Who's at Fault in Illinois? Deciphering Liability in Multi Car Accidents

    Being involved in any car accident can be a scary and stressful experience. When multiple vehicles are involved, unraveling who was at fault and liable for injuries and damages becomes even more complicated. If you were recently injured in a multi-car pileup in Illinois, you probably have a lot of questions about what happens next.

    Multi Car Accidents - Who Is Liable?

    I know this is an overwhelming time, but as an experienced personal injury attorney, my goal is to help you understand your legal rights and make sure you receive full and fair compensation. A multi-vehicle crash can be complex, and often form a chain reaction of incidents, but Illinois follows traditional contributory negligence rules in sorting out liability. This means each driver's actions leading up to the accident will be assessed, and liability will be assigned based on degree of fault.

    For example, Driver A is determined to be 30% at fault, Driver B is 60% at fault, and Driver C is 10% at fault for a multi-car collision. The drivers' insurers will cover the portion of damages equal to their driver's percentage of fault. '

    So Driver B's insurance would pay 60% of the total damages in this case. Driver A's insurer would cover 30%, and Driver C's insurer would pay 10%. Any driver who is 50% or more at fault cannot make a injury claim and collect damages under Illinois rules.

    Determining Fault

    Determining fault in the aftermath of a multi-car traffic accident involves a comprehensive assessment of various contributing factors. These factors encompass a range of elements, including traffic violations or unlawful driving maneuvers carried out by each motorist, adherence to speed limits, the right of way, and compliance with traffic signals or signs. Duties such as yielding, merging safely, and stopping at intersections are also scrutinized in this evaluation. Supporting evidence like skid marks, the location of damage to vehicles, and statements from eyewitnesses play a pivotal role in the determination of fault.

    Moreover, drivers bear the responsibility to exercise prudent judgment in accordance with prevailing road, weather, and traffic conditions. Negligence comes into play when a motorist fails to demonstrate the level of care and caution that a reasonable person would exhibit given the circumstances leading up to the accident. In cases of multi-car traffic accidents, the assessment of fault extends to a range of scenarios, including rear-end collisions, instances of tailgating, encounters with oncoming traffic, violations of stop signs and red lights, and even the involvement of a third vehicle. The process of assigning fault may also involve consideration of comparative negligence and the extent of property damage incurred by each involved party, all contributing to a comprehensive determination of the at-fault driver.

    It's possible for multiple parties to share liability when negligent actions by two or more drivers combine to cause a collision. A skilled personal injury attorney will work to make sure fault is properly assigned and that you recover full damages after being injured in a multi-vehicle wreck.

    Working With Insurance Companies After an Accident

    Insurance companies will almost always push back, trying to deny, delay or minimize your injury claim. They may try to shift blame entirely onto you or another driver. I advise accident victims to be wary of quick settlements offered by insurers. It’s usually in your best interest to consult an attorney before signing anything. An experienced lawyer can deal directly with the insurance company while you focus on recovery. We'll determine all liable parties and make sure you receive every penny you’re legally entitled to.

    It’s also crucial to seek medical attention promptly after any multi vehicle collision. Adrenaline can mask serious injuries, and gaps in treatment are used against victims later on. Reporting your accident and injuries to doctors right away creates vital official documentation. Be upfront about all symptoms and follow your doctor’s course of treatment. Keep records of medical bills, missed wages from work, property repairs, and other accident-related costs.

    Insurance companies have an incentive to minimize what they pay out for claims. Here are some common tactics used by insurers to avoid or reduce payouts after multi-vehicle accidents:

    Delaying Proceedings - Insurance providers may purposely slow the claims process by demanding additional paperwork, needing more time to investigate, or delaying settlements in hopes the injured party will settle for less just to move things along.

    Disputing Injuries - Insurers may claim injuries are exaggerated or unrelated to the accident. They may use gaps in medical treatment against a victim or claim injuries should have healed faster. Having a doctor confirm the accident caused your injuries helps dispute this.

    Disputing Fault - Insurers will often pass blame onto another driver or argue their policyholder was not primarily at fault. They may distort facts to reduce their driver's liability percentage. An experienced attorney can refute questionable fault assessments.

    Damaging Credibility - Insurance adjusters look for any ammunition to use against a claimant. They may scrutinize social media posts looking for evidence of preexisting conditions or activities that appear inconsistent with claimed injuries. Be cautious posting accident details publicly.

    Relying on Legal Technicalities - Insurers exploit legal loopholes like missed deadlines or improperly filed paperwork to have claims dismissed. An attorney well-versed in claim procedures can avoid these tactics.

    Pressuring Quick Settlements - Low-ball settlement offers are commonly used to motivate accident victims into settling quickly. But accepting prematurely can mean losing out on full compensation, especially if injuries worsen.

    The bottom line is insurers are not on your side. Their priority is protecting profits. An attorney levels the playing field and handles negotiations so you receive a full and fair settlement after a multi-car accident.

    Steps to Take After a Multi Vehicle Accident

    Here are the key steps to take immediately following a multi-vehicle accident if you are injured:

    Seek Medical Attention - This is the most important first step. Even if you don't feel hurt right away, see a doctor as soon as possible to get thoroughly evaluated. Diagnosing injuries quickly creates vital medical records.

    Report the Accident - Alert law enforcement to come to the scene. Provide a formal statement detailing what happened. Ask witnesses to stay to also give statements. Ensure the report is accurately filed.

