Multi-Vehicle Accident Settlements
Multiple vehicle accidents can be terrifying. There are several vehicles involved that can become dangerous, 4,000 lb. missiles that can cause you serious personal injuries. Sometimes, these chain reaction car accidents can involve a dozen vehicles or more, and many of these crashes are fatal.
Such multiple car accidents may be more complex because there potentially are several plaintiffs, defendants and auto insurance companies involved. If you are a victim of a multi vehicle accident, it is vital to retain an experienced personal injury attorney. This article describes the complexities involved in multiple vehicle accidents, claims information, and related legal considerations.
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Overview of Multi Vehicle Crashes
Multi car accidents make up approximately 15% of all auto deaths in the US, and comprise nearly 13,000 injuries per year.
Crashes that involve several vehicles contain multiple dangers; there can be both primary and secondary points of impact. The primary impact happens when the negligent driver smashes into another vehicle. The secondary impact happens when other drivers try to avoid a crash. They often end up hitting one another. When there is a risk of primary and secondary impacts, the chance of serious personal injury and death rises.
Types of Multi Car Accidents
Some of the most common accidents that lead to multiple claims are as follows:
- Vehicle rear ends another on a busy highway. It is then rear ended by another vehicle. This causes several rear end crashes.
- Two vehicles slam into each other on a busy road. One of them flies into oncoming traffic. This causes drivers to hit each other to avoid a crash.
- Driver changes lanes too fast on the interstate. This leads to other drivers stopping and swerving, leading to several accidents.
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Establishing Liability in Multiple Car Accidents
The most important issue in such accidents is establishing who was liable or negligent in the accident. All injured parties have a right to compensation from the negligent driver or drivers.
But with so many vehicles involved, determining liability can be difficult. There are some cases where the driver admits liability, such as being the first driver to rear end another car. Liability in that case is clear.
But there are often many other factors involved in these complicated accidents that can lead to more than one person being liable:
- Bad weather: A common cause of multi car accidents is poor visibility due to rain or fog. Slick roads can be a major factor as well.
- Speeding: Driving too fast has always been a cause of crashes, and several drivers could be speeding, leading to a very bad pile up. Driving at high speed will exaggerate the impact of minor driving errors and can lead to very serious injuries.
- Driver fatigue: Falling asleep for just a second can cause a car to drift and hit several other vehicles.
- DUI: There are thousands of deaths due to drunk driving every year, and many thousands more injuries. Drunk driving causes multiple car accidents every day.
- Texting and driving: Many multi-vehicle accidents are caused by cell phone use behind the wheel.
If there are several parties that could have been negligent in the accident, a personal injury attorney must typically get involved on your behalf. It can take a long accident investigation to determine who may be liable and whose insurance policies should pay what to whom.
When an accident with several vehicles occurs, investigators are brought in to investigate the car accident claims and accident scene. The investigators will work to find the root cause of the crash. This is always a complicated process. To determine which driver or drivers are at fault, investigators usually will do the following:
- Look at police reports: When police respond to the scene, they will write a police report that may state an opinion on the cause of the crash.
- Talk to police officers and other investigators to get a better idea of liability
- Determine if any of these matters were involved with any drivers: warrants outstanding; DUI; open containers; illegal drug possession; suspended license; speeding; lack of auto insurance; aggressive driving as noted by witnesses; cell phone use and/or distracted driving.
- Interview all drivers, passengers and accident witnesses
- Take photographs of the scene of the accident as well as vehicles and any damages
- Look at all drivers’ records to determine if there is a history of unsafe vehicle operation
The insurance company investigators may try to show evidence that their client did not cause your injuries and/or property damage. Your attorney may counter by showing evidence that his investigative team uncovered. Generally, insurance companies will fold quickly and settle when they are shown strong evidence that their driver was at least partially liable for the accident.
Many insurance companies will settle once they understand that the plaintiff is represented by an effective personal injury attorney. They do so because they know that going to court costs even more. Also, juries are notoriously unpredictable. The insurance company could end up with a much larger financial loss – plus the additional negative publicity that comes with a big dollar verdict.
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Legal Issues in Multiple Car Accidents
There can be several legal issues to address in a car accident with several vehicles involved. If you have been injured in such an accident, during your attorney’s investigation, he will also try to determine if more than one person can be blamed for your injuries. The more drivers who can be blamed for the accident, the better for you.
This may seem cynical on one level, but there is a good reason to seek as many legitimately responsible parties as possible. Many crashes with several vehicles are high speed and chain reaction events. Many people may be seriously hurt or dead. If only one driver is found negligent, this may mean that there is a relatively limited amount of insurance funds available to pay for the injuries of several plaintiffs.
