can you seek compensation? In Ohio, you can usually do one of the following:

  • File an auto insurance claim, either a third party or first-party claim; and/or
  • File a car accident lawsuit against the liable party.

How Can Contributory Fault Impact Liability?

What will happen if you are also partially liable for your injuries? A plaintiff can be partially liable in various circumstances. For example, you might have been slightly distracted when the accident occurred. Or, for instance, you might have been speeding when the defendant ran a red light. Ohio’s contributory fault law will apply in these circumstances. Under Ohio law, a plaintiff is only barred from recovery if they are 51% or more liable. As long as a plaintiff is 50% or less at fault, the plaintiff can still recover damages. However, if a plaintiff is partially at fault by 50% or less, their damages award will be reduced. Under Ohio law, the damages award will be reduced by the plaintiff’s portion of liability.

For example, imagine you are involved in a multi-car accident and suffer substantial damages. Imagine the court finds in your favor and awards $100,000 in damages, but the court says you are 10% at fault. That damages award would be reduced by 10%, and you would recover $90,000. However, if the court decided you were 51% or more at fault, you could not recover anything.

Contact a Hamilton Motor Vehicle Accident Attorney for Help with Your Case

If you or somebody you love sustained injuries in a multi-car accident, it is important to find out more about proving fault or liability and seeking financial compensation for your injuries. It can be complicated to prove liability in many multi-vehicle collisions, but one of our Hamilton car accident attorneys can assist you. We represent clients throughout Butler County and can speak with you today about the circumstances of your accident and injuries. We can provide you with more information about filing a claim to seek compensation for your losses. Contact the law firm of Kruger & Hodges today for more information about how we can assist you.

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