Determining Liability for a Multi-Vehicle Accident in Pennsylvania
Accidents that involve multiple vehicles present unique challenges when it comes to determining liability. While a single driver may trigger the accident, multiple drivers’ negligence may ultimately contribute to causing a chain reaction or other multi-vehicle accident.
In these cases, it is especially important to investigate the accident thoroughly. If multiple negligent drivers (or other negligent parties) share responsibility for a multi-vehicle accident, victims may need to file multiple claims in order to fully recover their accident-related losses. While individual at-fault parties can be held liable in some cases, in others, each at-fault party is only liable up to its percentage of responsibility for the crash.
Investigating a Multi-Vehicle Accident in Pennsylvania
After any type of car or truck accident, one of the first steps toward recovering just compensation is conducting an on-scene investigation. When you engage a law firm to represent you, the firm will send an investigator to the scene of the crash to gather as much forensic evidence as possible. In the case of a multi-vehicle accident, the investigator will look for evidence such as:
- Skid Marks on the Road – Skid marks can be matched to different brands and models of tires, and this information can be used to prove each vehicle’s position in the chain reaction. Skid marks can also be used to demonstrate how fast each vehicle was traveling, when each driver hit the brakes, and whether any drivers swerved or braked too hard to safely maintain control.
- Vehicle Parts and Other Debris – Vehicle parts and other debris left on the side of the road can serve as evidence in multi-vehicle accident cases as well. This includes everything from bumpers and grills to damaged signs and guardrails.
- Road Conditions – Investigators can also document any road conditions that may have played a role in causing your multi-vehicle accident. This includes temporary conditions such as gravel, snow, and ice, as well as permanent conditions such as blind curves, uncontrolled intersections, and low shoulders.
- Traffic Patterns – Evidence of traffic patterns can be useful in many multi-vehicle accident cases as well. For example, if a multi-vehicle accident resulted from heavy traffic or a traffic light that was poorly timed, these are both factors that can play a role in determining victims’ legal rights.
In addition to conducting an on-scene investigation, your law firm will gather evidence from other sources to assess liability as well. Depending on the circumstances, this may involve gathering evidence such as:
- Drivers’ Phone Records – Distracted driving is a common factor in chain-reaction collisions and other multi-vehicle accidents. If any of the drivers involved in your accident were on the phone at the time of the crash, your law firm can obtain their phone records to prove it.
- Drivers’ Employment Records – If any of the drivers involved in your multi-vehicle accident were working at the time of the crash, their employers could be liable for your injuries. This applies not only to commercial drivers (i.e., truck drivers) but to other individuals who drive on the job as well.
- Truckers’ Driving Logs – Another common factor in multi-vehicle accidents involving large commercial trucks is truck driver fatigue. Under federal regulations, truck drivers can only spend a limited number of hours each day and each wheel behind the wheel. If a truck driver involved in your multi-vehicle accident exceeded the federal driving hour limitations, his or her driving log could serve as evidence of liability.
- Statements and Records from Other Parties – Your law firm may also work to collect statements and records from a variety of other third parties. Depending on the circumstances of your case, this could involve everything from obtaining eyewitness statements to obtaining sales records from a bar or restaurant that overserved a drunk driver.
If you took photos or videos at the scene of the accident, your law firm will rely on these as well. In fact, photos and videos from the crash site can provide key insights in many cases. By showing the location, orientation, and damage to each vehicle after the crash, your photos and videos can help explain what happened, and your law firm can use this information to determine what additional evidence is needed to prove your legal rights.
Understanding Pennsylvania’s Limited Joint and Several Liability Law
When determining liability for a multi-vehicle accident in Pennsylvania, it is important to consider the commonwealth’s joint and several liability law. While these laws exist in jurisdictions across the country, they vary from one jurisdiction to the next.
Joint and several liability laws determine which claim (or claims) accident victims need to file when multiple parties share responsibility for their accident-related losses. In “pure” joint and several liability states, accident victims have the option of suing each party that shares responsibility for their losses, or they can seek to recover all of their losses from a single party.
Pennsylvania has a limited joint and several liability law. In Pennsylvania, a party can only be held 100% liable for an accident if it is 60% or more at fault. If a party is less than 60% at fault, then it can only be held liable up to its percentage of fault. So, for example, if a truck driver is 80% at fault in a chain-reaction accident, the trucking company can be held 100% liable. However, if two drivers are equally at fault in a three-vehicle accident, then the victim (or victims) of the accident will need to recover 50% of their losses from each of the at-fault drivers.
Get Help from the Lawyers at Drake, Hileman & Davis, P.C.
Determining your legal rights after a multi-vehicle accident in Pennsylvania isn’t easy. But, it is possible with an experienced law firm on your side. At Drake, Hileman & Davis, P.C., we rely on decades of experience to help our clients recover the financial compensation they deserve. If you have been injured in a multi-vehicle accident in Doylestown, Allentown, Bethlehem, Easton, Stroudsburg or anywhere else in Pennsylvania, we encourage you to call 888-479-9197 or contact us online for a free consultation.