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How Liability for Multi-Vehicle Accidents is Determined

Multi-vehicle accidents, sometimes known as pileups, happen all too often on Tennessee’s highways and freeways. These types of crashes typically result when an initial collision creates a hazard that other vehicles are unable to avoid. If you are injured in such a crash, it’s vital to determine who may be held responsible for your damages and to what degree.

Multi-vehicle accidents can arise due to the fault of one or more drivers. Some common forms of negligence that give rise to these crashes include the following:

  • Driver distraction
  • Texting while driving
  • Driver fatigue
  • Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol
  • Reckless driving
  • Excessive speeding
  • Aggressive driving

Tennessee is an “at-fault” state, which means liability must be established before an injured party can obtain compensation for their damages. Various factors can be considered when evaluating fault, including the speed of the vehicles, the road conditions and whether any drivers violated a statute or otherwise acted negligently. Video surveillance, police reports, witness statements, the location of the accident and how the cars were positioned following the crash can also be used to determine liability.

Apportioning liability can be complex when multiple vehicles are involved. For example, suppose Driver A was driving recklessly and struck Driver B, who was distracted by her phone. As a result of the impact, Driver B crashes into Driver C. In this case, although Driver B was hit by Driver A, who was negligent, they may also be found liable for Driver C’s injuries since they were partly at fault.

Under Tennessee law, if more than one defendant in a car accident case is found negligent, each can be held liable only for his or her own percentage of fault. In addition, Tennessee follows the rule of modified comparative fault. This means that an injured driver may be entitled to recover damages in connection with their injuries, as long as they were less than 50 percent at fault for the accident. For instance, if a plaintiff was awarded $100,000 and found to be 25 percent at fault, they could still receive $75,000 in compensation.

If you’ve been hurt in a multi-car accident, an experienced personal injury attorney will take the necessary steps to protect your right to obtain monetary compensation. This can include conducting a post-accident investigation that evaluates the specific facts and circumstances to determine how fault should be apportioned.

Massengill, Caldwell & Coughlin, P.C. provides skillful counsel and aggressive advocacy for car accident victims in Bristol, Kingsport, and Johnson City and throughout Upper East Tennessee and Southwest Virginia. With an office in Bristol, we also offer hospital and home visits. Call 423-797-6022 or contact us online to schedule a consultation.