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Multi-Car Collision in Michigan: Who is Liable?

Legally Reviewed and Edited by: Terry Cochran

In a multi-car collision, who’s at fault can be a complicated question to answer. Unlike a single-vehicle accident, multi-car accidents involve several vehicles, making it challenging to establish who is liable. The sequence of events that led up to a multi-vehicle accident, the actions of each driver, and the traffic and weather conditions are all crucial in determining fault.

Understanding the state’s no-fault system is essential in determining liability in a multi-car collision in Michigan and pursuing fair compensation for damages. Consulting with an experienced car accident lawyer from Cochran, Kroll, & Associates, P.C. can guide you through the process and help you navigate Michigan’s complex auto insurance laws.

Common Multi-Car Accident Scenarios in Michigan

The causes of multi-car accidents can vary widely in Michigan, and determining liability can be complex. Liability for multi-car accidents depends on several factors, such as the actions of each driver involved and the specific circumstances of the accident.

Rear-End Accidents

Whenever a vehicle crashes into the back of another car, it’s called a rear-end collision. According to the Insurance Information Institute, rear-end crashes accounted for 6.8% of all deadly traffic accidents in 2020. In 2021, there were 62,757 rear-end crashes in Michigan, with 76 resulting in deaths.

Tailgating at high speeds can result in rear-end collisions when the front vehicle suddenly brakes. Distracted drivers can also cause rear-end accidents. When they take their attention off the road, they cannot stop in time when the car in front of them brakes.

Chain Reaction Accidents

Chain reaction accidents start with one collision that causes other vehicles to collide due to the force of the initial impact. They usually occur in areas where cars are close together, like traffic-jammed highways and narrow roads.

For example, two vehicles stop on the road. If a driver crashes into one of them from behind, the force of the collision can push the hit vehicle forward, causing it to collide with the other stopped vehicle. Chain reaction accidents often result in rollovers due to the force and location of the impact, which is more common in multi-vehicle accidents.

Intersection Collisions

The Federal Highway Administration states that over 50% of fatal and injury-related accidents occur near intersections. Vehicles traveling at high speeds through intersections can cause the following collisions:

  • Right-angle accidents involving drivers failing to yield the right of way to another driver
  • Left-turn accidents are collisions with drivers turning left onto an oncoming vehicle going straight or turning right
  • Head-on collisions as two vehicles traveling in opposite directions collide at high speeds

Accidents Due to Road Hazards

Sometimes car accidents happen due to road hazards such as bad weather that causes a collision from ice, snow, or rain. Road hazards may also include uneven or damaged roads, debris, and objects falling from construction sites or other vehicles.

If a driver swerves or brakes suddenly due to a road hazard, they may cause an accident with another driver following too closely or not paying attention. Similarly, if a driver goes too fast during inclement weather, they may hydroplane or slide, causing an accident.

Factors That Complicate Determining Liability

In multi-car collisions, who’s at fault can be difficult to determine when there are conflicting reports and or no eyewitnesses. Complicating factors such as traffic scenarios and adverse weather can also make it difficult to determine liability.

Lack of Witnesses

Unbiased eyewitness testimony is critical in providing accident details and clarifying conflicting stories between drivers. Without eyewitness statements, insurance companies may struggle to determine liability and assign fault in the accident based on police reports, physical evidence, and drivers’ accounts.

Conflicting Reports

Insurance adjusters have to evaluate the credibility of each driver’s account to decide which report is more trustworthy and accurate. They will consider if each driver’s statements are consistent with each other’s and if anyone was injured. When drivers have different versions of what happened, it can lead to a subjective decision on who is at fault for the accident.

Complex Traffic Scenarios

A complex traffic scenario can make determining liability in car accidents difficult. For example, when accidents occur at intersections, it can be challenging to determine who has the right of way, particularly in situations involving high speeds and complex traffic patterns.

When a driver crosses multiple lanes of traffic, establishing who had the right of way and who is responsible may require the experience of a skilled auto attorney and accident reconstructionist to piece all elements together.

Weather Conditions

Slippery roads, reduced visibility, and other weather conditions can make it difficult to assign blame accurately. For instance, the cause of a collision on an icy road may be challenging to determine, such as whether one driver was speeding and caused the accident or if their actions did not contribute to the crash.

If drivers fail to take reasonable steps to avoid hazardous road conditions, they may be held responsible if an accident or injury occurs.

Levels of Liability

Liability may not be clear-cut, such as when a driver hits the rear of another vehicle. For instance, under Section 257.402 of the Michigan Vehicle Code, if there is enough evidence to prove that one vehicle hit the back of another while both were moving in the same direction, the first vehicle’s driver will be considered at fault for being negligent. The statute also applies if the second vehicle was legally parked when the first rear-ended it.

However, this presumption does not apply if the accident happened between one hour after sunset and one hour before sunrise and the car that was hit did not have visible headlights. This means that if a vehicle is hit from behind during these hours and does not have its headlights on, the driver of the rear car may not be responsible for the accident.