    Document the Scene - Take photos of vehicle damage, skid marks, debris, road conditions, weather, etc. This evidence will help show what happened.

    Exchange Information - Get the names, license numbers, insurance details, contact info and statements from all drivers and passengers involved. Also get witness contact information.

    Contact Insurance Companies - Alert your insurer and all other parties' insurers of the accident and potential injury claim. Provide only minimal facts, saving details for your attorney.

    Seek Legal Counsel - Contact an experienced personal injury attorney for guidance on next steps in preserving your rights to damages. Do not provide any recorded statement to insurers without your lawyer. Many law firms will provide a free case evaluation to get started.

    Keep Detailed Records - Document accident-related expenses like medical bills, auto repair invoices, lost wages, prescriptions, therapy, mileage to appointments, etc.

    Follow Medical Instructions - Go to all follow-up appointments, take medications as directed, and follow your doctor's course of treatment closely. Don't delay getting recommended tests or procedures.

    Taking these steps promptly can maximize the value of your insurance claim and help ensure fair compensation for your injuries after a multi-vehicle accident.

    Working With A Personal Injury Attorney

    Consulting with a personal injury attorney is highly recommended after sustaining injuries in a multi-vehicle accident. Here is more guidance on when to reach out to a lawyer and why it's so crucial:

    Call Immediately - You should look to consult an attorney 24-48 hours after your accident at the latest. The sooner the better, as prompt action is key. Valuable evidence and testimony can be lost over time.

    Do Not Delay - Many accident victims wrongly delay because they don't feel hurt yet or want to see if the insurance company will "do the right thing" with their claim. This is an enormous mistake that jeopardizes your case. Insurers are looking to pay you as little as possible.

    Preserve Evidence - A lawyer will advise you on preserving vital evidence from the multi-car crash site, like photos of vehicles, police reports, skid marks, etc. that may be lost if too much time passes after the crash. Memories and witness statements fade quickly too.

    Maximize Damages - An attorney will help you follow all recommended medical treatments so your injuries are fully documented. Gaps in treatment are used to discredit victims. Your lawyer can also calculate all present and future accident-related costs you’re entitled to.

    Handle Negotiations - Experienced personal injury lawyers know all the tactics insurers use to minimize claims, and how to defeat them to reach full and fair settlements. Let your attorney handle all communications.

    Defeat Delay Tactics - Insurance companies often deliberately stall the claims process. A lawyer can push your case forward on your schedule, not theirs. We won't allow unethical delays.

    Level the Playing Field - By your side, your attorney has the resources and legal experience to stand up to big insurance company attorneys denying or underpaying injury claims. If a fair settlement cannot be negotiated, an experienced personal injury attorney will take more aggressive steps to pursue your full compensation.

    Here's an overview of what that process may involve:

    Filing a Lawsuit - If insurers refuse to pay reasonably, we will file a personal injury lawsuit against all responsible parties. This legal action puts pressure on insurers and seeks a binding liability decision.

    Litigation Process - The litigation process takes time but allows for arguments to be heard before a judge. Your attorney will submit evidence, take depositions, and build the strongest case proving legal entitlement to damages.

    Courtroom Advocacy - As an aggressive trial lawyer, I am fully prepared to argue your case in court if needed. My firm has extensive experience persuading juries to deliver verdicts in favor of injury victims.

    Compelling Testimony - You and other eyewitnesses will likely provide testimony recounting your recollection of how the multi-car accident occurred. Expert witnesses may also testify on your injuries, prognosis, and economic losses.

    Controverting Defense - Defense lawyers will try to shift blame and refute the validity of your claims. But we will employ proven strategies to undermine their position and arguments.

    Motion for Resolution - Before a full civil trial, your attorney can file motions asking the judge to decide on issues like liability so that a trial is less necessary or the scope is narrowed significantly.

    Trial or Settlement - The majority of injury lawsuits settle before an actual trial begins. But if needed, my firm has the resources and experience to win multi-vehicle accident cases in court.

    I understand that facing lawsuits can be daunting, but there are situations where they become necessary, especially when insurance companies are reluctant to offer reasonable compensation after an auto accident. Please be assured that I possess the determination and legal expertise needed to secure the maximum recovery for you, whether it's through a favorable settlement or a successful trial outcome. The decision will always be based on what aligns best with your interests.

    The aftermath of a multi-car pileup can be an overwhelming period, with a multitude of legal, financial, and practical considerations to address. Please remember that you don't have to navigate these challenges alone. I am here to provide a free consultation and offer you legal advice as a dedicated car accident attorney specializing in personal injury law. Your well-being and legal rights are my top priorities.

    To contact our office, call (630)684-2332 or visit our website at


    Mario Palermo is the Founder and Lead Attorney at Palermo Law Group in Oak Brook, Illinois. For the past 26 years, he has worked tirelessly to help injury victims and their families in their times of need. He is a seasoned authority on civil litigation, and also a member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum, a prestigious group of trial lawyers who have won million and multi-million dollar verdicts and settlements. Mr. Palermo has been named a “Leading Lawyer” by his peers in 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021 and 2022.

    Request a Free Legal Consultation

    Recently Published

    Recent Outcomes

    $1.3 Million

    Mr. Palermo obtained $1.3 million dollars for an airline employee who was injured on the job.


    Palermo obtained $800,000 for the family of 63-year-old woman who died after gallbladder removal surgery.


    Palermo obtained $400,000 for a 28-year-old woman from Aurora that was the victim of a hit-and-run.