Compared to other states, California has more registered cars. Roads and highways are often congested with cars, motorcycles, buses, bicycles, and trucks. With increased traffic and roads crammed with all sorts of drivers, including fatigued, distracted, and intoxicated ones, the risk of multiple-vehicle accidents has never been higher. A “chain reaction” involving multiple cars can cause devastating injuries or even death. Determining who’s at fault is often a tricky affair, making it crucial to consult with a personal injury attorney. A lawyer can help with investigations, gather evidence, prove fault, and ensure you receive the compensation you deserve.
Cases involving multi-vehicle crashes are more complicated because most drivers only carry minimum liability coverage. Even if fault is established, the policy is often insufficient when multiple cars and parties are involved. Dealing with an underinsured driver is already bad enough, and things tend to get murkier when dealing with an unlicensed plaintiff.
What Is A Multi-Vehicle Accident?
Multi-vehicle accidents are collisions that involve more than two cars. They are also referred to as “pile-ups,” especially if an accident involves six or more vehicles. These accidents are more common on busy roads and highways where many cars move side by side at considerably high speeds.
The speed of travel on a busy road makes it impossible for the drivers behind an accident to come to a sudden halt and still maintain a safe distance from each other. The sheer force of impact created by the first vehicle that collides leads to a domino reaction causing a series of collisions.
During an accident, everything happens fast, and drivers don’t have much time to prevent themselves from hitting the car ahead. The force of impact may push your car forward, hitting the vehicle that is right ahead of you. Most drivers get confused and hit the brakes too late, panic and skid or swerve into other lanes, making the pile up even more enormous.
Multi-car accidents are considered the deadliest because you cannot count on the quick judgment of other drivers. For instance, a vehicle that swerves into oncoming traffic can cause a horrific accident capable of causing severe bodily harm or death.
Irrespective of the details of an accident, it is crucial to seek legal representation from a skilled personal injury lawyer. Drivers tend to point fingers, and determining who’s at fault is never easy.
Common Causes of Multi-Vehicle Accidents
Multi-car accidents can be caused by careless, distracted, reckless, intoxicated, and fatigued drivers. They can also occur due to poor visibility caused by snow, fog, or rain.
Here are some of the common causes of multi-vehicle accidents:
Poor Weather Conditions
Ice, fog, rain, and snow can make the roads slippery or impair visibility. Drivers must be extra careful about the potential dangers of driving on busy roads, especially during adverse weather conditions.
Driving at speeds higher than the recommended speed limits is often to blame for pile-ups. Sometimes, the cars move too fast to stop quickly to avoid a wreck.
Moving Too Close To Each Other
Vehicles on busy roads often travel close together, making it challenging to stop on time when something goes wrong ahead.
Tired drivers are always at risk of falling asleep or dozing off while behind the wheel. When this happens, and they swerve into other lanes or fail to act quickly to oncoming danger, they may cause multiple car crashes.
Using your cell phone, talking to a passenger, adjusting your radio, or engaging in other activities that force you to take your eyes off the road can also increase the likelihood of causing an accident, especially on busy highways.
One driver who is momentarily distracted can set off a massive series of chain reactions of trucks, cars, busses, and motorcycles. The probability of the affected suffering serious injuries or death is higher when accidents cause sudden impact because the vehicles involved were at high speed.
Unfortunately, driving under the influence remains one of the leading causes of road carnage. When a driver is impaired by alcohol or drugs, he/she may drive recklessly, fail to adhere to road signs and traffic rules, or swerve into oncoming traffic, causing a pile-up.
Rubbernecking is when multiple cars stop when drivers check out an accident scene. This is yet another common cause of multiple crashes because the drivers are often distracted.
Nowhere For a Car to Go
Even if you anticipate oncoming danger, there could be little you can do when you can’t veer out of harm’s way. This explains the majority of multi-vehicle accidents, especially on busy highways. You are doomed to set off a chain reaction, irrespective of whether you swerve or slam the brakes.
