Most vehicle accidents involve just two cars that collide with each other, or one car that hits another person or object. But there are some accidents that involve three or more vehicles. These accidents are sometimes called “multi-car pileups” or “chain reaction accidents,” and they are usually more complicated to sort out. When one accident triggers a series of subsequent crashes, there are numerous potential factors that could be the cause and determining liability can be very difficult.
When someone is involved in a multi-car accident, it is very important to speak with a skilled and knowledgeable attorney as early as possible. Because of the complexities involved with cases like these, early action is needed to protect your legal rights and help ensure that if you suffered injuries, you are able to recover maximum compensation. Multi-vehicle crashes can trigger unique issues, such as running up against auto insurance liability limits and identifying third parties that could have played a role in the crash, and your attorney can go to work immediately to thoroughly investigate the case and explore every potential legal avenue toward obtaining a favorable outcome.
Common reasons for multi-car accidents
There are several common scenarios in which a multi-vehicle accident may occur:
- Chain reaction rear-end crashes: Perhaps the most frequent cause of a multi-car accident is a rear end crash that sets off a chain reaction of other crashes. The initial collision produces a domino effect that can involve up to a half a dozen or more cars. A chain reaction accident is most likely to happen on the highway or another road where vehicles are traveling at a higher speed. This type of accident is also fairly common during the winter when there is ice on the roads, particularly “black ice” that is hidden and catches drivers by surprise.
- Unconscious drivers: One of the most dangerous situations that occurs on the roadways is when a driver loses consciousness. This can happen because of drowsiness or fatigue that causes the driver to fall asleep at the wheel, or it can result from a seizure or another medical condition that triggers a blackout. An unconscious driver could crash into multiple vehicles, and this type of situation could become deadly, especially if it happens on the highway.
- Careless or reckless driving: Various forms of careless or reckless driving can become the catalyst for a multi-car pileup. One common scenario is a careless lane change in which the driver does not check their blind spot and fails to notice a vehicle or motorcycle that is traveling alongside them. In other cases, a driver who is intoxicated or just inexperienced and immature might speed excessively, weave wildly in and out of lanes, tailgate the vehicle in front of them, or even attempt to evade arrest if they are being pursued by a law enforcement vehicle. All of these types of behaviors increase the likelihood of a multi-vehicle accident.
- Semi truck jackknives: Big rig trucks have the potential to cause widespread damage if a driver loses control. An 18-wheeler could trigger a multi-vehicle accident if, for example, it jackknifes on the highway and blocks several lanes of traffic. When this happens, it would be nearly impossible for the other drivers to slow down in time to avoid colliding with the truck.
Liability for multi-car accidents
Determining who was at fault for a multi-vehicle collision will always depend on the unique circumstances of each case. For example, in a rear-end chain reaction case, first driver who initiated the collision will often be looked at, but it might turn out that the driver they crashed into is at least partially responsible because they were on their phone or because they did not have functional brake lights to warn cars behind them that they were slowing down. And of course, if any of the drivers were in the process of committing a traffic violation (such as speeding, reckless driving or drunk driving), then this driver is likely to be held liable.
If a large commercial truck initiated the crash, then there are a number of other parties that could share the blame as well. These may include the driver, the driver’s employer, the owner or lessor of the truck, the cargo/shipping company that may have overloaded or unevenly loaded the truck, or the manufacturer of a faulty vehicle or vehicle part.
Contact an experienced West Virginia auto accident lawyer
Multi-car crashes are very complex cases, and if you or someone close to you got injured in this type of accident, you need strong legal counsel in your corner advocating forcefully for your rights and interest. If the accident occurred in West Virginia, contact The Masters Law Firm for a free consultation and case assessment.