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Can Multiple Parties Be Responsible for a Car Accident in Pennsylvania?

Posted on August 6, 2022

It is possible for multiple parties to be responsible for a car accident in Pennsylvania. Due to the state’s “modified comparative fault” rule, the compensation awarded to each party involved in a collision will be reduced by their percentage of fault.

How Comparative Negligence Works

Pennsylvania courts apply the law of modified comparative negligence in car accident cases involving multiple at-fault parties. This rule assigns a percentage of fault to each party, and to recover compensation, the plaintiff (victim) cannot be more than 50 percent to blame. For example, suppose you are in an accident caused by another driver (Party A) who ran a stop sign, but a government agency (Party B) was also responsible due to poor road conditions. Let’s assume Party A was 60 percent responsible, Party B was 30 percent responsible, and you were 10 percent responsible since you began to drive before Party A was entirely through the intersection.

Under Pennsylvania’s modified comparative negligence law, even though Party A’s losses totaled $100,000, they cannot collect any compensation because they were over 50 percent at fault for the collision. Party B did not suffer damages (losses), therefore, they will only be partially responsible for your compensation based on their percentage of fault. However, your awarded compensation will be reduced by 10 percent (your percentage of the blame). For instance, if the court awards $500,000 it will also subtract $50,000 (10 percent), so you will receive $450,000. Party A will be responsible for paying 60% ($300,000), and Party B must pay 30% ($150,000).

How Is Liability Assigned in Multi-Vehicle Accidents?

An insurance company adjuster will look at evidence from the scene to determine how much each at-fault party contributed to a car accident. For example, they will consider photos of the scene, each driver’s statement, eyewitness statements, police reports, the location of the damage to the vehicles, any available video footage, and more. Here are some scenarios of three car pile-ups and demonstrate how liability may be assigned:

  • Three car pile-ups. Let’s say Driver C (the last car) first crashes into Driver B (the middle car), which causes Driver B to collide into Driver A (the front vehicle). In this case, Driver C will likely be 100 percent responsible for the other drivers’ damages.
  • In this scenario, liability is more complicated. Driver B (the middle car) crashes into Driver A (the front car). Driver C (the last car) cannot stop in time and collides into Driver B. In this case, Driver B will likely be 90-100% responsible for Driver A’s damages. Driver C may be found 100% liable for Driver B’s damages to the rear side of their vehicle and possibly a tiny portion of Driver A’s damages (e.g., 10 percent).

Generally, the front car will not be responsible for a multi-car accident. However, if the middle car can prove the front car abruptly slammed on their brakes for no reason, the front vehicle might be partially liable.

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