Who Can Be Held Liable in a Three-Car Accident?

Car accidents are frightening, but they’re particularly traumatic when they involve multiple cars. In a three-car accident, a single victim may experience multiple impacts with painful injuries and several moments of terror. Survivors of three-car collisions typically have a long road to recovery with medical treatment, surgeries, and rehabilitation.

Sadly, the distress only continues when they try to file a claim for compensation under the state’s fault-based insurance system. Texas is one of many states with a modified comparison negligence insurance system that requires an injury victim to prove the other driver caused the accident to hold them liable for damages. But what happens when there are three drivers involved in an accident? Who is liable for the damages in a three-car accident?

Determining Fault in a Three-Car Accident

After an accident, it’s rare for drivers to readily admit that they caused the accident. Instead, drivers commonly point a finger at someone else. Determining fault is even more confusing when there are multiple drivers involved, such as in three-car accidents. Typically, the police perform only a rudimentary investigation because they preserve their resources for investigating criminal acts. Determining fault and liability often comes down to an investigation by an experienced accident attorney in Austin who does the following:

  • Scrutinizes the police report
  • Obtains any available photos or videos from traffic cameras, dash-cam videos, or footage from nearby surveillance cameras
  • Deposes eyewitnesses
  • Views the damaged vehicle
  • Visits the accident scene
  • Consults with accident reconstruction experts 

Often, a skilled attorney builds a compelling case for liability in a three-car accident to maximize the amount of compensation their client can recover.

Understanding Shared Fault in a Comparison Negligence Insurance System

Few accidents are simple, especially complex, three-car accidents. In a three-car accident, more than one driver could be at fault or all three drivers could share a percentage of fault for the accident. For example, one driver may have rear-ended another driver due to tailgating, but then a third driver could add to the collision because they were exceeding the speed limit and unable to stop in time to avoid the collision. And, what if the first driver had a broken taillight? In these complex cases, each driver could have contributed to the three-car accident.

In modified comparison negligence insurance states like California, even drivers partly at fault in an accident can recover a portion of their damages minus their percentage of fault as long as they are less than 51% at fault. This is detailed in Texas Civil Practice Code Sec. 33.001. which states:

“In an action to which this chapter applies, a claimant may not recover damages if his percentage of responsibility is greater than 50 percent.”

For example, if two drivers were each 25 percent at fault, and one driver is determined to have been 50 percent at fault for the three-car accident, the driver most at fault can still recover $50,000 of a $100,000 claim. If the other two drivers also have a $100,000 claim for damages, they can each recover $75,000.

No one should try to navigate this type of accident claim without legal counsel. Comparison negligence states incentivize insurance companies to assign an undue percentage of fault to injured motorists to minimize the amount they have to pay out on a claim.