Multiple Car Accidents

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 were nearly a dozen people were injured or killed.

accident scene

These case are also more complex for attorneys to put together for settlement because they involve multiple defendants and insurance companies. They also sometimes pit victim against victim for their fair share of the limited pile of money that is available.

This article on the handling of multiple vehicle crashes addresses:

  1. The Danger of Chain Reaction Vehicle Collisions
  2. What Type of Multi-Car Driving Accidents Lead to Big Settlements and Verdicts
  3. Who Is Liable When These Cases Are Resolved and the Sometimes Unique Battles to Get Your Fair Share
  4. Samples of Settlement and Jury Outcomes in These Cases
The Danger of these Chain Reaction Crashes

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 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 interchangibly here but they can be different. Often, in the same area and close in time, multiple motor vehicles may be involved in crashes. Sometimes, it hard to figure out it it was one big accident or whether after the scene stabilized, a new crash occurred. We 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 a many legally culpable parties as possible.

This is true in any injury case but it holds particularly force in these case. Why? Because in high speed or multi-directional chain reaction collisions, a lot of people can get hurt of 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? We apply pressure to 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 in time and again - few lawyers have the energy for it, particularly plaintiffs' attorneys. Really, we feel bad doing this because it really 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.

Classic Example of Chain Reaction That Leads to a Lawsuit

Ronnie leaves his house in Catonsville at 9:00 A.M. to get to work on a snowy February morning. It has only been snowing for a few hours and only a few inches have accumulated in Baltimore County. The roads, however, are extremely slippery because the snow plows have not had a chance to clear the streets. Ronnie drives a four door sedan that has snow tires, so he thinks he will be just fine.

He heads out of his driveway and carefully proceeds to the nearest intersection where he hangs a right at the light. He continues down the road for a few more traffic lights. At this point, the snow begins to fall more heavily and Ronnie is unable to see in front of him for a brief second.

Unsure of what to do with his vision completely taken away, he slows to an almost complete stop in the left lane. He can hear cars honking behind him and he realizes he his holding up the entire lane of traffic. Distracted by the weather and nervous about upsetting the other motorists, he steps on the accelerator a little too hard. His back wheels begin to spin in the snow and his car spins and veers into the adjacent right lane of traffic.

As he does so, he feels a thump in the rear of his car and then a jolt forward as the commercial truck behind him is unable to stop to avoid a collision. As Ronnie is propelled forward, he slams into the car in front of him with great force. The commercial truck is also struck from behind by another motorist who was unable to accommodate the commercial truck’s sudden short stop. The driver of the truck is protected by his large vehicle and escapes unscathed, but Ronnie and the other two drivers are not so lucky. Ronnie suffers a dislocated shoulder, while the other two motorists involved suffer facial lacerations and whiplash.

In a split second, a poor decision by Ronnie caused 4 people to be involved in an accident. It can happen that easy. The other two motorists may have a claim against Ronnie, because he was negligent in stepping on the accelerator with such force when he knew the roads were slick and dangerous.

Which Chain Reaction Collision Cases Lead to The Largest Payouts?

We answer this question because people do go on-line 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 with respect to 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 5 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 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 an accident at a construction site on the roadway, the first question to ask is how did it happen? If it occurred because the construction site was negligently or carelessly maintained or monitored , then 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.

Example Chain Reaction Accident Verdicts and Settlements

Here are examples of jury awards to victims of construction site motor vehicle collision cases:

chainreactioncrash
  • Maryland: $162,246.92 Verdict. A three-car pileup ensued when a negligent driver slammed into the rear of the driver in front of him, propelling that driver into the rear of the plaintiff’s car. The plaintiff sued the defendant, claiming he was responsible for the pileup and his injuries, which included serious neck and back injuries including a ruptured disc. As this case shows, while there may be more than one driver involved in creating the crash, it is the at-fault driver who initiated the accident that will be forced to pay. (Alban v. Bedward, Prince Georges County)
  • Maryland: $133,000 Verdict. A defendant driver failed to stop at a red light, hitting the vehicle in front of him, which caused a chain reaction crash involving three other vehicles. One of those motorists, the plaintiff, suffered severe back injuries that required surgery and continuous physical therapy. This is another example of the liability attaching to the driver who initiated the chain reaction rather than any of the drivers who were simply reacting to the situation at hand. (Needham v. Pathak, Prince Georges County).
  • Washington: $1,025,000 Settlement. A plaintiff motorcyclist was tragically killed when he was rear ended from behind in a multi-car accident caused by a defendant driver who failed to keep a safe distance behind the plaintiff, causing him to hit and kill him at the stop light. Sadly, this is typical of how devastating multi-car pileups can be. (Shipe v. Plotkin, Washington Superior Court)
Getting a Lawyer For Your Claim

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 who will fight back for you. Call 800-553-8082 or get a free case evaluation online.

Related Articles and Samples

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