When the movement of vehicles is limited, several cars can hit one vehicle in different directions. This can cause catastrophic injuries because an accident involves more variables and greater amounts of leaking gasoline, bent steel, and broken glass.
Dangerous Road Conditions
Sometimes, public agencies are to blame for pile-ups. For instance, an accident could be caused by a lack of proper or clear traffic signs. Drivers may also be forced to hit emergency brakes if they come upon unexpected road obstacles.
While the above reasons cause most accidents, others are unavoidable. This means that a lawyer can help mitigate fault, allowing your insurance company to compensate you for injuries and damages suffered.
What Happens After A Multi-Vehicle Accident; Establishing Fault
During an auto accident, determining fault often comes down to establishing which driver was first to act negligently. The same principles apply when deciding who is to blame following a multi-vehicle collision. However, it could be challenging to make solid conclusions because pile-up may be the fault of multiple drivers.
Typically, the first person who is likely to bear responsibility for the accident is the driver who failed to exercise their duty of care. This could be a reckless, intoxicated, or distracted driver. Even in cases that seem somewhat obvious, the insurance and authorities must carry out investigations to unveil the truth. It is also likely for them to perform an in-depth breakdown of the turn of events to make a fair final decision.
As aforementioned, drivers in multi-vehicle accidents often point a blaming finger at each other. It is also improbable for anyone to admit fault, making it imperative to depend on solid evidence on the accident scene. Additionally, determining fault following a chain reaction collision is never easy, and the accounts or opinions of onlookers and other drivers are not always accurate.
Here is how fault is established during a pile-up accident:
The Accounts of Witnesses
The importance of witnesses in establishing fault during an accident cannot be underestimated. While they were not involved in the collision, they are often impartial observers, making their accounts highly credible.
While the opinions of witnesses are not always accurate, there is always some level of truth in who they believe is to blame for an accident. Unlike the drivers involved who may have a vested interest in shifting blame from themselves, witnesses often give their unbiased truth of what they witnessed.
The account of one onlooker may not hold much weight. However, if the accounts of several witnesses corroborate, this solidifies the case making it easier to know which driver(s) is to blame.
If you have suffered injuries or damage during a pile-up, it is in your best interest to involve bystanders and request their contact details. You may require their testimonies later during the case.
Law Enforcement Report
It is again crucial to involve the police and call them to the scene of a crash. The authorities have training that enables them to gather essential details at a location that could be used to assign liability. Before creating their report, they will gather all facts, including traffic violations, take pictures, review surveillance videos, and interview witnesses.
Insurance companies often don’t use the police report to assign liability. While they use their resources to gather the facts they need, they are also likely to consider the opinion of the traffic police.
It makes sense to involve a skilled personal injury attorney if you intend to seek compensation for property damage and injuries. Relying on your auto insurance to assign liability fairly may not always work in your best interests.
The interests of your insurer are to ensure that you receive the least possible payout. On the other hand, your attorney has your best interests at heart. The expert has a vested interest in ensuring the case is a success, and you receive the financial recovery you deserve.
During investigations, your attorney in the company of a skilled investigator will visit the accident scene and take photos. The detective will measure skid marks, check out the state of the roads and nearby traffic signs, consider the points of impact of different cars and the position they rested after being hit.
Your attorney will also want to find out whether the police ticketed or arrested any driver for violations like:
- Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs
- Drug possession or violating the open container laws
- Violations like reckless driving, failure to yield, or tailgating
- Lack of proper auto insurance or driving without a license
Multi-car accidents involve more variables, making it harder to solve a case and assign fault. The more cars involved in an accident, the more challenging it is to ensure a case comes to a fair conclusion. Well-established law firms often work with a team of experts, including private investigators that can conduct exhaustive investigations and gather sufficient evidence to build a strong case against the liable party.
What to Do Following A Multi-Car Accident
As a rule of thumb, you should sieve your words carefully right after a multi-vehicle accident. Other drivers can twist what you say to pin the blame on you. It is crucial to wait for the police to arrive before giving your account of what transpired.
