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Who’s at fault in a multi-car accident?

Who’s at fault in a multi-car accident?

A pile-up accident usually begins with a single collision.

The chain reaction that follows is chaotic and frightening. It can be a harrowing experience with serious injuries, and it is never easy to assign blame for each car crash.

Ververidis Vasilis Shutterstockcom

Who’s at fault in an accident like this?

In multi-car crashes, it can be challenging to ‘un-scramble the egg’. Police will interview drivers and witnesses and attempt to reconstruct the sequence of events, from domino to domino. In large or complicated cases “reconstruction specialists” can be deployed to analyze and piece together a scene. USA Today published a comprehensive article featuring this field of work, titled Special Cops Work to Unravel Confusing Highway Pileups. These experts use engineering-level mathematics, and can take months to produce a report.

Often it’s found that while one driver may be responsible for the initial crash, the actions of others contributed, by following too close, not adjusting speed to accommodate for road conditions, or operating while distracted.

Virginia’s quirky law

Virginia is one of a handful of states that follow the law of pure ‘contributory negligence’. Generally speaking, this means that if your actions are determined to be even 1% at fault, your entire claim can be denied. This is why accident victims should always limit conversation in the aftermath. Cooperate with investigators on the scene, but avoid speculating or interjecting anything that isn’t absolutely clear, factual, and to the point of questioning.

Fredericksburg.com / Virginia State Police


Virginia highways are not inexperienced when it comes to pile-ups. Just last month, a 21 year old man was killed in Fairfax County on September 18th, in an accident involving his car and three pickup trucks. on I-66.

A week later according to Fredericksburg.com, Interstate 95 was closed on September 25th  in Stafford County after a series of chain-reaction crashes involving 10 tractor trailers and 25 cars, sent at least 15 people to area hospitals.



What should you do in a Pile-up?

With the exception of imminent danger from flames or smoke, stay in your vehicle with your seatbelt fastened.

After you’ve been cleared by emergency workers or police to exit the vehicle, take pictures and gather information. Video is particularly useful to describe a complicated scene and record vehicle types, relative proximity, and registration numbers.

As soon as possible afterward:

  • See a physician, even if you don’t think you’ve been injured.
  • Contact your insurance company to notify them of the accident, but avoid characterizing any details, speculating about blame, or describing injuries and damage until you’ve spoken with a Personal Injury attorney.
  • If you have injuries that may lead to long term problems and expenses, like surgery or lost work, contact a Personal Injury attorney. Attorneys know the nuances of the law, and they know how to handle insurance companies when dealing with large cases.