Chain reaction accidents are extremely dangerous and terrifying because there is often more than one threat to your safety. In a quick second, the entire roadway becomes an obstacle course and everyone is trying to avoid a major collision, which creates confusion that ends up leading to more collisions. Our firm has had cases where nearly a dozen people were injured or killed.
These cases are also more complex for attorneys to put together for settlement because they involve multiple defendants and insurance companies. They also sometimes pit the victim against the victim for their fair share of the limited pile of money that is available.
This article on the handling of multiple vehicle crashes addresses:
- The Danger of Chain Reaction Vehicle Collisions
- What Type of Multi-Car Driving Accidents Lead to Big Settlements and Verdicts
- Who Is Liable When These Cases Are Resolved and the Sometimes Unique Battles to Get Your Fair Share
- Samples of Settlement and Jury Outcomes in These Cases
Chain reaction crashes can be especially deadly because there may be both primary and secondary impact. Primary impact occurs when the at-fault or negligent driver that caused the accident collides with another driver. Secondary impact occurs when drivers attempt to avoid a collision and end up colliding with each other. When subjected to the risk of both primary and secondary impact, the risk of injury and death increases.
We will use chain reaction and multi-vehicle accidents interchangeably. But they can be different. Often, in the same area and close in time, multiple motor vehicles may be involved in crashes. Sometimes, it is hard to figure out whether it was one big accident or whether after the scene stabilized, a new crash occurred. Our attorneys recently had a maddening case once where rubbernecking turned a minor crash into a major multiple vehicle accident.
Chain reaction wrecks account for 15% of traffic-related fatalities, causing an incredible 13,000 casualties a year. Many of these crashes take place on freeways where there is significant traffic congestion. Maryland, with 16 interstate highways, is hardly immune to such major accidents and our firm has handled a large number of these cases.Unique Issues in Chain Reaction Car Crash Cases
There can be more than one legal cause of your injuries in a motor vehicle collision. So one critical component of these cases, to be blunt, is to find as many legally culpable parties as possible.
This is true in any injury case but it holds particularly force in these cases. Why? Because in high speed or multi-directional chain-reaction collisions, a lot of people can get hurt or killed. Often, and this is particularly true if the at-fault driver is not a commercial vehicle but just an individual, there is a limited amount of insurance to go around. In these cases, our attorneys are also doing something we hate: fighting with other deserving victims. What is the fight over? To get our clients the largest possible piece of that insurance policy.
What does smart counsel do in these cases? Our Baltimore car accident lawyers apply pressure on everyone. Get the suit filed. Serve requests for admission against all parties and be prepared to start attacking the other plaintiffs' cases. This is particularly important because with a limited policy, the defense attorneys' will not be bothered to do their own jobs. File a motion for summary judgment on liability and hold parties' feet to the fire on scheduling deadlines. If you think a co-plaintiff is contributorily negligent, flush that issue out fully in discovery.
Why all of these shows of force? But putting on pressure will all of the parties, you will put your client in a position to get overpaid on the case because - we have seen time and again - few lawyers have the energy for it, particularly plaintiffs' attorneys. Really, we feel bad doing this because it is good guys against good guys -- we are taking money away from victims who deserve to be compensated. But our job is to maximize how much our victim gets for her injuries and that has to be our focus.
We answer this question because people do go online to try to get real information on the value of their claim. You can find a lot of information on that topic elsewhere on our site which is probably more informative than this because it gets to specific jurisdictions and specific injuries which is more telling concerning the amount of any settlement or verdict.
That said, these are the types of multi-vehicle crashes that are the most serious and, consequently, lead to better outcomes for clients:
- Car rear-ends another car on a busy road and then gets rear-ended by the car behind it, causing a chain of rear-end accidents. (Multiply by five if pushed in oncoming or broadside traffic.)
- Two cars collide on a busy road and one vehicle is propelled into the oncoming lane of traffic, causing motorists to swerve into each other to avoid the collision
- A motorist changes lanes too quickly on a freeway, causing other motorists to stop short and swerve out of their lane of traffic and collide with other vehicles.
Clearly, the answer to these questions as to the best type of claims just leads to more questions. If there is a chain reaction crash, the first question to ask is how did it happen? If it occurred someone else caused you harm and you are blameless, you have a claim. If the accident is your fault because you were speeding or otherwise being careless, you cannot recover in Maryland due to what is known as contributory negligence.
As to the degree of compensation, if the victim of the accident is not the one at fault, the amount of money awarded depends on what injuries were suffered. How serious were they? How much medical care was needed? How much pain have you been in? More serious injuries require more expensive medical care, more time off from work, and cause more conscious pain and suffering. Therefore they receive larger verdicts and settlements.
