Who Is At Fault In A Rear-end Collision Involving 3 Cars

Unfortunately, car accidents happen every day in New York. From minor fender benders to catastrophic multiple-vehicle pileups, they can cause severe or fatal injuries and extensive property damage. Rear-end collisions are common and often create chain reactions involving three or more cars.

Insurance claims involving only two vehicles are often challenging, but each additional car adds another level of complexity. You don’t have to handle these alone; Cellino Law can help.

What Is Fault in a Car Accident?

Every car accident has at least one cause. These causes range from icy roads and poor visibility to driver error and brake failure. Basically, fault is the responsibility for causing an accident. Many times, more than one party is at-fault, meaning they all share a portion of the blame.

This responsibility translates to being liable to pay damages. Most drivers follow the law and buy car insurance. If Jim is at fault in an accident, his insurance company is responsible for paying damages.

New York is a no-fault insurance state, meaning that personal injury protection policies pay for certain expenses after an accident regardless of who is at fault for causing it. However, responding police officers and insurance company investigators will still investigate how and why the accident happened to determine fault.

PIP policies don’t pay for property damage, and their policy limits may not cover all qualifying expenses. Some factors allow eligible accident victims to pursue compensation for their damages in other ways.

Liable insurance companies don’t want to pay any claims and often try to get out of it. They might attempt to blame you unfairly to reduce the amount of compensation you can receive. Cellino Law won’t let these greedy companies get away with inappropriately shifting the blame.

Who Is at Fault if Three Cars Rear-end Each Other?

That question doesn’t have a definitive answer. Any of the three drivers could be totally to blame. Two or all three might share fault. Third parties are sometimes responsible. It all depends on the circumstances, which differ between collisions. Your rear-end accident attorney from Cellino Law will investigate your crash to determine how it happened and who was at fault.

There are some common scenarios we can examine to explain. We’ll designate drivers for each car:

  • Front car: James
  • Middle car: Jill
  • Rear car: Alex
  • Car in perpendicular lane: Charles

Red Light

  1. James stops at a red light. Jill doesn’t stop quickly enough and rear-ends James. That’s accident number one. Alex follows behind Jill too closely and hits her, causing accident number two. Jill and Alex each have some fault. James likely doesn’t.
  2. James and Jill stop properly. Alex hits Jill from behind, causing Jill’s car to hit James. Jill may bear partial responsibility if she stopped too close to James, but Alex likely bears the most blame.
  3. James is stopped in front of a lane of traffic while cars pass by in front of him. Jill rear-ends him, forcing his vehicle into Charles, who is driving in a perpendicular lane. Jill is at-fault.

Sudden Obstacle

James is driving at the posted speed limit when a dog suddenly runs in front of his car. James slams on his brakes to avoid hitting the dog. The sudden braking doesn’t give Jill or Alex enough time to stop their vehicles, so they each rear-end the car in front of them.

Although James was probably justified in his sudden braking, he is likely at fault for Jill hitting him. Alex might share some blame if he was following too closely behind Jill.

Third Parties

Passengers can throw trash out the window of moving vehicles. A driver may be unaware that a leaking barrel is spilling oil onto the road behind him. Drivers often slam on brakes or swerve to avoid roadway obstacles, and vehicles behind them may hit them.

As you can see, there is a wide variety of accident causes. That’s why an investigation is necessary.

What Is Following Too Closely?

There’s no specific length that determines if you’re following too closely behind the car in front of you. Different factors come into play, including traffic speeds and weather or road conditions. An unofficial tool for measuring that distance is known as the two-second rule.

Choose a landmark and note when the car ahead of you passes it. It should take you at least two seconds to reach that landmark. If it doesn’t, you’re probably following too closely, or tailgating.

Tailgating typically doesn’t give you enough time or distance to slow and avoid a rear-end collision if the lead vehicle brakes suddenly. You should maintain a safe distance between cars, even when stopping at a traffic light or stop sign.