For this reason, the personal injury attorney you hire will conduct a thorough investigation to determine if there is more than one responsible driver for the accident. An aggressive personal injury attorney will look for available insurance policies to tap for compensation wherever possible. The attorney also may issue requests for admission against every other party. They may even begin to attack the case for other plaintiffs. This may involve filing a motion for a summary judgment on crash liability. The attorney may get aggressive on forcing other plaintiff’s attorneys to file court documents on time.
A show of force in a car accident involving several plaintiffs can be important for you, especially if you have severe injuries. You could have injuries that require months or years of rehab, and could cost you hundreds of thousands of dollars. A good personal injury attorney will try to put you in a place where you get paid as much as possible – and even overpaid. The job of your attorney is to get you as much compensation as possible for your injuries.
We bring up these unpleasant legal issues to stress the fact that you should hire the best, most experienced personal injury attorney possible in a multi vehicle crash – if you want to get full compensation for your accident injuries.
Many of these car accidents lead to lawsuits, unfortunately, because auto insurance companies often deny claims, refusing to compensate their client or other drivers. This is the point where working with insurance companies in crashes with several drivers can get very challenging. But your aggressive and experienced personal injury attorney can help you to get through this process and be fairly compensated.
Another major legal issue in such accidents is the contributory negligence statutes that some states have, such as Virginia. This means that if you were even 1% responsible for any part of the crash, you may not receive compensation for your injuries. This may seem unfair, but this is the law in many states, including Alabama, Maryland, Virginia and North Carolina.
At least 33 states have a comparative negligence standard. This means that the amount of compensation you may receive for your injuries can be reduced by your percentage of fault for the incident. There are two types of comparative negligence laws, depending upon the state:
- 50% rule: A driver with injuries who is found to have fewer than 50% liability for the accident can seek compensation from the liable drivers.
- 51% rule: The injured driver may seek compensation for his injuries if he is 50% or less responsible for the accident.
Consult an Attorney Experienced in Multi Vehicle Wrecks
This page should drive home the point that crashes involving several drivers and vehicles are complicated. There can be many people with serious and even fatal injuries. The pool of available insurance funds may be limited. So as soon as possible after the accident, get a referral for an experienced personal injury attorney in multiple vehicle crashes.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Who is at fault in a chain reaction car accident?
What does it mean to be involved in a “chain reaction” car accident? A chain reaction car accident involves at least 3 vehicles where one vehicle hits another in a progression of backside collisions that are caused by the impact of the primary crash. For example, it’s a rainy day and the road is slippery. Vehicle A, rear-ends vehicle B, forcing vehicle B to rear-end vehicle C. These types of accidents can be tricky when determining who is the at-fault party is due to the amount of drivers involved in the accident. In most situations where the driver rear-ends the car in front of them is liable. When determining who is at-fault you must review a series of questions for all drivers involved. Questions to help determine who is at-fault include:
- Was Driver A following Driver B at an unsafe speed or distance?
- Was Driver B following Driver C at an unsafe speed or distance stopping suddenly forcing Driver A to rear-end Driver B?
- Were any drivers driving negligently? (Under the influence, tired, distracted)
- Were there any eyewitnesses to verify?
- Break lights and signals working properly
- Debris in the road that has failed to be cleared causing sudden stops
- Evidence from vehicle damage can help determine who is at-fault
In a multiple car accident, who pays?
In the unfortunate event that you are involved in a multi-vehicle accident involving 3 or more cars, it can be a bit confusing exactly who to put the blame on. A vehicle may hit another vehicle since they themselves were affected from behind, which usually happens in multi-vehicle collisions. So, how do you determine who is liable for a multi-vehicle accident? When one driver runs into the back of another, and that individual’s car is involuntarily forced forward into the car before them, that driver would be at-fault since they solely began the chain reaction. The driver determined to be at-fault for the accident is liable for damages to property as well as personal injuries. The liable party is responsible to pay either out of pocket or through their insurance.
I was the last car in a 3-car pile up, am I considered at fault for the crash?
Generally, 3-car pile-ups are rear-end collisions possibly causing a chain reaction of accidents, typically determining the rear car at-fault for the entire pile-up. However, it’s not always the rear driver’s fault. If you are the last car to be involved in a 3-car pile-up it ordinarily means there was some reason, which caused the 2 cars ahead to collide such as bad weather, or the first car failed to have proper break lights. Determining who is at-fault in a 3-car pile-up is a complex process that involves investigating each driver’s circumstances. Just because you are the last car involved in a multi-vehicle accident does not necessarily mean you will be determined at-fault. Be sure to collect concrete evidence such as a police report, eyewitness statements and interviews from other drivers/passengers.
I was rear ended and pushed into the car in front of me – am I going to have to pay?
Typically, the driver that has rear-ended you is liable. However, this does not mean that the last car involved is liable for the entire accident. Generally, it is the responsibility of each driver to control their vehicle and keep distance to avoid a rear-end collision in the event of any sudden stops. In the instance the driver in back of you has rear-ended you, however, you were tailing too closely to the car in front of you, it is possible you will share some of the fault.
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