Chain Reaction Crashes

Determining fault in a car accident is not always a simple matter. This is especially true when we’re talking about chain reaction crashes.

The Ansara Law Firm’s Fort Lauderdale car accident lawyers know collisions with three or more vehicles tend to result in severe injuries, and sorting out who is at-fault – and to what extent – can be an arduous task.

Chain reaction crashes, sometimes referred to as “multiple vehicle accidents,” or “multi-vehicle accidents” generally happen three or more cars hit one another in a chain of rear-end accidents. In many cases, the sheer force of the initial impact pushes the vehicle that’s been struck into the vehicle ahead, and so forth. It’s estimated that approximately one-third of all auto accidents annually are multiple-vehicle crashes.

The reason fault and causation are difficult to prove with these crashes is because there is often evidence of carelessness or negligence by multiple drivers. Maybe the first driver was distracted but another driver was speeding and another failed to maintain a safe distance from the car ahead.

Another reason litigating chain reaction crashes can be so challenging is because they tend to involve so many people. You have not just the drivers, but often multiple passengers and possibly pedestrians who have suffered personal injury.

Environmental factors, such as poor visibility due to fog or rain, are often cited. However, the mere fact of poor driving conditions does not negate drivers’ duty of care. Motorists are expected to use a reasonable degree of care in operating their vehicles. That means they must tailor their speed and caution to the current road conditions. Failure to do so is a form of negligence. Still, the confusion of such a crash scene can make gleaning the facts a challenge.

Factors in Chain Reaction Crashes

No two crashes follow the same set of circumstances. Still, our experienced injury attorneys have taken note of some patterns that have emerged in multi-vehicle crashes.

  • Distracted driving. We know based on data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) that distracted driving claims nearly 3,500 lives annually. The true number is probably higher. More than 80 percent of Americans have smartphones, and too many of us are glued to them when we’re supposed to be paying attention to other tasks. Behind the wheel, this decision can be deadly. Peeling your eyes off the road for just five seconds to send or read a text will have you driving blind for the entire length of a football field when traveling at 50 mph. Distracted drivers are involved in a significant percentage of chain reaction crashes. Unfortunately, distraction isn’t as easy to track or detect as, say, alcohol impairment. It may require a bit more investigative work on your attorney’s part.
  • Intoxication . Drivers who are drunk or under the influence of drugs exercise poor judgment and display slower reaction times. Drunk drivers are more likely to be wrong-way drivers, which have also been known to cause pileups.
  • Drowsy driving. Motorists who doze off – even for a few seconds – leave no one to drive the car. There’s a foot on the gas pedal, but no one is steering. It takes a fraction of a second for a vehicle to drift into another lane or careen straight into the car ahead.
  • Speeding. The NHTSA reports speeding kills nearly 10,000 people a year, which is nearly one-third of all fatal crashes. Speeding drivers can certainly cause chain reaction collisions in Fort Lauderdale, and they can exacerbate them as well. A driver who is speeding will need more time to slow down or stop, which they may not have if they suddenly encounter traffic ahead that is slowing or stopped.
  • Weather. Heavy rain. Thick fog. Brush fire smoke. All of these are conditions that might turn an otherwise safe stretch of road into an extremely dangerous one – sometimes rather quickly. In fact, one of the worst Florida pileups in recent history was attributed largely to a so-called “super fog” that was a mix of fog and brush fire smoke on I-75. A total of 70 vehicles collided and four people were killed.

These crashes can be especially serious when they occur on high-speed roads and involve four or more vehicles. That means the insurance stakes are typically quite high. For this reason, insurers will typically send their highest-trained accident investigators.

Particularly in cases involving numerous victims, it’s important you early on secure the involvement of a knowledgeable, well-resourced attorney committed to representing your best interests.

Determining Duty of Care and Proximate Cause

Every motorist has a duty of care to operate a vehicle as a reasonable person would under the same or similar circumstances.

If a driver is negligent and this negligence is the direct and proximate cause of injuries to someone else, the person who is injured as a legal right to seek compensation from the tortfeasor (person/ party at-fault). In Florida, which is a no-fault auto insurance state, this is only possible if one crosses the “serious injury” threshold, which means a significant/ permanent loss of a bodily function or other permanent injury or significant scarring/ disfigurement or death. Otherwise, plaintiffs may be limited to $10,000 in personal injury protection (PIP) benefits. In multiple-vehicle crashes, this is usually not an issue as injuries tend to be more severe.

However, the more vehicles that are involved in a crash, the tougher it can be to identify who was negligent, and to what degree that negligence proximately caused injuries to others. Who was following too closely? Who was distracted by their phone? Was someone speeding?

When traffic crash investigators are sifting through the facts to examine fault, they are going to look at the point of impact and final resting place and condition of vehicles. They will interview witnesses and look at tire tread marks and examine cell phone data. If there are many vehicles involved, an investigation could take months. But the police conclusion is only one piece of the puzzle. Insurers to will be reaching their conclusions, and those might not align exactly with those of police investigators.

At that point, you may be offered a settlement. Your attorney should carefully review it. If you disagree with the insurers’ conclusions and settlement negotiations break down, the issue can be resolved in court.

Our car accident attorneys in Fort Lauderdale are prepared to fight for you.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a Fort Lauderdale car accident, contact the personal injury attorneys at The Ansara Law Firm by calling (954) 761-4011 or (954) 761-3641.

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