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While it is true that you can suffer life-threatening injuries in any car accident, crashes involving multiple vehicles can be particularly catastrophic. When a motor vehicle accident involves three or more cars traveling at high speeds, bad things are bound to happen.

The more vehicles involved in a crash, the higher the risk of drivers and passengers being hit multiple times from multiple angles. Needless to say, multi-car accidents account for some of the most severe injuries in automobile crashes.

Fact: Multi-car crashes account for about a third of all motor vehicle collisions in the United States, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

Fault in multiple-car crashes

Unfortunately, determining fault in a car accident involving multiple vehicles, also known as a chain-reaction or pile-up accident, is not exactly a walk in the park. That’s why you will greatly benefit from being represented by a Seattle multiple-vehicle car accident attorney.

Here at Russell & Hill, PLLC, our best personal injury lawyers in Washington have more than 100 years of collective experience in protecting the rights of injured victims throughout Seattle, Everett, Marysville, Spokane, and other parts of Washington.

Why chain-reaction accidents are so common (and deadly)

More often than not, car crashes involving multiple vehicles are caused by several factors. However, in many cases, only one of the drivers is held accountable for the resulting damages and losses if other parties can prove that the driver was negligent and failed to exercise reasonable care when operating his or her vehicle.

In fact, if you think about it, it does not take much to trigger a chain-reaction accident. Sometimes, all it takes is the slight tap of another vehicle’s bumper at a high speed to cause a motorist to lose control of his or her own vehicle, sending the vehicle into a devastating pile-up crash.

Causes of multi-vehicle accidents

Our experienced multi-vehicle accident attorney in Seattle says that chain-reaction or pile-up accidents can be caused by any of the following acts of negligence:

  • Distracted driving
  • Operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs
  • Driving above the speed limit
  • Tailgating or failing to maintain a safe distance
  • Running red lights
  • Unsafe lane changes
  • Wrong-way driving and
  • Failing to check blind spots before turning or swerving

As you might have guessed, this is a non-exhaustive list of causes of multiple-car accidents. Even when the cause of the multi-vehicle collision has been established, determining fault may not be as straightforward as it might seem.

Determining fault in a pile-up crash

More often than not, the following parties are held at fault for multiple-vehicle car accidents:

  • The vehicle in the back. In the vast majority of pile-up crashes, the vehicle in the back will be at fault for causing the crash. By rear-ending another vehicle in front of it, the at-fault car in the back triggers a chain-reaction crash, where vehicles in front of it keep crashing into one another.
  • The vehicle in the front. However, the car in the back is not responsible for multiple-vehicle crashes 100 percent of the time, as the vehicle in the front – although less often – can be held liable for the crash, too (for example, by stopping abruptly or making an unsafe lane change when the maneuver was not safe to execute).
  • The vehicle in the middle. When the driver of the vehicle in the back can prove that he or she did not have a reasonable amount of time to react to the middle vehicle crashing into the front vehicle, the driver of the middle vehicle will be held at fault for the crash.
  • Auto manufacturer or mechanic. If a multi-car crash was caused by a manufacturing or design defect of a vehicle involved in the crash or improper inspection or maintenance of the vehicle(s), either the auto manufacturer or auto mechanic will be held responsible for causing the accident.
  • Hit and run (phantom vehicle). Neither of the parties will be held at fault for a chain-reaction car crash if the driver of the vehicle in the back can prove that there was a vehicle behind him or her, that vehicle fled the scene, and there is clear damage to the rear vehicle. In that case, the “phantom vehicle” will be held responsible.

Seek legal help from a skilled multi-car accident lawyer in Seattle or elsewhere in Washington to determine fault in a motor vehicle collision involving three or more vehicles. Get a free consultation by contacting Russell & Hill, PLLC, today. Call our offices at 206-880-7703.

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