Who pays the damage in big traffic pile-ups?

You’ve seen this. One car hits another from behind. The car behind is too close and hits him. The car behind hits him and so on. Who’s at fault and who pays? Also, what if the, say, seventh car stops in time, but the eighth hits him and causes him to hit the ones in front?

My WAG would be that each person pays the person directly in front of them. If everyone was following too closely, then it’s everyone’s fault.

I have no idea about someone ramming another person into someone else though.

Then again, what if the person in front slammed on his brakes because he wanted the person behind to pay for a new car that the PIF has been wanting? After all, the PIF could claim injuries…

Argh! too complicated!

A buddy of mine is an expert witness for low speed automobile accidents, and generally, yes, each person that hit the other pays the guy in front of him. In the case of a person stopping in time, then the person behind him hitting him and forcing him forward into other cars…that guy would be responsible for both the vehicle he hit, and then the vehicle in front of that.

I’m sure your next question is, “How can you prove the guy behind you forced you into the other cars?” The answer is a number of things including the skid marks on the road, eye witness accounts, and the damage to your car relative to that done to the car in front.

What if all the cars except the hitting one are stopped already (like at a stop light)? Is there any fault in this case for the other cars?

What usually causes the first car in a mulitcar pileup to slam on the brakes, anyways? If someone were to come out of a cross street, and try to beat the line of cars, causing the first car to slam on it’s breaks, would the person who came out of the cross street be held responsable?

Or, do multicar pileups usually only happen on freeways?

Freeway. In town, vehicles are going much slower than on the highway, so the bumpers would be quite a bit more effective. On top of that, the cars are closer together, but the brakes will be more likely to stop them, with less inertia. Also, the vehicles, once hit, probably won’t have enough energy to force it into the next.


Nope, they don’t just happen on freeways.

I’ve seen a couple of different scenarios. First one happened on a 2 lane road with a turning lane. A friend of mine hit a line of 4 car that were stopped waiting to turn left. A couple of the cars hit each other and he was responsible for the whole mess.

I was in a moving accident when some yahoo decided to cut off a line of traffic entering an on ramp. #2 rear ended #1. I was #3 and stopped in time, but # 4 rear ended me, then #5 rear ended #4. #’s 2, 4, &5 were ticketed. The yahoo who actually caused this mess went merrily on his/her way. Maybe they would have got a ticket if they hung around, but this didn’t seem to be an option for them.

Off the record, seeing how I didn’t hit anyone, had very little damage to the back of my truck, and the guy who hit me was totaled, I thought it was funny, other than the jerk who caused it got away.

My mom got in a 3 car pile-up 2 years ago. Car #1 slammed on the brakes - Mom (car #2) rear-ended car #1, and car #3 rear-ended Mom. Mom and driver of car #3 both got tickets - I think my mom’s was “failure to reduce speed to avoid an accident” or something along those lines. BTW, no injuries to anyone, and it was on a business loop freeway - speed limit was 50 mph.


I was #5 in an 11-car pileup some years ago, and was rear-ended by a hysterical 16 year old a couple of years later. Here’s how they explained the whole multiple car pileup thing to me.

You have an obligation to stay far enough behind the car in front of you so that if you’re hit it doesn’t automatically turn into a multiple rear-ender. Naturally that depends on the speed you were hit, etc., but the idea is that you don’t tuck yourself up under the other person’s bumper so that there is no margin for error.

Along the same lines, who would pay in that 114 car pileup on I-95 recently? The first guy who slid in the snow and blocked everyone else? When you have cars all over, how do you figure out who pays for who?