Who is responsible for damage to cars in a chain accident?

What is a chain accident?

A chain accident can be described as the event where there are more than two vehicles involved in the accident and they were driving in the same direction. The force of the impact of the collision is such that it causes a chain reaction where the vehicle that was hit is pushed forward hitting another vehicle.

We would like to share an actual example via an email sent to the Arrive Alive Road Safety Website:

“Kindly find the attached pics. On the 26th of September I was involved in an accident I was bumped a white Polo Playa, after she claims that she was bumped by a Toyota Conquest. Now I would like the lady in the white Polo Playa to pay for my car’s damages. She says she won’t because she was pushed. Her insurance is saying the same thing. The strange part is that they know about the rule of safe following distance and the fact that their client does not know how to drive because if she did she would have been able to put on her brakes in time that is if they were in good working condition.

Kindly assist me because if they can do this to me they will do it to everyone and will always get away with it.”

Response from Car Insurer of the vehicle in the “middle” of the chain:

The lady also shared the email received from the Car Insurance company of the driver that collided with her vehicle from the back:

“Please note that according to the Law of Delict, negligence needs to be proven before you can hold someone liable for his actions.

In the case of this accident, our client was already slowing down for the red robot ahead, when Mr X rear ended our client’s vehicle and the impact of that accident caused our insured to be pushed into your vehicle.

For this reason we repudiate your claim against our client. Any actions taken against our insured will strongly be defended.

Please redirect your claim directly against Mr X who was the cause of this accident.”

Additional Feedback

We also referred this to another insurer for feedback and received the following response:

Unless there are extremely mitigating circumstances, we will almost always hold the vehicle that started the chain collision as the liable party.

In the details you provided:

  • A three vehicle collision.
  • The first car in the collision is the liable party.
  • The second car cannot be held liable as had the first car not bumped into him he would not have bumped into the third car (front car).

Third car would need to claim their damages from the first car.

The Car insurer above has made the correct decision if their client was pushed into the car of the victim by the vehicle behind him.

Safe following distance is important to avoid a collision but the lack of this does not make the car insurer of the client liable for the collision.

The assumption is that had the car behind him not hit into him, he would have been safely able to stop without hitting into the victims car.”


Being hit from behind is almost always not your fault. It may only be that your tail-light might not have been working or you might have experienced mechanical problems and failed to move your vehicle to the side of the road – and then failed to put on some early warning device to warn vehicles behind you that you were immobile ahead of them.

Chain accidents are often found in fender bender collisions on our heavily congested highways where traffic suddenly comes to a stop, drivers are distracted etc. This is one of the reasons why it is important to have your car insurance in place. Avoid having to fight these legal battles and claim from the responsible party yourself. If you are insured – your insurance company will fight these battles for you!

Remember also to keep your following distance to ensure that you are not the cause of a chain collision. Avoid texting while driving and cellular conversations that might take your attention away from the road!

Also view:

Following Distances and Road Safety

We would like to urge drivers to also view:

Texting and Distracted Driving

Avoiding Distractions While Driving

Texting while driving hurting the car insurance industry

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