Multiple Vehicle Accidents: Who is Responsible?

It can be difficult to determine who is responsible for an accident even when only two vehicles are involved. In multiple vehicle accidents, things can be even more complicated.

Accidents at Stop Lights and Intersections

One of the most common situations of a multiple vehicle accident occurs when one driver stops suddenly at a stop light or stop sign and another driver hits the car from behind. This can lead to a chain reaction, which may involve three or more cars. A similar type of accident occurs when cars are stopped at a light and the first vehicle does not move immediately or moves too slowly through the intersection. A driver who is paying attention to the light, but not to the car in front of him, can end up running into the back of another car.


Although most people assume that a driver who hits another car from behind is at fault, this is not always the case. Malfunctioning brake lights, for example, may make it impossible for a driver to know when the vehicle in front of him is stopping.  A sudden and unwarranted stop may also make it possible for a driver who hits a car from behind to avoid responsibility.


Sometimes, the driver who caused the accident is not actually involved in the accident itself. If a driver runs a red light, other drivers may have to stop suddenly at a green light or after they have entered an intersection. This could cause drivers behind them to stop suddenly, leading to one or more rear-end collisions.


Accidents on Highways

Multiple vehicle accidents on highways often occur when roads are wet or slick and/or when visibility is limited. With highway speeds and limited visibility, drivers can come upon the scene of an accident with no time to stop or get out of the way. Pileups involving dozens of cars are possible, making it difficult to determine who is responsible.


Comparative Negligence

In New York, an injured person may still be able to recover damages for their injuries even when he is partially responsible for an accident. Under the comparative negligence rule, a driver who is less than 50% responsible for an accident can still recover damages, limited by the amount of his responsibility. For example, if a court finds a person 40% responsible for an accident, he can recover 60% of his damages. In multiple vehicle accidents, it is common for more than one person to bear responsibility, so the comparative negligence rule is particularly important.


What to Do After a Multiple Vehicle Accident

In multiple vehicle accidents, determining the cause and assigning responsibility for the accident can be complex and time-consuming. All the information may not be readily apparent to drivers, passengers, and witnesses, so it is important not to admit fault at the scene, or afterward. If possible, take pictures of the vehicles before they are moved. Furthermore, take note of the surroundings, including stop signs, traffic lights, or debris in the road.

New York Accident Attorney

Talk to a New York accident attorney as soon as possible after an accident. The attorneys at O’Brien & Ford are dedicated to helping injured persons get the compensation they need, and have decades of experience representing accident victims in New York. Call us  any time at 716-907-7777, or visit our website at