Lawyers for Accidents Involving Multiple Vehicles
Interstate 70 is a historic highway and the first US Interstate Highway System segment to be completed in the 1950s. The oldest part of I-70, the Kansas Turnpike, was designed prior to the highway system and built between 1954 and 1956. Because of its age, the Kansas Turnpike was not engineered to modern safety standards, which is one of the reasons that I-70 is one of the deadliest highways in America. In 2010, I-70 in Kansas City was the site of one of America’s largest multi-car crashes, a collision involving 140 vehicles and 13 injuries.
Multiple-vehicle collisions are complex and dangerous. They may involve several distinct impacts from different directions, exceeding the design of a vehicle’s safety features. They can be difficult to understand and investigate because peoples’ experiences and perspectives are so different.
For those reasons, it can be difficult to determine fault and liability in a multiple-vehicle collision and hold the right people accountable for damages and injuries. For people injured in a crash with more than one other vehicle, it is important to consult with a multiple-vehicle collision lawyer as soon as possible in order to conduct a thorough investigation before evidence is lost.
What Causes Multi-Vehicle Pile-Ups?
Multi-car collisions are complex accidents, but they often have very simple causes. The most common multi-vehicle crash is caused by an initial crash involving two vehicles. The initial crash is often a rear-end or sideswipe due to sudden braking or improper passing, like most typical car accidents.
In the right conditions, this impact leads to a chain reaction when the following vehicles are too close to the initial accident to take proper evasive action and thus crash into the first accident. More and more following cars may be suddenly forced to brake or swerve, leading to skidding and abrupt lane changes and increasing the size and scale of the accident.
While it is difficult to determine the precise cause of multi-car pile-ups, there are a number of specific contributing factors that make these accidents much more likely, including:
- Traffic density. Naturally, these types of accidents occur on multi-lane roads with large volumes of vehicles. This makes multi-car crashes likely to occur on busy highways during rush hour.
- Crash location. A single- or two-vehicle crash that occurs on a tunnel, bridge, or center lane of a freeway is more likely to lead to a multi-car pile-up, as there are fewer ways for following vehicles to evade the accident.
- Driving decisions. Improper passing or failure to yield is often a cause of the first accident in a chain reaction. Multi-car pile-ups are more likely to happen when drivers are following other vehicles too closely. Drowsy driving is often a factor in multi-car collisions.
- Weather and road conditions. Many multi-car accidents, especially in Kansas, occur in extremely poor weather conditions, including snow or ice on the roadway. Hard rain or foggy weather that reduces visibility can also increase the chances of a multiple-vehicle accident.
- Vehicle malfunction, especially in large vehicles. Some of the initial accidents in multi-car crashes are specifically attributed to brake or tire failures, especially in buses, trucks, and other large vehicles, where a single malfunction can affect many lanes of traffic.
- Obstacles in the road. An unexpected object or obstacle on the road can be the cause of a multi-vehicle crash. If an object falls off a truck or off an overpass, it may lead to a multi-vehicle crash.
Generally speaking, multiple-vehicle pile-ups occur in dense traffic conditions when close following distances, narrow tunnels, or slippery roads make it impossible for a driver to avoid a sudden accident or incident ahead of them. These types of accidents can almost always be avoided when vehicles are spaced far enough apart to take proper evasive action.
Common Injuries from Multi-Car Collisions
Multi-vehicle crashes have very different risk factors than one or two-vehicle accidents. Although these types of accidents are less common, they cause more injuries and more property damage than other accident types. People involved in multi-car crashes often suffer several different vehicle impacts from different directions, putting different dynamic forces to work on the body, and those in the center of a multi-car crash may be difficult for emergency personnel to reach and provide appropriate treatment.
While every multi-car collision is different, the most common dynamics for an individual vehicle involved are a frontal impact followed by a side impact. Frontal impacts often cause:
- Head injuries
- Neck injuries
- Spinal injuries
- Broken bones
Side impacts most often cause:
- Chest and abdominal injuries
- Head and face injuries
- Injuries to the pelvis and lower extremities
Every successive impact can cause new injuries or increase the severity of previous injuries for a vehicle involved in a multi-car crash. In addition, most vehicle safety features, like airbags and crumple zones, are designed to protect occupants from a single impact and may not offer protection from successive impacts from different directions. These types of accidents, even at low speeds, can be life-changing, causing permanent disability or death.
Who Is at Fault in a Multi-Vehicle Accident?
Determining fault in a multiple-vehicle collision requires a thorough investigation. People involved in the crash often have a limited perspective and differing recollections, so each one holds only a small piece of the puzzle.
Law enforcement, and often insurance companies, will interview witnesses, review dash cams or traffic cam footage, photograph the accident scene and tire marks, and attempt to reconstruct the entire sequence of events to determine fault and liability in a multi-car accident.
Different drivers may be held liable once the accident is investigated and understood. For example:
- The driver that caused the first impact is often at fault. In a multi-car collision, the driver responsible for the accident is the first driver who made a careless or negligent driving decision that caused the first impact.
- Other drivers may have contributed to the chain reaction of impacts or to the severity of the impacts’ damages by making careless or negligent decisions. They may have been driving too fast, driving too close, driving while distracted, or responsible for other factors that caused the subsequent impacts.
What if There are Multiple People at Fault for My Injuries?
In Kansas, every driver is required to carry no-fault car insurance, which allows them to file a claim and receive compensation regardless of who caused the crash. If damages exceed policy limits, you may need to take the other driver(s) to court in order to recover the full cost of your medical treatment, property damage, and other accident-related expenses.
In a multi-car pile-up lawsuit, working with experienced multiple-vehicle collision lawyers is critical. The results of the police accident investigation will be crucial to winning your case, and an expert attorney can ensure that the investigation is complete and accurate and use it to prove negligence and liability against the responsible driver(s).
Kansas uses a modified comparative liability standard, which means that each driver can be held responsible for contributing to the damages in an accident. For example, one driver may have caused an accident by running a red light. However, another driver may have contributed to the damages by speeding, increasing the severity of the accident. Comparative liability allows a judge or jury to hold one driver 75% responsible and another driver 25% responsible, for example.
Modified comparative liability, however, means that you cannot sue successfully if you are more than 50% responsible for your own damages. To return to the earlier example, the driver who is 75% responsible for an accident by running a red light cannot sue the other driver for 25% for speeding.
Contact a Kansas Multiple Vehicle Collision Lawyer
The number of factors involved in a multiple-vehicle collision, including the different drivers and their own degrees of responsibility, make these cases challenging and time-consuming. Accident victims and their loved ones should consult with an attorney as soon as possible in order to gather evidence before it is lost, ensure an effective investigation, and take action before the statute of limitations expires.
Working with an experienced multiple-vehicle collision lawyer is the best way to protect yourself, understand your rights, and fight to recover all your damages. At Bretz Injury Law, our results speak for themselves, with a 98% track record of winning our cases and recovery of over $300 million for our clients. Contact us today for a free case review if you or a loved one have been injured in a multiple-vehicle accident.
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