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How is Liability Determined for Multi-Vehicle Accidents in Pennsylvania?

Posted on July 24, 2023

When multiple vehicles are involved in a car accident in Philadelphia, determining liability becomes more complex. Understanding the process of how fault is assigned in Pennsylvania is crucial for those seeking compensation and justice in such situations. 

Investigation and Evidence

A thorough investigation is often completed by multiple parties to determine liability for a multi-vehicle accident. For example: 

Law Enforcement

At the scene, law enforcement will gather information from all parties involved. This includes taking statements from each driver, passenger, and any available witnesses. They will record each party’s version of events leading up to the collision. The officer will also look at physical evidence, such as skid marks, the location of damage to the vehicles, their positions, and any debris. In addition, they will consider environmental factors like weather conditions, visibility, road conditions, and whether any traffic laws were violated. 

They may take photographs or make sketches to document the scene. This will help the officer reconstruct the accident and understand what may have caused the collision. Based on the information gathered, the police officer will compile an accident report that includes their findings and determination on fault. Usually, the party who first started a multi-vehicle accident is found at fault, or at least holds the majority of the blame. 

Insurance Companies

When an insurance company investigates a multi-vehicle accident in Pennsylvania to determine fault, they follow a process similar to that of a police officer. An insurance adjuster will gather information from all parties involved, including obtaining statements from the drivers, passengers, and any available witnesses. They may also request copies of the police report, photographs, videos, or other relevant documents. Although the police report does not automatically mandate who is liable for a multiple-vehicle accident, it can weigh heavily in an insurance company’s decision on fault. Once the adjuster decides who is to blame, they will authorize insurance payouts to the appropriate parties depending on the type of car insurance coverage and claimed damages.  

Pennsylvania’s Comparative Negligence Rule

In some multi-vehicle accidents, more than one party may share liability. Pennsylvania follows a 51% comparative negligence rule. This rule means that an injured party can seek compensation as long as they are not found to be 51% or more at fault for the collision. If the injured party is determined to be 51% or more to blame, they are barred from recovering any damages. This means that even if a party is partially responsible for the multi-vehicle accident, they may still be eligible to recover damages. However, the amount of compensation awarded is reduced by their percentage of fault.

For example, if it is determined that you were 30% at fault for the crash, and the total damages awarded are $100,000, you would be eligible to receive $70,000 (70% of the total damages).

How Pennsylvania’s Choice No-Fault Insurance Applies in Multi-Vehicle Accidents

If a driver involved in a multi-vehicle accident has chosen no-fault (Limited Tort) insurance coverage, they can typically seek benefits from their own insurance company, regardless of who was at fault for the collision. These benefits may include medical expenses, lost wages, and other allowable costs as outlined in their insurance policy. Choosing no-fault insurance means giving up some rights to sue for non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering or emotional distress unless your injuries meet the “serious injury” threshold established by Pennsylvania law. In contrast, if you have chosen Full Tort coverage, you can sue the at-fault party after a multi-vehicle accident, regardless of the severity of your injuries. 

Philadelphia Car Accident Attorney

An Attorney Can Help

Given the complexities involved in determining liability for multi-vehicle accidents, it is highly recommended to consult an experienced Philadelphia Car Accident Lawyer. They can help you navigate the legal process, gather evidence, analyze negligence factors, and ensure you receive fair compensation.