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After a crash involving only two vehicles, it’s easy for the injured parties to know who to file an injury claim against—the person who was negligently driving the other vehicle and crashed into them.
But who is at fault after a crash involving three, four, five, or even dozens of vehicles? Multi-vehicle crashes are more common than you think. In fact, a massive pile-up involving 51 vehicles, 73 injuries, and four deaths occurred in December 2022 in Groton Township, Ohio.
Unfortunately, multi-vehicle crashes are also more legally complicated than you might think, especially when you’re going it alone with your compensation claim and trying to determine how many parties are at fault, how to contact them, and how much each of them owes you for your damages.
If you or someone you love is hurt in a crash involving three or more vehicles, here’s what you need to know about how your injury claim will work.
In some multi-vehicle crashes, only one driver may be at fault, and their actions may have caused a chain-reaction sequence of events that led to numerous drivers and passengers suffering injuries.
For example, a speeding and distracted driver may barrel into the back of a vehicle waiting at an intersection, which pushes it into the path of another vehicle traveling through the intersection. Although multiple people spread across three vehicles may end up injured in this scenario, only the first driver is at fault.
But in other multi-vehicle crashes, multiple drivers may be at fault. For example, a driver may attempt to change lanes without signaling or checking their mirrors at the same time as another driver who also didn’t signal or check their mirrors. As their vehicles collide, one of the vehicles careens out of control and strikes a third vehicle, injuring its occupants.
In both examples, fault must be determined just as in crashes involving only two vehicles. But unlike crashes involving only two vehicles, investigating and proving fault among all potentially liable parties often requires a lot of evidence and experience.
Many multi-vehicle crashes occur in Northern states like Ohio because of inclement winter weather. When snow, ice, and fog hit highways and interstates, a single crash involving two vehicles can quickly become a huge pile-up involving dozens of vehicles.
However, inclement weather doesn’t always let drivers off the hook for causing pile-ups. Regardless of the weather, drivers can still take steps to reduce their risks of causing crashes, such as reducing their speed, increasing their following distance, using their headlights, and even pulling over to the side of the road when conditions are too extreme to continue driving.
As with any car accident, it’s important to determine the extent of your damages and how much money you’re owed for them. Your damages include your:
Once your total damages are established, you can determine how much compensation you should be able to demand from the at-fault party or parties.
Just as Ohio uses a modified comparative negligence system for awarding compensation after car accidents involving two vehicles, it uses the same system for awarding compensation after crashes involving three or more vehicles.
If only one driver is at fault for the crash, they will incur 100% of the liability for your damages. But if multiple drivers are liable, their percentage of liability must be calculated to determine how much they owe you.
Suppose your total damages are $100,000 after a vehicle involving two at-fault parties. If one driver’s percentage of fault is determined to be 75%, they would owe you $75,000. And because the other driver’s percentage of fault is the remaining 25%, they would owe you $25,000.
Although drivers are liable in many multi-vehicle accidents, they aren’t always the main or sole liable parties. For example, a multi-vehicle crash may occur where a driver cuts off a truck and fails to accelerate. To avoid a collision, the truck driver may slam on his brakes, but he can’t stop in time because his trailer is overloaded or because his brakes are worn and weren’t serviced when required.
In this case, the driver who cut off the truck and either the people who loaded the truck or the truck company that failed to replace its brakes may both be held liable for any damages.
It’s important to have an experienced Ohio auto accident attorney on your side after a crash even when only one party is liable and their negligence is easily proven. That’s because injured victims must still deal with uncooperative insurance companies even when the odds are stacked in their favor.
After multi-vehicle accidents, it’s even more important to have an experienced lawyer on your side. That’s because it’s easier for at-fault parties to either deny blame, point their fingers at other drivers and parties, or offer lowball settlements.
At Nurenberg, Paris, Heller & McCarthy, we know how complex and challenging multi-vehicle crash claims can be, and we work hard to help our clients get every penny they’re owed from all at-fault parties. Contact us anytime for a free case review if you or someone you love was hurt in a pile-up.
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