To determine liability, your lawyer may need to look at other evidence, such as photos and videos of the weather and road conditions.

Fault in a Multi-Car Accident in Michigan

Determining Fault in a Multi-Car Accident in Michigan

Negligent behavior can lead to a multi-car accident because it can cause a chain reaction. For example, if a driver causes an accident by running a red light at an intersection due to distracted driving, they are usually responsible.

However, there could be other drivers liable for the crash. For instance, if the driver with the green light exceeded the speed limit, they might also be accountable. Your attorney will analyze various factors to prove the driver’s negligence, including how the driver did not fulfill their duty of care, such as running a stop sign and causing the accident.

Establishing fault is crucial when a multi-vehicle accident occurs in Michigan because the state follows a modified comparative negligence system. This means multiple parties may be found responsible for your damages, allowing you to collect maximum compensation for your injuries. As long as you bear less than 51% of the fault for the collision, you can recover compensation.

Work with a lawyer to determine liability and percentage of fault for all involved drivers in a multi-vehicle accident, especially when liability is unclear. A Michigan auto accident lawyer from Cochran, Kroll, & Associates, P.C. can help gather evidence and assess the situation to determine who is responsible for the accident and ensure you receive fair compensation for your injuries.

Michigan’s No-Fault System for Auto Insurance

Michigan is a no-fault state, meaning every driver receives benefits from their personal injury protection (PIP) insurance company regardless of who is at fault. However, in multi-vehicle accidents, more than one driver can be at fault. If you sustained severe injuries from your accident, you can file a third-party claim against the other drivers for your financial losses.

Personal Injury Protection (PIP)

Your PIP insurance is responsible for paying your medical expenses and lost income after a crash. These benefits cover medical bills and rehabilitation costs, including work loss benefits, household replacement services, and attendant care.

If your medical bills are greater than what’s covered by your PIP benefits, you may have the option to sue the at-fault driver for additional compensation. This ability to sue the other party also applies if your injuries have disabled you from working beyond the 3-year limitations on wage loss benefits.

Third-Party Claims

Michigan law allows you to recover compensation for non-economic damages if you sustained a permanent disability or disfigurement in the accident. You must have suffered a serious or permanent impairment of a critical body function to qualify for a third-party claim.

Non-economic damages include pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, and emotional distress. These damages require careful consideration of your medical records, statements from family and friends, and expert medical testimony.

An experienced attorney from Cochran, Kroll, & Associates, P.C. can help you understand your rights after a multi-car crash. Our lawyers will complete a full investigation of your accident, enlisting the help of accident reconstructionists and forensic specialists to determine what led to the crash. This allows us to accurately determine fault so you can file a successful claim to receive compensation for your damages.

Steps to Take After a Multi-Car Accident

When investigating multi-car collisions, determining who’s at fault requires gathering all available evidence. You can take the following steps after a crash to protect your rights and preserve evidence that your attorney can use to support your claim:

  • Report the accident: Call emergency services if other drivers and passengers are hurt, and ask the operator to dispatch police to the accident scene.
  • Take pictures of the accident: Document the accident by taking pictures and video of all the vehicles, road conditions, and weather conditions at the scene.
  • Schedule an appointment with your doctor: Seek medical attention immediately, even if you don’t think you’ve been seriously injured. Keep records of all medical treatments and expenses related to the accident.
  • File your claim with your auto insurer: Notify your insurance company of the accident and provide them with the required information or documentation so you can receive PIP benefits.
  • Call an attorney: Contact a skilled attorney with experience handling multi-vehicle accident cases to help determine fault and protect your legal rights. The earlier you contact our team from Cochran, Kroll, & Associates, P.C., the sooner we can preserve evidence, investigate your accident, and negotiate with insurers for a fair settlement.

Get Help from an Experienced Michigan Multi-Car Crash Lawyer

When you’ve been hurt in a multi-vehicle accident in Michigan, the attorneys at Cochran, Kroll & Associates, P.C. can help you file for PIP benefits and pursue third-party claims.

We will investigate the accident site and gather evidence to determine fault, helping you seek compensation from any drivers responsible for your injuries in the multi-car crash. Our attorneys will help you understand your legal options, including whether you may be entitled to compensation for non-economic damages after suffering severe injuries.

Our contingency fee basis means we only get paid if we win your case, so there is no financial risk to you to get started. Call our law firm today at 1-866-MICH-LAW and schedule your no-obligation, free case evaluation.

Disclaimer : The information provided is general and not for legal advice. The blogs are not intended to provide legal counsel and no attorney-client relationship is created nor intended.

Jasmine Holt is a freelance writer specializing in legal content marketing for attorneys and law firms. She hopes to provide better legal advice to the general public using her previous experience working with a franchise company and a law firm. In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her family and traveling.



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