When talking to the authorities, make sure you don’t admit fault. It also makes sense to keep off social media because any information you share can also be used against you.
Here is what you should do following a multi-vehicle accident:
It is perfectly normal to panic right after a pile-up. Most people will want to move their vehicles or perhaps step out for some fresh air. The best thing to do is remain in your car, especially if you have not suffered any physical injuries. Wait for the authorities to arrive, assess the scene, and then tell you when and how to exit your vehicle.
Turn On the Hazard Lights
Chain reaction accidents happen abruptly, and other cars may approach the scene oblivious of what has happened. You can ensure that other speeding vehicles don’t crash into you by turning on your hazard lights. This will inform them about a possible collision and ensure that they stop or slow down as they approach the scene.
Once it is safe for you to exit your car, don’t leave the scene. Stick around and gather evidence that you can use later on. Take photos of the scene, the license plates of other cars involved in the wreck, and eyewitnesses’ contact details. It is also relevant to request a copy of the police report and ensure that it is detailed with accurate information.
Call Your Auto Insurance Company
Next is to give your auto insurer a call. Inform them what happened and seek advice on how to handle your situation. It is important not to speak to the insurers of other drivers.
Call Your Personal Injury Attorney
Another vital step to take is to involve your personal injury attorney. The expert can be instrumental in ensuring fault is established within the least time possible. It remains imperative to be truthful with your lawyer and allow him/her to protect your rights and ensure the outcome achieved is in your favor.
The complex nature of multi-accidents increases the likelihood of all parties involved seeking legal representation. This is because insurance companies may fail to settle when there are huge damages involved. A skilled personal injury lawyer will understand the laws and advocate for your rights and best interests.
Schedule for a Physical Examination
Following an accident, nothing is as vital as ensuring you are okay. If you don’t have any visible injuries, you can seek medical attention as the last step before you go home. However, it is vital to put your safety first and visit your physician immediately after a wreck if you are injured.
Whether you have visible injuries or not, schedule for a full physical exam. The idea is for your doctor to have your full medical report, just in case concerns allied with the accident develop later.
Litigation of Multi-Car Accident Cases In California
Often, more than one person is at fault during a multi-car accident. This makes it crucial to involve a skilled lawyer to help resolve the matter successfully. The lawyers of the drivers involved in a collision will attempt to negotiate with the insurance companies to ensure settlements are made without filing a lawsuit.
Some of the aspects that may complicate settlement include:
- Multiple at-fault drivers
- Multiple injured parties
- Insufficient insurance to settle all claims
- Prosecutor’s investigation of serious injuries or deaths
- Cross-claims or counterclaims of negligence between the involved drivers
Even in pretty straightforward cases, dealing with insurance companies is not easy. These are businesses, and their work policies often involve defending, delaying, or denying claims. Such practices often result in untimely compensation or claimants being denied fair financial recovery.
Your lawyer can help by gathering evidence on your behalf. The expert will also use supportive evidence such as that accident scene photos and your medical report to ensure you don’t receive one dime less than what you deserve. Make sure you depend on an experienced personal injury attorney who can defend you in or out of court.
Find San Diego Personal Injury Attorney Near Me
In a perfect world, resolving complex multi-vehicle accident cases would be simple. The drivers involved and the eyewitnesses will give corroborating accounts of what happened, the at-fault parties will be identified, compensation will be awarded, and you can all go home happy and thank god for escaping with your lives. Unfortunately, we live in a world that is far from perfect. Drivers and eyewitnesses give several different accounts of the fall of events, and often, the depositions of people don’t corroborate with the physical evidence at an accident scene. Even when fault is assigned, the at-fault party may be underinsured, or their insurer may underrate your injuries and damages. Following a multi-car accident in San Diego, CA, your best chance of receiving dignified compensation is to work with an attorney. At San Diego Personal Injury Law Firm, we have skilled lawyers who understand the mechanics of complex accident cases and can help you pursue the maximum recovery for your claim. Call us now at 619-478-4059.