How Is Fault Determined in a Multi-Vehicle Car Accident?Getting into an accident with more than one vehicle is a nightmare for most drivers. The chances of serious injury or death increase measurably. Sadly, these tragedies unfold with greater frequency than people may realize. Busy roadways leave little room for error, and one mistake can set in motion an unthinkable event. After a multiple-vehicle accident, emotional and psychological injury can be equally as devastating as the resulting physical trauma.

The immense burden of such an ordeal makes many victims want to retreat from everyday life. Talking with an attorney who can provide objectivity and clarity about what is ahead is crucial. The flurry of insurance company inquiries alone is enough for most victims to seek immediate help. At Siegfried and Jensen, we understand the gravity of multi-vehicle crashes and how to combine all the pieces to make sense of your case.

What Is a Multi-Vehicle Collision?

According to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, multi-vehicle crash fatalities were up 16% in 2021 compared to 2020 data. These accidents occur when more than one car, truck, motorcycle or commercial vehicle collides. In many instances, there is a mix of vehicle types all in the wrong place at the wrong time. Multi-vehicle accidents can involve a few vehicles or pile-ups that stretch long distances.

As these accidents unfold, individuals may find it difficult to stop or steer away from the crash. It is no wonder these are catastrophic scenes in terms of injuries and wreckage. This is true when several vehicles are affected or many depending on the circumstances.

How Is Fault Determined?

As you can imagine, determining fault in a multi-vehicle accident is a thorny issue and takes careful investigation to get it right. These are general rules of thumb that apply.

First-Car Principle

Many multi-vehicle crashes begin with one vehicle running into the rear of another vehicle. The first car that runs into another is usually at fault. This principle holds because a driver is responsible for avoiding a crash by driving defensively. Assuming they can see the car in front, a driver should exercise caution by keeping a safe distance and operating at a safe speed.

Comparative Fault In a Multi-Vehicle Pile Up

There are exceptions to the first-car principle where multiple drivers share fault in an accident. An example is a chain reaction, in which multiple cars are involved in simultaneous rear-end collisions.

In a chain reaction, some drivers take adequate precautions to stop in time only to be hit by another driver causing them to collide with others. Fault is handled using the comparative negligence system in Utah. The drivers’ actions are compared, with a percentage of fault assigned to each.

Accident Liability Considerations

Aside from essential witness statements and evidence, there are several important ways investigators determine liability, given complex crash scenes. Attorneys and reconstruction specialists will assess vehicle damage, the number of impacts drivers recall, and the time between hits to develop a framework for how accident specifics fit together. Having a skilled legal team leading the way is critical to the outcome of your case.

How Are Investigations Conducted?

Multi-vehicle accident investigations are similar to puzzles. Many pieces don’t reveal much until the entire picture comes together. Attorneys conduct investigations, gather evidence and enlist experts who recreate the scene of an accident with precision detail.

If your case goes to court, a jury needs the benefit of close analysis to understand what happened in the time leading up to and during the event. Most settlements are reached outside of court because of the preliminary work proving your claim. These are sources of information used to build your case.

Police Reports

We thoroughly review police reports to understand the many accident details better. Police are first responders, and their write-ups and sketches can provide telling clues. Witness statements are part of an initial police investigation and can spur additional lines of questioning for attorneys.

Accident Scene Evidence

Examining physical evidence that is gathered from the crash site is essential. Vehicle damage, debris fields, vehicle placement, and skid marks are some of the information retrieved from onsite investigations.

Photo or Videos

Photos and videos are good sources of evidence and very instructive when other materials remain inconclusive. Videos and pictures can come from people at the scene or nearby business surveillance cameras. An attorney obtains this kind of evidence if it is likely to help your case. Share any evidence you have collected with a lawyer when you initially meet. It could offer valuable proof of what transpired.

Scene Reconstruction

There is no particular field of accident reconstruction. Instead, experts with backgrounds in physics, engineering, vehicular dynamics, and computer simulation use their skills and methodologies to bolster the facts of your case. Experts can be crucial to the settlement process, leaving a wake of irrefutable facts. If a case goes to trial, they significantly impact juries, especially by presenting challenging concepts clearly.


Accident witnesses who can verify what happened at a multi-vehicle crash scene are essential resources for your case. They give credibility to your version of what occurred. They can also provide details that you or other victims may not have absorbed during the event.

Expert witnesses from various professional fields give greater integrity to your case with their takes on the facts. Lawyers work with renowned specialists who objectively assess what the evidence is saying and how this proves your claim.

How Does Utah Comparative Fault Apply?

Utah is a comparative negligence state. More than one party can bear fault in the accident, including you. This system works by assigning a percentage of fault to each party. Damages are split in accord with the distributions of fault.

Comparative fault in Utah is modified by a 50% no-fault rule. A person more than 50% liable in an accident has no legal right to a damage recovery. The compensation you receive from the overall sum awarded in a case is reduced based on your percentage of fault.

How Long Do You Have To File a Personal Injury Lawsuit?

In Utah, the statute of limitations to bring a personal injury lawsuit is four years from the date of the accident. Victims may incorrectly assume that waiting to talk with an attorney won’t make a difference to their cases. However, time has value where your claim is concerned.

Collecting evidence becomes increasingly challenging as time passes. Witness recollections can also dim over time. There is no time to wait in multi-vehicle accidents where crash scenes are extraordinarily complicated and take time to interpret fault correctly. Make an appointment with our car accident law firm to discuss your case today.

Find the Right Attorney When You’ve Been Wronged

Siegfried and Jensen brings thirty years of experience to the table when representing our clients. We understand that filing a personal injury lawsuit is a big decision. We also know that multi-vehicle accidents are serious matters that present many devastating long-term risks to victims.

If you’re severely incapacitated by permanent injuries or chronic pain and suffering, you need a chance to remake your life post-accident. The conversation begins with our free case review. We offer 24/7 availability because you are important to us. Don’t let fees concern you because you don’t pay anything unless we win your case. Get the support you deserve by working with our team.