Establishing Fault in a Multi-Vehicle Accident

When multiple vehicles are involved in a road accident, there can be some confusion as to who is to blame. The answer depends on each driver’s actions – and which ones failed to obey the rules of the road. In some cases, fault can be shared between parties.

Chain reaction accidents

Often, motor accidents involve several vehicles. A common example is when a ‘lead’ car is being tailed by two other cars. The lead car brakes suddenly and is subsequently rear-ended by the second car, which in turn is rear-ended by the third car. This type of accident is known as a chain reaction accident.

So, who is to blame? Is it the lead driver, who braked suddenly and without warning? Is it the second car, who was tailgating the lead car and so did not have enough braking distance to avoid a collision? Or is it the third car, who failed to react in time? There is no straightforward answer – it all depends on the circumstances.

The rules of the road

For example, imagine the lead car applied the brakes because a bus was merging into the same lane. In this situation, applying the brakes is a reasonable course of action to taken. If it’s established that the second car should also have seen the bus merging, and/or was following the lead car too closely, the driver of the lead car may be absolved of blame.

However, what if the lead car applied the brakes for no apparent reason? Perhaps the driver was approaching a traffic signal and suddenly stopped, even though the signal was green. If so, the driver of the lead car has not acted reasonably, and so must take at least some (or possibly even all) of the blame for the accident.

Therefore, you can see that when it comes to establishing liability for the lead car, it all depends on the circumstances. The same is true of the second and third cars.

Perhaps the second car is entirely at fault because it followed the lead car too closely (causing it to rear end the lead car) and also failed to have working brake lights (meaning the third car had no indication of the reduction in speed). On the other hand, the second car may have followed the rules of the road to a tee, making the driver the innocent party.

The same test applies to the driver of the third car.

Establishing fault in a motor vehicle accident

Ultimately, it all boils down to one question: which driver failed to act reasonably? If more than one driver is negligent, liability will be shared. In these cases, each driver’s involvement in the accident is expressed as a percentage. For instance, the lead car may hold 0% liability, the second car 75% liability and the third car 25% liability.

An ICBC adjuster is the first person to decide who is at fault in a motor vehicle accident. ICBC assesses responsibility in a crash by reviewing:

  • Police reports
  • Statements taken from you and the other drivers
  • Statements taken from people who saw the accident
  • Any other evidence available, such as dash cam footage
  • The rules of the road

If you don’t agree with ICBC’s decision, it’s always possible to dispute it. The final decision lies with the courts.

The importance of liability in personal injury claims

Establishing liability in a motor vehicle accident is important because it determines who – and who is not – to blame. If you’re not at fault, you are entitled to claim compensation for your damages. You will also avoid other adverse consequences, such as an increase in your ICBC insurance premiums.

Liability is often a contentious issue during personal injury claims, particularly those involving ICBC. This does not necessarily prevent you from claiming compensation. If we believe you are innocent, we’ll argue your case in court. Even if you are found partly to blame, you can still make a claim, but your settlement may be reduced.

Vancouver personal injury lawyers

If you have been involved in a motor vehicle accident and you want to discuss an ICBC claim, please contact our Vancouver personal injury lawyers. We specialize in ICBC claims and have the expertise needed to handle the most complex of cases – including those involving multi-vehicle accidents.

Please contact us now for a free consultation. Either fill in the free online enquiry form or call us on 604 684 0040.

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