Do These Crashes Happen for Other Reasons?

Tailgating is only one of a long list of causes of rear-end accidents. Driver error comes in many forms and causes many accidents. Other examples include:

All of these examples are considered negligent behaviors. Negligence is the basis for most personal injury claims, and your attorney will search for evidence to prove negligence while investigating your accident.

What if More Than One Party Is At-fault?

New York uses a pure comparative fault system when two or more parties share blame for causing an accident. Even if you’re partially responsible for your collision, you can still seek compensation for your damages. However, your percentage of fault reduces the amount of payment you can receive. Say that you are 35% at fault. Your compensation lowers by 35%. That’s why your assigned percentage must be fair. Your legal team from Cellino Law will make sure fault assignments are appropriate so you can get the compensation you deserve.

Do You Need a Rear-end Accident Lawyer?

A three-car accident is complex on its own. Further complications can arise if one or more vehicle is commercial or government-owned. Many injured accident victims don’t know the ins and outs of car accident claims and lawsuits in New York. You have enough to deal with already; you don’t need to try to figure things out on your own. A competent car accident lawyer will:

  • Assess your case and estimate its worth
  • Provide information, guidance and legal advice
  • Handle paperwork
  • Investigate your accident and gather evidence to build your case
  • Ensure that fault determinations are accurate
  • Speak to insurance companies for you
  • Negotiate a reasonable settlement offer or take your case to trial if it’s in your best interests

Completing these necessary tasks is a full-time job, and you need to spend your time recovering from your injuries. Let Cellino Law help.

Why Hire Cellino Law?

When you hire an attorney, you need one who can get results. Cellino Law has won more than $2 billion in settlements and millions more in recoveries for our clients. Cellino Law has been around for over six decades, focusing on personal injury law. That means we have knowledge earned through experience that puts us ahead of the rest.

You won’t pay us unless we win, so you have nothing to lose by contacting Cellino Law. We’re available 24/7, so call us at (888) 888-8888 or submit our online form now.



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  • I just want to let you know that I did receive my settlement check. More importantly, I want to thank you again for all you did for both me and my family. I could not be more pleased with my experience at Cellino Law. From the moment I first spoke with you I felt comfortable - you took a sincere interest in my case, clearly explained the process and effected a quick settlement. From this day forward, when someone asks if I can recommend a good lawyer I will, without hesitation, say "Cellino Law". Thanks again.


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  • Choosing the right attorney to represent you after an accident can make all the difference. This is no cliche. I recently experienced these words to live by first hand. After a tractor trailer rear ended me at high speed in 2017 I retained Allan Silverstein to handle my case. I quickly realized that bringing a lawsuit rapidly snowballs into a mountain of details that can make or break your results. Documents, case histories, doctor visits, bills, and lots of phone calls all need to be accurately kept track of if a successful outcome it to be attained. To complicate matters I reside in New York and the incident took place in New Jersey. Luckily, Allan was licensed in multiple states. I was fortunate to find Allan to handle this matter from the New York area. Armed with an accurate account of the facts Allan went to work on the difficult job of negotiating with the defending insurance company as well as my no fault carrier in order to obtain the best possible outcome for my set of circumstances. In a lawsuit communication is key and and events can be of a timely nature. Allan never failed to return my calls - usually the same day! He fought skillfully and respectfully to get me the best possible settlement. He is easy to deal with and a likeable down to earth guy. He always listened with compassion and respect to my issues. He guided me with objective understanding as well as a realistic analysis of the merits of my case. When we finally settled Allan got me a fair agreement beyond my expectations and negotiated with my doctors to make sure all my bills were paid. It was a great experience having Allan represent me. Quality work in any aspect of life is hard to find. Quality is what I got with Allan Silverstein. I highly recommend him if you find yourself in need of a personal injury attorney.


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  • Thank you for all your help. It has been a long journey. At last, the light at the end of the tunnel. Also, thank Tom for the help and work he put in.


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