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Who Is at Fault in a Three-Car Accident?

Who Is at Fault in a Three-Car Accident?

You may have been involved recently in a 3 car accident. Who is at fault is an important question since the responsible driver is generally the one liable for paying for property damage and any injuries. If you’ve been injured in a multi-car accident in Indiana, Stracci Law Group can help.

What Is a Multiple Car Accident?

A multiple-vehicle accident is where more than two vehicles crash. Whether it’s a 3 car accident, 4 car accident, or even more, it’s still considered to be a multiple car accident if it involved more than two vehicles. 

It doesn’t matter whether the vehicles involved are cars, trucks, or motorcycles — more than two vehicles qualify as a multiple car accident.

Types of Crashes that Involve Multiple Vehicles

Multiple car accidents can happen in different ways. If you were involved in a three-car accident, it was likely caused by one of the following.

Rear-End Collisions

Chain reaction accidents are often caused by one motorist rear-ending another. This crash can push a vehicle into the one in front of it, and on it goes. If the driver who started the crash was going fast enough, the rear-end collision could end up causing damage to several vehicles.

Head-On Collisions

When head-on collisions happen, they often block multiple lanes of traffic. In heavy traffic, drivers may not be able to react fast enough to avoid a crash. This can lead to multi-vehicle pileups that can be dangerous and even fatal.

T-Bone Collisions

T-bone collisions often happen at intersections where crossing traffic can pose a risk of accidents. If traffic is moving fast enough, drivers must respond quickly to avoid a wreck. High speed in the striking vehicle can push the other one into oncoming traffic, and a multiple car accident could be the result.

Common Causes of 3 Car Accidents

Multi-car accidents can happen for a variety of reasons. Some of the most common reasons for multiple car accidents include:

  • Excessive speed
  • Tailgating
  • Unsafe or improper lane changes
  • Other driver distractions.

A more detailed discussion about each of these factors is below. If you have been involved in a multi-car accident in Indiana, it may have been caused for one of these reasons.


When drivers are speeding, it increases the chances of an accident. Driving too fast can also impact the kinds of injuries that occur in an accident. Motorists are responsible for driving in a way that’s safe for any type of road conditions they may encounter. When they don’t, they place themselves and others at risk.


The act of driving too close to another vehicle is called tailgating. Frequently, the driver who is tailgating doesn’t have the time or road space to slow down or stop safely. Consequently, they can hit the vehicle in front of them and possibly push that car into harm’s way.

Improper Lane Changes

Changing lanes without paying attention to surrounding traffic can result in unsafe conditions on the road. Additionally, a driver who changes lanes without signaling can create a hazard for other drivers. These actions can make multi-car accidents more likely.

Distracted Driving

Distracted driving is becoming more common. Distractions from cell phones are more common than any others and are often the cause of multiple car accidents. Every driver on the road owes a duty of care to others to drive safely and responsibly. When multiple drivers are distracted, it creates a “perfect storm” for a three-car accident or even more.

Who Is at Fault in a Multi-Car Rear-End Accident?

A rear-end accident is often the cause of multi-car accidents. This is because vehicles can end up piling up behind each other. Sometimes these are also referred to as chain reaction accidents.

The First Car to Rear-End Another Is Usually at Fault

When determining who is responsible for a three-car accident, you can usually look to the first person who rear-ended another vehicle. This is because the rear vehicle normally has the most opportunity to avoid a crash. This is especially true if the rear vehicle hits other drivers who have managed to stop safely.

More than One Car May Be at Fault in a Chain Reaction Accident

At times, there are circumstances where multiple cars rear-end collision has happened, but another driver hits the cars already stopped and makes the pileup worse. In this instance, the original driver who caused the pileup most likely bears responsibility, but multiple car accident liabilities might also rest with the distracted driver who caused further damage.

Who Is at Fault in a Multi-Vehicle Accident with a Head-On Collision?

Sometimes a head-on collision can cause a 3 car accident. The liable party is usually dependent on what car crossed into oncoming traffic. In the event, that a car drifts into oncoming traffic and causes a multiple-vehicle pileup, the car that drifted is responsible for damages or injuries to any other property or drivers.

Sometimes the person who drifts into oncoming traffic is not responsible. There are times when a car may be side-swiped by another vehicle moving in the same direction. If this collision forces them into oncoming traffic, they may not be at fault. 

