Middle car not at-fault, but blamed for damages in 3 car pile up?

by George
(Hoboken, NJ)

I was in a 3 car pile up on the highway. I was car #2. Car #1 in front stopped short as another car cut him off. There was no impact there, that random car, continued driving.

I hit my brakes as I wanted to avoid hitting car #1. I stopped just before making impact and took a sigh of relief knowing I avoided an accident. Car #3, behind me, came at full speed, rear-ending me and causing me to hit the car in front of me. I was unable to get out of my car, as the fenders did not allow my driver or passenger side door to open.

Driver of Vehicle #1 approached my window and explained that he was cut off, and wasn't sure how it happened. We exchanged credentials. He then went to Driver of Car #3 for the same process and after a few short moments returned to his car.

Driver #3 then exited her vehicle and went to Driver #1's car, and sat inside for about 10-15 mins, after that she came and exchanged credentials with me. Subsequently returning to Vehicle #1 for the remainder of time until police arrived.

I am afraid that Driver #1 & #3 flirted/made a conspiracy to blame me (I know it sounds silly). Driver #3 takes minimal responsibility and her insurance is saying they will not cover my front side damage, as she alleges she did not cause it. They say I hit the car in front first, which I did not.

Are there any forensic signs that I should look out for (i.e. the way the front of my vehicle appears)? How do I present my case and make sure I get full payment for damages? Thank you.

Visitor Question:
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ANSWER for "Middle car not at-fault, but blamed for damages in 3 car pile up?":

George (Hoboken, NJ):

As you probably know, New Jersey is a no-fault insurance state, and from the facts you present, you were not injured.

In no-fault states, car insurance policies do not cover property damage. You will have to review your policy to see if property damage is covered. If so, you won’t have to worry about any conspiracy between other drivers. Just file your claim, and after your insurance company reviews the facts surrounding the crash, you will be compensated for your property damage.

In the alternative, if your no-fault insurance policy does not cover property damage, then you will have to file a claim against both drivers’ insurance companies. Once you do so, the insurance companies will investigate the crash.

Other than taking photos of the damage to your car, there is not a whole lot you can do. If the police responded to the crash, there will be an accident report. Most police accident reports have a diagram showing where the cars were at or about the time of the crash.

Moreover, the police report will also likely note any citations which may been issued to the drivers, including you. If one or both drivers were cited for a traffic infraction, including but not limited to "Following too Closely," then you will have the support you need to establish a claim against the one, or both drivers.

The insurance companies will investigate the accident too. Unfortunately, you will be bound by whatever they decide, including whether or not they believe your were negligent.

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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