When you are injured in a car accident in Colorado, you typically must file a claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance provider to receive compensation for your medical bills, car repairs, lost wages, and other damages. But what happens when there are multiple vehicles involved? Who is at fault in a three-car accident or multi-vehicle pileup?
It is actually very common for multiple people or parties to share fault for motor vehicle accidents. While this is often true in two-vehicle crashes, it is very often the case when three or more vehicles are involved.
Determining who was at fault for a multi-vehicle accident that left you injured can be difficult—and the other drivers involved may even try to argue that you were partly or mostly at fault. It is important that you work with an experienced car accident attorney who knows how to properly investigate these claims and who can protect your rights.
The Importance of Establishing Negligence
Because Colorado follows a fault (or “tort”) system, you typically cannot recover compensation after an accident through your own insurance provider unless you have specific coverage allowing you to do so. Instead, you will usually go through the at-fault driver’s insurance company to receive compensation for your medical expenses, lost income, and other damages. Because of this, establishing negligence is a critical element of your claim.
In a three-car accident, one or multiple parties may have caused or contributed to the accident by acting negligent or wrongfully. For example, if you were rear-ended by someone who was texting while driving, and they were rear-ended but their vehicle’s brake lights were out, the middle car may be the only negligent party. However, if the last vehicle in the line was tailgating the texting driver, they may both share some of the blame.
Multi-vehicle accidents are very complex, and there are many nuances involved in establishing negligence. An attorney at Clawson & Clawson can help you determine who may have been negligent and is therefore liable for your injuries and damages.
Understanding Colorado’s Rule of Modified Comparative Negligence
Colorado follows a rule of modified comparative negligence, which reflects the fact that many accidents can be attributed to not just one person’s negligence but the negligent conduct of multiple parties. Under this rule, individuals are permitted to bring personal injury claims even if they share some of the blame—as long as they were less than 50% at fault.
Say you were hit as you drove through an intersection by someone who failed to stop at a red light, but at the time of the accident, you were speeding a few miles per hour above the posted speed limit. Now imagine that the motorist behind you, who had been tailgating you as you drove through the intersection, also slammed into the back of your vehicle because they were following too closely. In this scenario, a jury might find that all three motorists share some degree of fault. As long as the jury does not assign you 50% or more of the blame, you can still file a claim for damages. You may even be able to file multiple claims—one against each of the other drivers involved.
It is important to note that just because you can still file a claim for damages if you were partly at fault for the accident, this does not mean that you will be able to receive the total amount of compensation you would otherwise be entitled to. In fact, Colorado’s modified comparative negligence rule reduces your recovery by the same percentage of fault you are found to have.
So, using the above example, if a jury finds you 10% at fault for the accident because you were going 40 miles per hour in a 35-mph zone, your total recovery will be reduced by 10%. This means you can only recover up to 90% of the amount you would have been able to receive if you were not found partly at fault for the accident.
What to Do If You Are Involved in a Multi-Vehicle Accident
In most cases, chain-reaction car crashes and multi-vehicle pileups result in more serious injuries (and more fatalities) than standard two-car accidents. These accidents also tend to be more dangerous right after they happen, as well, due to the fact that other vehicles might become involved. The most important thing to remember after a multi-vehicle accident is your safety and well-being.
Here are a few things you should try to do (to the best of your ability) after a three-car accident or any crash involving multiple vehicles:
- Stay Where You Are: Not only are you required to remain at the scene of the accident by law, but you should also stay in your vehicle unless it is safe to get out. If you must remain in your vehicle, keep your seatbelt fastened and wait for help to arrive.
- Call 911: Call 911 or local law enforcement and have them come to the scene of the accident. Make sure that you or anyone else who needs emergency medical care gets prompt attention and, if necessary, is transported to the hospital.
- Report the Accident: You should report minor and major accidents to the police, but you are required by law to immediately report any motor vehicle accident that results in bodily injury, death, property damage, or when the other person cannot exchange information.
- Document Everything: If you can, safely exit your vehicle and take pictures of the accident, including any damage to your vehicle, the position of the other vehicles involved, your injuries, and the nearby surroundings.
- Exchange Information: Make sure you get the name(s), contact information, and insurance information of everyone else involved in the accident. This means exchanging information with all the other drivers.
- Talk to Witnesses: If anyone may have seen what happened, including other motorists and nearby pedestrians, ask if they will stay and talk to the police. If possible, you should also get their name(s) and contact information.
- Notify Your Insurance Company: You should notify your insurance company about the accident as soon as possible. Depending on the language of your policy, you may have a strict timeline in which to do this; make sure you understand your policy to avoid missing the deadline.
- See a Doctor: If you did not receive medical attention at the scene, see your doctor as soon as possible after the accident. Your doctor can diagnose any underlying injuries or aggravated conditions and provide a treatment plan.
- Contact an Attorney: Because proving liability in a multi-vehicle accident is so complex, it is important that you contact an experienced attorney who can help you with your claim. You should not talk to anyone from the other people’s insurance companies before first speaking to a lawyer.
At Clawson & Clawson, we work with a team of experts—including accident reconstructionists, investigators, medical professionals, economists, and others—who help us evaluate exactly what happened and which parties are liable for your injuries. We have experience navigating the complexities inherent in three-car accidents, chain-reaction collisions, and multi-vehicle crashes, and we are ready to fight for you.
Call our office in Colorado Springs to speak to one of our car accident attorneys for free: (719) 602-5888.