The liability rests with the person who forced them into oncoming traffic. Who is at fault in a multiple car accident can be a complicated thing to determine. 

Who Is at Fault in a Multi-Car Accident at an Intersection?

Many multi-vehicle accidents happen at intersections. The most common causes for these kinds of crashes are improper left turns or drivers who ignore signage or traffic signals.

Multi-Car Intersection Accidents Involving Left Turns

These crashes are often the result of a driver who wants to turn left but isn’t patient enough to wait for all of the crossing traffic to pass. This can result in a T-bone collision that can easily turn into a multiple-vehicle accident. 

Who is liable in a multi-car accident involving a left-hand turn depends on whether the driver who was turning left had the right of way. If they did not, they will be responsible for the crash. If they had the right of way, then the driver who hit them may be to blame, especially if they were speeding or otherwise distracted.

Multi-Car Intersection Accidents Where a Traffic Control Device Was Ignored

A driver who runs a traffic control device such as a stop sign or a red light will always be at fault for a collision. They may not bear sole responsibility if they run into cars that have already crashed, but they will always be liable for some percentage of the accident.

Who Is at Fault in Multiple-Vehicle Accidents Resulting from a Lane Change?

An improper lane change can easily cause a three-car accident. Who is at fault depends on the circumstances. For example, if two cars are traveling in the same direction and one of them drifts over, causing the other driver to hit someone else, the driver who drifted over is most likely responsible for the multiple car accident. 

On rare occasions, other cars can share responsibility, particularly if distracted driving comes into play.

Evidence to Determine Multi-Car Accident Liability

A multi-car accident insurance claim can be complicated. This is because determining liability can be a complex and sometimes contentious process. Various forms of evidence can be used when solving multiple car accident insurance issues.


Photos of the accident scene can be helpful in multiple car accident claims. While pictures cannot be the sole determining factor of liability, they can support other findings. 

Examples of helpful photographic evidence include:

  • Skid marks that indicate braking before a crash.
  • Road hazards that might have contributed to the accident.
  • Empty beer cans or drug paraphernalia that point to DUI.
  • Leaked fluids or rubber fragments from blown tires that show mechanical failures.

If you’ve been involved in a three-car accident and you can take photos, images of the crash scene may prove to be valuable evidence in determining who is liable in a multi-car accident.


In some cases, dash-cam videos or surveillance cameras in the area might help determine liability. Traffic control cameras and bystanders with cell phones can also be a source of video evidence. Investigators should work to determine whether such videos exist. 

The use of those videos can help reconstruct the accident and identify who is responsible.

Vehicle Damage

Vehicle damage can be a clue as to how the events in a multi-car accident unfolded. Investigators can study damage to the vehicles involved to help them determine what happened. The damage can also be a determining factor when deciding whether those who were involved in the accident are telling the truth.

Paint Transfer

When vehicles crash into one another, paint is often transferred between the two. The patterns of paint transfer between vehicles can help investigators determine who is responsible. This method is useful when drivers have suffered serious or fatal injuries and cannot tell law enforcement officers what happened to cause the accident.

Witness Statements

If a multi-car accident happens on a city street or at a busy intersection, there will probably be witnesses. Witness statements can be helpful to law enforcement officers and crash scene investigators when they are trying to determine fault. 

These statements can also help solve multiple car accident insurance issues.

EDR Data

Many newer cars, trucks, and motorcycles include an electronic data recorder (EDR), which works like an airplane’s black box. Data from EDRs can help determine liability in a multiple vehicle accident. 

The data from an EDR include information about:

  • Seat belt use
  • Airbag deployment
  • Vehicle system status
  • Driver inputs.

EDR data can be of great benefit to investigators working to reconstruct an accident to prove liability.

Police Reports

If police respond to the accident and provide a detailed report, this will be of great importance in multiple accident insurance claims. 

Police reports often include details such as:

  • Date and time of the accident
  • Location
  • Description of road, weather, and lighting conditions
  • Their determination of who is at fault.

You should be able to contact the police precinct to obtain a copy of your traffic accident report. If you can’t get a copy of the report, your personal injury attorney will be able to access it.

Call an Indiana Personal Injury Attorney for Help

If you’ve been involved in a 3 car accident, the multiple vehicle accident attorneys at Stracci Law Group can help. Multiple vehicle accidents can have more than one responsible party, and our investigative resources can be of great benefit in determining liability. Give us a call today.

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