How to Handle Multi Car Accident Claims

Have you been in an accident that involves more than two other parties? Your immediate reaction after the accident is undoubtedly checking on the health of all involved.

But once the crisis moment has passed you should turn your attention to the practicalities (and difficulty) of 3 car claims. There are some unique threats and dynamics you should understand when it comes to a multi-car accident or “pileup”.

We’re here to help you protect your rights and will clearly explain all the relevant details surrounding this type of claim. Specifically we’ll cover….

What Are the Common Causes of Multi-Car Accidents?
What Unique Risks Are Associated with Multi-Car Accidents?
How to Deal With an Accident Claim Involving Multiple Parties?
How Much Can You Settle Your Multi Car Accident Claim For?

Let’s get started….


What are the Common Causes of Multi-Car Accidents?

According to the National Safety Council last year there was a spike in motor vehicle accidents, including ones that caused a fatality [1]. Many of these accidents were multi-car.

When you look under the surface to determine the common causes of multi-car accidents you’ll find many of the same culprits as normal car accidents.

      1. Weather – inclement conditions can impair a driver’s normal ability to control their vehicles or see where they’re going. Fog and snow are two prime offenders, fog makes people blind and snow limits a driver’s ability to brake properly.
      1. Mobile device usage – more often than not if someone reviews the post-mortem of how an accident occurred they’ll find that someone involved was on their phone. Driving and texting have been compared with drinking and driving [2] (another primary cause) and needless to say, they both severely impair a driver’s ability to drive safely.
      1. Unsafe driving behavior – some people drive aggressively or recklessly and this alone is more than enough to cause a crash. This can be speeding, following too close, not yielding or braking when appropriate or unsafe passing maneuvers.
      1. Falling asleep at the wheel – all that has to happen for a wreck to occur is a driver to momentarily doze off or lose focus. Drowsy drivers are a huge threat on the roadway and responsible for a wide range of different accident types.

What Unique Risks are Associated with Multi Car Accidents?

Multi car accidents can be particularly serious for some unique reasons. A lot of 3 car accidents involve both a primary and secondary impact. So there is a double risk from the perspective of injury and property damage.

The primary (or first) impact occurs when the at-fault driver collides with another vehicle. The secondary impact follows the primary when other drivers attempt to avoid being involved and run into each other or other objects. Many times an accident was made worse by other drivers overcorrecting and trying to avoid a crash.

Another unique risk of multi-car accidents is that they often occur on highways. The high rate of speed on the highway makes other drivers less able to avoid them in the event that something goes wrong. Think of a bicycle race, when one cyclist goes down often a chain reaction is set off.

How to Deal With an Accident Claim Involving Multiple Parties?

At the scene of a multi-car accident you’ll be focused on the welfare of all parties involved but be sure not to discuss fault and to document as much information as you can (photos, police report, etc).

The biggest issue in a multi-car accident is untangling who was the negligent or at-fault driver. The dollar value of a multi-car accidents often runs quite high so an insurance company might assign a special investigator to review the case. The issue of fault is going to hinge largely on the factors of duty of care and proximate cause.

        • Every driver has a duty of care to drive in a reasonably safe way to and look at for others on the roadway. If they are found to be in violation of this it can result in them being found liable for an accident. If this was done in a willful way it can be a negligent and sometimes even criminal act.
        • Along with a breach of duty of care, a connection between that breach and the accident must be established. Or in other words, the driver’s actions must be shown to be the proximate cause of the accident.

The trickiest aspect of an insurance claim involving multiple parties is that it’s tough to assign blame fairly and equally among those responsible. Disputes often arise, and it’s not uncommon for attorneys to get involved. There is also the issue of comparative vs contributory negligence.

        • Most states follow the rules of comparative negligence and so each driver will be compensated based on the amount he/she was deemed at fault.
        • In states that adhere to the rules of contributory negligence, a drive who has even 1% of fault assigned may not be eligible for compensation.

After a multi-car accident, you’ll want to report things to your insurance carrier. If your insurance isn’t no-fault [3]
you may want to file your own claim with the other party’s insurance company. Going through your own insurance can often make things easier as they may simply compensate you and then subrogate.

If you’re pursuing a claim through the other parties insurance be prepared to show some evidence of fault. If the evidence is on your side you will be in good shape and you can let the process play out.

However, keep in in mind that multi-car accidents often result in multiple claims for compensation and thus are usually contested and take longer. Getting an attorney to litigate for you may also be necessary, but each situation is different.

How Much Can You Settle Your Multi Car Accident Claim For?

There is no way reliable to answer this question, but reviewing a few comparable cases might serve useful.

New York : $133,000 Settlement Driver A failed to stop at a stoplight, hitting the drive B in front of him, which set off a chain reaction crash involving three other vehicles. Driver C (in front of driver B) suffered severe back injuries that required surgery and a lot of physical therapy. This is another example of the liability attaching to the driver who initiated the chain reaction as opposed to any of the other vehicles that were simply involved.

California: $1,025,000 Settlement. Driver A (a motorcyclist) was killed when he was rear-ended in a multi-car accident caused by driver B who failed to keep a safe distance behind the Driver C, causing her to hit and kill him at the stop light. Tragically, this is how devastating multi-car pileups can sometimes be.


A multi-car accident has all the risk and hassle of a normal car accident claim compounded by the number of vehicles involved. If you’ve been involved in one just be sure to remember a few basics.

        • The most common causes of multi-car accidents are the usual suspects: inattention, sleepiness, alcohol, aggressive driving, texting or bad weather.
        • Multi-car accidents pose a unique threat because there are often 2 impacts and the typically occur at high speeds.
        • Going through a multi-car claim involves determining fault, figuring out comparative vs contributory negligence, understanding if you live in a fault or no-fault state and then deciding which insurance company to pursue and if you need legal counsel.
        • Settlements for multi-car accident claims can run from a few thousand into the millions depending on the circumstances.


1 – National Safety Council
2 – Stewart Law Offices
3 – Insurance Information Institute

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