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In multi-car crashes, who is to blame?

Take a moment to think about the last car crash scene you witnessed, whether you were on the scene as a victim or driving by one. Chances are that there was more than one car involved. In fact, there may well have been several cars damaged and/or disabled on the side of the road.

Multi-car crashes are very common, especially in highly populated areas like Atlanta. Because of this, people often have questions about identifying negligence and assigning liability across multiple parties. Many of these questions can be answered by explaining the legal concept of contributory negligence.

Contributory negligence refers to the idea that you, as the the plaintiff, can still recover damages even if you were partially to blame for an accident, as long as you are not more than 50 percent responsible for an accident. Further, once the percentages of negligence have been assigned, any financial reward you receive will be reduced in proportion to fault.

In the context of a multi-vehicle crash, let's imagine a scenario where a car suddenly stops and turns left. You rear-end that car and are then rear-ended by the third vehicle. 

An investigation will reveal the various factors that contributed to the accident. Let's say that the first driver was drunk, didn't have brake lights and never used a turn signal; you were a little distracted by your GPS device; the third driver was following you way too closely.

Each of these factors is a form of negligence. However, it may be determined that the first driver was 80 percent to blame for the accident, while you and the driver behind you each take 10 percent. 

You and the driver behind you could both file a claim for compensation from the two other drivers, though whatever award you receive would be decreased to reflect your role in the accident. The first driver could not file a claim, as he or she was more than 50 percent to blame for the accident.

We hope this example helps to clarify how liability is determined in a crash and what that means for the recovery of damages. If you have more questions or wish to file a claim, it can be a good idea to consult an attorney to discuss your specific case.

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