Legal Question in Personal Injury in California

If I was rear ended in a three car accident would the vehicle that struck me be responsible for the damages or would the vehicle that started the chain reaction be liable?

Asked on 7/03/14, 10:48 am

4 Answers from Attorneys

Joel Selik

The vehicle that started the collision would be liable. If the vehicle that hit you did something wrong, they would be liable also. A careful attorney would probably name both drivers as defendants.

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Answered on 7/03/14, 10:50 am
Michael Stone-Molloy The Lion's Law Office

That would ordinarily be the case, but when insurance companies get involved, even very simple cases can be made complicated. For example, the carrier for the car in the back of the chain might claim that the vehicle in the middle stopped short, or cut him off. Also, they may claim that your car was too far down the line to receive an impact strong enough to cause injuries--in other words, even if they admit the accident was their fault, they may refuse to pay saying you weren't hurt.

It's almost always a good idea in injury accidents to hire a lawyer, and the more serious the injury, the more important it is to be represented. If you had injuries in your accident, give me a call at 877-LION-FOR-LAW (546-6367) or email me at

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Answered on 7/03/14, 10:57 am
Allister Liao Law Offices of Allister R. Liao

This is a difficult question to answer for a couple reasons:

(1) There are missing facts; AND

(2) This is typically a determination left for the jury to decide.

Having said that, let's take a look at what facts are missing:

(A) Car #1 was stopped/moving? If moving, what speed?

(B) Car #2 was stopped/moving? If moving, what speed?

(C) Distance between Car #1 and Car #2 at time of Car #3's impact?

(D) Property damage to Car #1, Car #2, and Car #3? If so, how much?

(E) What speed was Car #3 traveling at just prior to impact?

I suspect there are certain of these facts that you can answer, but others that you cannot. Without these facts, assumptions will be made. The more assumptions that are made, the more any conclusion that is drawn from it is flawed.

The process of investigation or legal discovery will hash out these facts. With the facts on the table, the conclusions drawn at that time will be more and more accurate.

As to the second issue, when you approach 10 different people with the exact same fact pattern you are undoubtedly going to get differing opinions. That's human nature. That's what you can expect from a jury. That's why there's not always such a simple answer. And, that's why attorneys often answer questions with "It depends."

Unfortunately, that's the reality of the situation. It depends on the missing facts, how people interpret and react to those facts, and how many assumptions are made.

Generally speaking (and taking into consideration that a lot of assumptions are being made at this time), Car #3 will be at fault for starting the chain reaction. Whether or not Car #2 will have fault depends on why and how Car #2 made contact with your car.

I hope this helps. You are strongly advised to seek legal counsel as soon as possible so that you can start putting into action a strategic plan on how to figure out the missing facts and how to proceed with your claims - if any. Best of luck to you!

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Answered on 7/03/14, 11:22 am
Terry A. Nelson Nelson & Lawless

Both, to some degree to be determined. You claim against both and sort it out later in settlement or trial.

IF the case has merit [likelihood of winning and the other side found liable], value [substantial provable damages, such as medical injuries and financial losses] and collectability [defendant with sufficient insurance coverage or available assets to collect against], feel free to contact me if serious about getting counsel. I've been doing these cases for over 35 years.

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Answered on 7/09/14, 12:48 pm

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