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Determining Fault in a 3 Car Accident: The Ultimate Guide

Have you or a loved one recently been involved in a 3 car accident? Are you curious to learn how it’s determined which one of you will be held liable for the repairs? If so, then you need to learn all that you can about determining fault after a car accident with 3 vehicles.

Doing so can keep you well-informed throughout the process. You will learn the steps that you need to take—whether you think you’re at fault or not—to give yourself peace of mind.

See below for an in-depth guide highlighting the several things that you need to know when you are involved in a 3 car accident.

What Is a Chain Reaction Crash?

At its simplest definition, a chain reaction crash is any car crash or accident that involves more than two vehicles making contact with one another. However, even when there are multiple cars involved, there is often one driver that’s determined to be at fault for the accident.

So how do we sort this out? It depends on the situation. Generally, a chain reaction crash starts with two cars that hit each other. That collision leads to other cars getting involved in the accident after the initial crash occurs.

For example, let’s say there was a 3-car accident on the highway. The driver in car 1 doesn’t check his/her blind spot before merging over into the other lane—without using their turn signal. Causing car 2 to hit the bumper to bumper. Car 3, who is driving behind them at 65 miles per hour, slams on his brakes but still makes contact with both cars.

This is one example of a chain reaction crash. In this example, car 1 would likely be deemed the at-fault driver. Granted, most chain reaction crashes aren’t as easy to sort out. Oftentimes, there isn’t one clear-cut person at fault.

Possible 3 Car Accident Situations

There are many different ways in which a 3 car accident can occur. If you’ve been involved in one, view the list below to see if one applies to your situation. And what that might entail for you moving forward.

1. Malfunctioning Vehicle

This might be the cloudiest of all 3 car accidents. As the name would imply, this 3 car accident occurs when a vehicle malfunction is what led to the accident.

As an example, Driver 1’s vehicle gave out on him while driving. That causes Driver 2 to hit him and then Driver 3 to follow.

In this instance, the manufacturer of the car part is at fault. All three parties—and their car accident lawyer—will likely pursue legal action against the manufacturer to get compensated for their losses.

2. Phantom Car at Fault

Even if you feel that the at-fault driver in your 3 car accident has no option but to claim fault, don’t be so sure. It isn’t rare for an at-fault driver to pass the blame off to a fourth car.

This is what’s referred to as a “phantom car”. One that may have been at fault for the accident, but drove off without a scratch on them.

For example, if Driver 1 had a phantom car cut him off, he would’ve had to slam on his breaks. Which led to Driver 2 hitting him, then Driver 3 getting involved as well.

3. Rear Car At Fault

In this case, the “rear car” refers to the first car that made contact with the vehicle in the front of the chain reaction accident.

So if Driver 1 is hit in the back by Driver 2, who is then hit in the back by Driver 3, Driver 2 would be considered the “rear car”. There might also be a situation in which Driver 3 hits the back of Driver 2, which pushes their momentum forward to hit Driver 1 in front of them.

In these cases, the rear car is almost always considered to be at fault. However, there might always be the negligence of the other drivers that are to blame for the accident as well. This brings us to the last one…

4. Negligent Driving

Driver 2 or the “rear car” listed above, shouldn’t be held liable if Driver 1’s negligence led to the crash.

A common example of this is if Driver 1 was texting and driving. They could slam on their breaks just enough to cause Driver 2 to hit their bumper. Which then causes the chain reaction.

If this is your situation, then you and your car accident attorney need to compile evidence that proves another driver’s negligence was the root cause of the entire crash.

Hire a Trusted Car Accident Attorney

Regardless of the situation, you’re in with the crash, you need to find a trusted car accident attorney to represent you. This can give you the legal edge you need.

You can bet that the other two parties will lawyer up. So, to go through this process without one would be to sabotage your case.

The car accident attorney can use their resources and network to build evidence. As well as, prove the negligence of one of the other drivers. They can also provide direction on how much compensation you’re entitled to and take over communications during the settlement stage.

Find Legal Representation for Your 3 Car Accident Today

Now that you have seen an in-depth description of how the fault might be determined in your 3 car accident case, be sure to find the right lawyer to represent you.

Be sure to read this article for more information on how to become a better driver and minimize your risk of being involved in an accident.

To get started, please visit this page to schedule a free video consultation with our firm and we will be happy to assist you further.


In short, after a car accident, you may not know your rights. Above all, don’t struggle through the process alone. Actually, our personal injury team is here to help you with any legal needs you might have regarding your accident.

Lastly, let RHINO Lawyers answer your questions and review the facts of your case with a Free Consultation. So, get started by completing the “Free Instant Case Evaluation” or by calling us any time, day or night, at 844.RHINO.77.