Most auto accidents involve two vehicles that collide with each other, or one vehicle that crashes into another object or person. There are some accidents, however, in which there are more than two vehicles involved, and this can create a very complicated situation. While determining fault in a standard two vehicle accident is typically a fairly straightforward process, determining who is at fault for a multi-car accident can be far more challenging.
In a multi-vehicle accident, there are usually a number of different contributing factors. Each situation involves a unique set of circumstances, and fault is ultimately determined on a case-by-case basis. In cases like these, there may also be several injured individuals, and those who file claims for compensation risk running up against the liability limits of the responsible party’s insurance policy.
What is a Multi-Car Accident?
As we stated earlier, a multi-car accident is a crash that involves more than two vehicles. This type of event is sometimes referred to as a multi-car pileup or a chain reaction crash. The most common type of multi-car accident is a rear end crash that triggers a series of subsequent rear end accidents. This is where the term “chain reaction” comes from. The impact of the initial crash creates a domino effect in which several other cars rear end the vehicles in front of them.
Depending on the speed that the triggering vehicle is traveling at when they initially make impact and the distance between each vehicle, a chain reaction rear end crash could involve three or four cars, or it could be as many as 10 or more. When this type of crash happens on a highway where the vehicles are traveling at high speeds and there is a sudden slowdown, this is when a greater number of vehicles tend to be involved.
Multi-car pileups are not as common as chain reaction crashes, but when they happen, they tend to result in more serious and catastrophic injuries. One way a multi-vehicle pileup can happen is when one car suddenly crosses several lanes of traffic on a highway and collides with multiple vehicles along the way. This could happen when a driver falls asleep at the wheel or suffers a seizure or another serious medical event.
Semi-trucks have been involved in some of the most severe multi-vehicle pileups. This typically happens when the truck jackknifes after hitting a sheet of ice, blowing out a tire, or experiencing another type of adverse event on a busy highway. The trailer portion of the big rig truck is long enough to block several lanes of traffic, and it is often nearly impossible for oncoming cars to slow down in time to avoid a collision.
Determining Liability in Multi-Car Accidents
As mentioned previously, it can be very challenging to determine who is at fault for a multi-car accident. And oftentimes, several different parties could share responsibility. In a chain reaction crash, the driver of the first car to rear end another car is usually looked at as the one at fault, at least initially. However, it could turn out that another driver is partially at fault as well, because they did not have functional brake lights to adequately warn the first driver that they were slowing down, or because they were violating the law by sending a text at the time of the crash.
When a multi-car pileup occurs because of a commercial truck jackknifing, the driver of the truck could be at fault, but there could also be several outside parties that are liable; such as the truck driver’s employer, the cargo/shipping company that may have overloaded or unevenly loaded the truck, or the manufacturer or seller of a set of defective tires or other faulty vehicle parts.
If a multi-car accident occurs in Pennsylvania, an injured party can still recover compensation if they are partially at fault, as long as they are less than 51% liable for the accident. However, any damages they are entitled to would be reduced in proportion to the percentage of fault they share.
Because of all the complicating factors, it is extremely important for someone who was injured in a multi-car accident to get an experienced personal injury attorney involved as early as possible. Your attorney will go to work immediately to thoroughly investigate the case and explore every potential legal option. The sooner you obtain skilled legal counsel, the better your chances of recovering maximum compensation for your injuries.
Injured in a Multi-Car Accident in Pennsylvania? Contact our Seasoned Auto Accident Attorneys
If you or a loved one got injured in a multi-vehicle accident in the Pittsburgh area or anywhere in Pennsylvania, Caroselli, Beachler & Coleman is here to help. Call our office today at 412-567-1232 or toll-free at 866-466-5789 or message us online to schedule a free consultation and case assessment with one of our attorneys. We look forward to serving you!