Who as at-fault depends on the type of multi-vehicle crash. But in a chain rear-end car accident, the lead driver typically is without fault. The lead driver usually has viable car accident claims against the others in the chain who caused the impact to her vehicle. For example, often the third car in the chain will rear-end the second car, forcing the second car into the lead vehicle.
The driver the rear-ended the lead driver will almost certainly be a defendant in any claim brought by the lead driver in a multi-vehicle collision. If the lead driver felt two impacts, the third car in the chain likely rear-ended the second car, which would cause a second impact. If there were three impacts (rare), the fourth driver in the chain may also be jointly responsible with the other drivers in the chain.
Maryland has contributory negligence which means if you are one percent responsible for your own injuries, you cannot recover. So if you negligently rear-ended another driver and they were hit yourself, sustaining your claim would be very unlikely.
Fault requires negligence. So if you get rear-ended through no fault of your own and then forced into the vehicle ahead of you, then you are very unlikely to be held responsible because you did nothing wrong.
Here are examples of jury awards to victims of chain reaction motor vehicle collision cases. Focus on the facts and less on the amounts of the verdicts and settlements. :
- 2022, South Carolina: $2,500,000 Settlement. Multiple people were involved in a four-car collision initiated by an intoxicated driver. They suffered multiple injuries, including abdominal wall bleeding, a chest wall contusion, a colony injury, spinal and rib fractures, and other soft-tissue injuries. The plaintiffs alleged negligence against the bars that served the at-fault driver. They claimed they failed to stop him once he became significantly intoxicated. This case settled for $2,500,000.
- 2021, Michigan: $800,000 Verdict. A 76-year-old man was the last vehicle involved in a chain reaction collision. An unknown driver initiated the collision before fleeing the scene. The man suffered bilateral subdural hematomas and a nondisplaced fibula fracture. He underwent a craniotomy. The man spent two weeks in the hospital. He was transferred to an inpatient rehabilitation facility. The man spent three weeks there. He subsequently underwent outpatient physical and occupational therapies for several months. The man now took anti-seizure medications. He and his wife made a UIM claim against their insurer. They received $800,000.
- 2021, Virginia: $600,000 Settlement. A man was rear-ended in a chain-reaction collision. He suffered a cervical strain. The man alleged negligence against the at-fault drivers. He claimed they failed to slow down for traffic ahead. This case settled for $600,000.
- 2021, Virginia: $1,815,000 Settlement. A married couple was involved in a chain-reaction collision. The husband died at the scene. The wife sustained severe fractures. She recovered well. The woman alleged negligence against the truck driver that initiated the collision. She claimed he failed to slow down for traffic ahead. This case settled for $1,815,000.
- 2020, Alabama: $850,000 Verdict. A man was involved in a four-vehicle collision. He suffered back injuries. The man alleged that the truck driver’s negligence initiated the collision and caused his injuries. A jury awarded him an $850,000 verdict.
- 2019, Maryland: $309,276 Verdict. A dump truck rear-ended a man, causing him to rear-end another vehicle. The collision involved two additional vehicles. The man suffered rib, spinal, and sternum fractures. He also sustained chronic neuropathic, chest wall, and thoracic compression pain. The man underwent an open reduction internal fixation of his sternum. He also underwent physical therapy for an extended period. His experts testified that his injuries were permanent and prevented him from working. The man alleged the dump truck driver’s negligence caused them. The dump truck driver and his employer admitted liability. A Montgomery County jury awarded $309,276.
- 2019, Maryland: $105,000 Settlement. A man was involved in a four-car collision on I-695. The man suffered severe physical injuries and emotional distress. He underwent orthopedic surgery and counseling. The man claimed the other drivers failed to control their vehicles and excessively sped. This case settled for $105,000.
- 2019, Florida: $133,500 Verdict. A man was involved in a three-vehicle collision. He suffered unspecified injuries. The man alleged that the initiating driver’s negligence caused his injuries. A jury awarded him a $133,500 verdict.
- 2019, New Jersey: $2,083,105 Verdict. A 44-year-old man was involved in a four-vehicle collision. He suffered an L5-S1 herniation with impingement, leg radiculopathy, and nerve root irritation. The man underwent epidural steroid injections. He alleged that the initiating driver’s negligence caused his permanent injuries. The initiating driver admitted liability but disputed the injury claims. A jury awarded the man $2,083,105.
- 2019, Florida: $1,724,941 Verdict. A female passenger was involved in a multi-vehicle collision. She suffered permanent injuries. The woman alleged that the initiating driver caused them. The initiating driver disputed the claimed injuries. A jury ruled in the woman’s favor and awarded $1,724,941.
If you have gotten hurt in a and have been badly hurt, what you don't need is a distracted lawyer. You need a great lawyer. You need someone who is on your side and will fight back for you. Call 800-553-8082 or get a free case evaluation online.Related Articles and Samples
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