Although single-vehicle accidents make up a large percentage of crashes each year, may involve more than one car. In 2016, multiple-vehicle crashes took 1,560 lives in the state of California. Determining fault and liability for a multiple-car accident can be more difficult than in standard crashes due to the number of people involved. It can be hard to pinpoint who started the chain of collisions or who should have done something to prevent the crash. In California, however, it is necessary to determine fault before victims can obtain compensation.
Start With Documentation
Proving fault for a multiple-car crash comes down to whether you have enough evidence against the alleged at-fault driver. Although you can wait until you hire a lawyer to start the investigative process, it helps to gather information directly from the scene. If you’re able, write down details the day of the accident while they’re still fresh in your mind. Then, collect the following information:
- Names and insurance companies of all other drivers
- License plate numbers of all involved vehicles
- Names and contact information of any eyewitnesses
- Photographs of the scene and of property damage
- Descriptions of any personal injuries
- Police report number
- Medical records, treatments, and bills
The more information you collect about your multi-vehicle crash, the stronger your case may be. You may gather evidence against one or more of the other drivers, such as photographs of fast food wrappers in the front seat of the vehicle – potential proof of driver distraction. Do your best to obtain information about your collision from the very beginning. Then, seek professional assistance from your local car accident lawyer.
Launch an Investigation
Always call the California police after a car accident involving multiple vehicles – especially if the crash caused personal injuries or deaths. Remain at the scene, or in a safe place nearby, and assist others if you can while you wait for police to arrive. Give your side of the story to the officer upon arrival. Since multiple drivers will have different versions of events, it’s important to make yours part of the official record. Make sure to write down your police report number for future reference.
After you call the police and another driver’s insurance company, both parties will likely launch their own investigations into who or what caused the collision. You should hear the results of these investigations during the insurance claims process, as well as if you request a copy of your official police report. The officer’s opinion of who is at fault could be enough for an insurance company, or the insurer may investigate on its own. Don’t admit fault to police officers or insurance agents. Instead, wait for the results of an unbiased investigation.
Hire an Experienced Auto Accident Attorney
After documenting the facts of your crash and waiting for the experts to give their opinions about fault, hire an attorney. A car accident lawyer with experience handling multiple-vehicle crashes can help you determine fault, file your claim, and prove liability. A law firm will have everything you need for a strong, successful case against one or more drivers.
With a lawyer’s help, you could recover the following damages from the at-fault party:
- Lost wages
- Property damage repairs
- Medical bills
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of consortium
- Funeral/burial expenses for a deceased loved one
Assigning fault is one of the first steps required to obtain compensation for a multi-vehicle collision in California. Under the state’s fault-based car insurance laws, you must determine fault to know which car insurance company to call. When in doubt, contact an attorney early in the process. It’s never too soon to call a car accident lawyer about your claim. A lawyer can help you understand and prove fault right from the beginning.