Liability in Multi Car Rear End Pile Up?

by Jay

A lady was driving 2 cars in front of me, down a 2 way street. A van was directly in front of me. There were cars on the right side of the street parallel parked. I was doing about 25mph right after a stop sign, tailing the white company van, without sight of the lady in front of him. All of the sudden I slammed into this van. I never saw the brake lights or anything...just crashed.

Apparently the lady in front of him was trying to turn without activating her turning signal and the guy didn't know, so he rear ended her and it was a chain reaction from there on to me. I had no liability insurance coverage at the time. That was in 2009 and I just now received a claim.

What's going on? I do not think I was at fault in the accident since the lady turned with no blinker and the van in front of me stopped without me seeing his brake lights. Is there anything I can do? Thank you.

Visitor Question:
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ANSWER for "Liability in Multi Car Rear End Pile Up?":

Jay (Texas):

You are in a tough position. Texas law requires you stay at least one car length behind the vehicle in front of you for every 10 miles per hour you are driving. Even then, in almost all car accidents involving rear end collisions the driver who is following is the at-fault driver, regardless of the distance she was driving behind the vehicle in front of her.

You didn’t mention if the police were dispatched to the scene. If they were and you received a Citation for “Following too Closely” you'll be at an even greater disadvantage. It's frustrating to know that if the 1st car didn't stop the collision would never had occurred.

When these accidents normally occur the driver hands the matter over to their insurance company. In your case that’s going to be impossible because you had no liability or property damage car insurance at the time of the collision.

You have several options:

A. If the letter (Claim) is from the Texas Department of Public Safety you can ask them for a payment plan to pay off the damages to the woman's vehicle. They will give you one chance at a payment plan.

This happens all the time. DPS doesn’t charge any interest, so consider it like a loan. If you go that route though, be careful. If you default on even one payment the deal will be off and DPS will immediately suspend your driver’s license until you pay off the claim in full. One chance at a payment plan is all you will get.

B. Contact an Attorney. She may be able to negotiate with DPS to lower the amount of the total claim, or make an attempt to conduct an evidentiary hearing contesting your liability.

C. Ignore the matter and see what happens next before making a decision. This is probably the worst decision because ignoring the claim will undoubtedly result in the indefinite loss of your Texas Drivers License.

The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from an attorney licensed in your state. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here, or call (888) 647-2490.

Best of luck,

Judge Calisi

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