The Most Important Pieces of Evidence in a Three-Car Rear-End Accident

by Faye Counts

I was just involved in a three-car accident. I was in the middle. The guy behind me rear-ended me and pushed me into the front car, but he says that I hit the front car before he hit me. How can I prove my case? Tina K., Rohrersville, MD

There are a few key considerations that will make or break your case for you; independent witnesses, vehicle damage and most importantly, the testimony of the front driver. It is obvious why independent witnesses would be important, so here is an explanation of the other two factors.

Property damage can sometimes clearly show whether the middle vehicle was rear-ended before or after it struck the car in front of it. Evidence of a heavy impact to the front and a tap to the rear would indicate that the middle vehicle struck before being struck. A heavy impact to the rear but light to the front would suggest that the middle vehicle was at rest with the brakes on when struck hard enough from behind to be pushed into the front vehicle.

The amount of visible damage does not always indicate which impact was harder; for example, a vehicle with a welded tow bar in the rear may show little to no rear damage but a bent front bumper and busted light. The insurance adjuster investigating the accident will need to consider vehicle weights and heights, as well as bumper level, and use common sense.

The testimony of the drivers involved will be very important and the insurance adjuster or investigator should always take statements from all three. If the middle and rear drivers disagree over whether the middle struck the front before being struck in the rear, then the most important testimony will come from the front driver.

If the front driver says that he saw you in his rear view mirror before the impact and can say who hit who first, that will be the testimony the insurance goes with. If the front driver describes something like hearing screeching brakes and an impact before feeling an impact himself, then it sounds like you were pushed into him. If he says that he watched you approach and knew that you weren’t going to stop, and felt one impact and then another, then it sounds like you struck him first.

If for some reason the front driver has no idea what happened behind him or how many impacts he felt and there is no way to ascertain the sequence of events, then both you and the driver behind you will be held responsible for the front vehicles damages, as well as any personal injuries sustained in it, under the joint and several rule.

The reason why this matters so much is that the state you are in, Maryland, is a contributory negligence state. This means that if you contributed to your damages, i.e. struck the vehicle in front of you before you were rear-ended, you may be barred from recovery. You might be able to recover you rear damages from the insurance carrier for the vehicle behind you, but certainly not the front, but also not your personal injury because it would likely be impossible to show that your first impact did not contribute to that injury.

This article is written for informational purposes and is not intended to take the place of competent local legal counsel.

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