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Liability in Multi-Car Crashes

What is worse than being hit by a car? Being hit by 2 cars, or 3 cars, or 6 cars, and a semi. All vehicle accidents have the potential for tragedy and far-reaching consequences, but multi-vehicle collisions are particularly dangerous.

Passengers and drivers are sometimes trapped in cars that crumple up like accordions when they slam into the vehicle in front of them and are then, in turn, hit from behind. Often, particularly in situations involving poor visibility and high speed, chain reactions can happen involving hundreds of vehicles.

It is extremely likely to be badly hurt and extremely difficult to determine fault in multi-vehicle crashes, which is why having an experienced multi-vehicle accident attorney can be crucial in proving your case.

Some types of multi-vehicle accidents:

  • Rear-end collision:

One car rear-ends another car when the first car slows or stops suddenly. This causes the first car to slam into the car in front of it (and to be sandwiched between two cars). In this case, the driver at the back who did the initial rear-ending is most likely at fault because of driving too closely.

  • Chain reaction:

A chain reaction consists of multiple vehicles crashing into each other. These types of accidents are usually caused because of fog or icy conditions. For example, on February 11, 2021, more than 130 cars crashed into each other on an icy Interstate 35. This pile-up resulted in at least 6 fatalities and more than 65 people needing treatment for injuries.

  • Highways:

Multi-vehicle crashes are particularly common on highways because many drivers speed or follow too closely. In 2019, 37,494 accidents were caused in Indiana by drivers who followed too closely. Speeding caused 4,225 accidents and driving too fast for weather conditions caused 8,843 accidents. Multi-car crashes happen on highways when there are lots of vehicles, all traveling at a high rate of speed and without time to react or avoid hitting an accident that happens right in front of them.

  • Drifting:

Cars that drift into oncoming traffic (because of distracted or drug or alcohol-impaired driving) can cause pile-ups when the first car they hit is launched into other vehicles.

  • Clipping:

A car may clip the side of another car as it merges, causing the second car to spin into more vehicles after losing control.

  • Intersection:

When two cars collide at an intersection, it is often a high-speed T-Bone accident (where a driver has blown through a red light) likely to send one or both vehicles careening into traffic to strike others.

  • Weather:

According to the NHTSA, almost 5,000 people are killed, and over 418,000 people are injured in weather-related crashes each year. Many of these crashes involve more than one vehicle.

Recent Indiana multi-vehicle crashes:

July 16, 2021: Multi-vehicle crash with injuries at Michigan Road and 62nd Street, Indianapolis

July 15, 2021: One person died after a driver ran a red light on Morris Street, Indianapolis, and collided with a truck and another car.

July 12, 2021: A semi-truck driver died in a multiple-vehicle crash on the southbound lanes of I-65 after failing to yield to slowing or stopped traffic. This accident involved 4 semi-trucks and a passenger vehicle.

June 14, 2021: A Miata traveling south in the left lane of I-65 crossed into the right lane and side-swiped a Chevrolet Tahoe. The Tahoe lost control and traveled across the median into the northbound lanes, where it collided with a Greyhound bus. There were 2 fatalities in this crash.

March 25, 2021: A Freightliner pulling a tanker trailer northbound on I-65 sideswiped a GMC van before crossing the median and hitting two trailers being pulled by a Volvo semi-truck. The Freightliner driver died at the scene.

February 19, 2021: In the eastbound lanes of I-90/84, a Prius driver lost control and crashed into a semi, which then sideswiped a Chrysler van.

How to determine fault:

It is not easy to determine fault in a multi-vehicle crash, especially since it is entirely possible that more than one driver may be at fault, but the police and insurance companies investigate several things.

  • Witness statements
  • Police reports
  • Accident reconstruction data (if there was a fatality or significant injuries)
  • Damage to the vehicles
  • Skid marks
  • Photos or videos taken at the scene
  • Crush depth testing
  • Tire evaluations
  • Information from EDRs, if available (car Event Data Recorders)
  • Inspecting the scene of the accident: Examining the final resting places of all involved vehicles can help with accident reconstruction techniques and determine which driver may have made a critical error, leading to the collision. Documentation of physical, environmental, and traffic conditions can all help your attorney understand what happened and why.

What if more than one driver is at fault?

Indiana follows the modified comparative negligence law. Like most states, Indiana courts consider the plaintiff’s contribution to the incident before awarding damages. Generally, the less you are at fault, the more compensation you will receive. Unlike some states, however, Indiana will not recognize your right to compensation at all if you are found to have been 51% at fault or higher. The 51% fault rule allows you to file an injury claim only if you were less than 51% at fault for the incident.

Indiana Code 34-51-2 allows you to still recover a portion of damages even if you share some of the fault for the accident as long as you are less than 51% responsible. It may be that you were 20% responsible for the accident. If that is the case, your entitlement to damages will be reduced by 20%.

If you have been involved in a multi-vehicle accident, consult an experienced car accident attorney as soon as possible. Filing injury claims for a car accident in Indianapolis can be a complex and confusing process, especially when several vehicles and drivers are involved. At Crossen Law Firm, we have the skills and knowledge necessary to effectively negotiate with insurance companies to obtain maximum compensation.

Get started on your case today by scheduling a free consultation about your situation.

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