A car accident usually involves two or more automobiles. An accident may occur because one driver attempts to avoid hitting a pedestrian, bicyclist, or animal. A chain reaction automobile accident occurs when three or more automobiles hit one another.
This causes a series of rear-end car accidents, and eventually leading to a pileup. The subsequent rear-end accidents are caused by the force of the first collision.
How Do Chain Reaction Car Accidents Occur?
In general, chain reaction car accidents occur when drivers are either following too closely or stopped too closely to the car in front of them. For example, if traffic is stopped on the interstate and a car cannot stop in time, they may rear-end the last stopped car in the traffic line.
If the collision has enough force and the rear-ended driver is close enough to the cars ahead, cars will continue rear-ending each other until the force stops.
What are Common Causes of Car Accidents?
It is important to be aware of the common causes of car accidents so as to avoid them when driving and be on the lookout for other irresponsible drivers.
Most car accidents are caused by irresponsible or negligent driving behaviors. Statistics show that 98% of car accidents involve a single distracted driver. In some automobile accidents, only one driver is at fault. In others, multiple drivers may be at fault for the accident. Common causes of car accidents include:
- Rubbernecking, which is slowing down a car on the roadway to watch what is going on outside the vehicle, such as a wreck;
- Driving while using cellular phones to make calls or text;
- Driver fatigue;
- Being distracted by passengers;
- Looking at scenery instead of the road; or
- Adjusting vehicle controls, such as the radio.
Rubbernecking has been found to be the leading cause of car accidents. It causes traffic delays and may lead to chain reaction automobile accidents if a long line of traffic stops or slows down.
Other common causes of car accidents include:
- Poor weather conditions, which may cause poor visibility;
- Automobile defects;
- Mechanical issues in the vehicle;
- Poor visibility, caused by factors other than weather, such as trees or bushes blocking the view of the road;
- Driving under the influence or driving while intoxicated;
- Problems with a road sign or traffic light;
- Roads that are not properly maintained;
- Road construction; or
- Any other unpredictable factors that a driver may encounter.
Who is Responsible for the Car Accident?
To determine who is responsible for the automobile accident, it must be determined which driver was negligent. Negligence in a car accident refers to the failure of a driver to exercise reasonable care that an ordinary driver would exercise in the same conditions. If a driver failed to do so, they may be liable for injuries to the other driver.
How is Negligence Proven in a Chain Reaction Accident?
In some automobile accidents, a victim may have a claim for negligence. This claim may be made when another driver engages in actions while driving such as:
- Failure to stop and look both ways at a stop sign prior to proceeding;
- Sending a text message while driving instead of watching the road; or
- Eating food while driving; or
- Using their hands for any activity other than driving.
To prove negligence in a chain reaction automobile accident, the plaintiff must prove four elements, which include:
- The defendant owed a duty of care not to cause harm to drivers or pedestrians;
- The defendant breached that duty of care by failing to use reasonable care that another driver would show in similar circumstances;
- The defendant was both the actual and proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injury; and
- The defendant caused harm to the plaintiff, leading to damages such as medical bills or lost wages.
How Can I Establish That the Other Driver Was Negligent?
Evidence that may be used to establish the negligence of another driver includes:
- Eyewitness statements;
- Any vehicle damage;
- Automobile accident police reports; and
- Evidence at the accident scene, including skid marks or damaged property.
What are Damages for Auto Accident Claims?
Automobile accidents may lead to civil lawsuits for damages. In these cases, the driver responsible for the accident may be required to reimburse the victim for losses, including:
- Any costs associated with resulting injuries, such as hospital bills;
- Any damage to the car or other property;
- Lost wages or lost earning capacity as a result of the accident;
- Pain and suffering resulting from the accident;
- Emotional distress suffered as a result of the accident; or
- Possible criminal penalties in cases involving drunk driving.
What Defenses are Available to Car Accident Lawsuits?
Several defenses are available to car accident lawsuits. In car accidents where more than one driver is at fault for injuries or damages from the accident, a driver may be excused from liability if there is an applicable legal defense. Possible defenses to an automobile accident lawsuit may include:
- A lack of proof the driver was at fault;
- Lack of fault;
- Emergency circumstances existed at the time of the accident;
- A driver assumed of the risk;
- Contributory or comparative negligence;
- The statute of limitations expired;
- Involuntary intoxication; or
- The driver failed to mitigate damages.
There is a lack of proof when one of the elements of negligence is unproved. It may also occur if there is not enough evidence to prove a driver’s liability. This defense can be used as an affirmative defense to protect a driver from being held liable for an automobile accident.
A lack of fault defense can limit the amount of damages for which a defendant is responsible. This defense may apply in cases where the defendant can show that the plaintiff was the driver who actually caused the accident.
In some cases, emergency conditions may have been present at the time of an accident. These circumstances may include emergencies such as rushing an individual to the hospital for medical care. If emergency conditions were present, it may be possible to have the case dropped entirely.
An assumption of the risk defense may be available when the defendant can demonstrate that the plaintiff, or other driver, knew of a risk and still acted regardless of that knowledge. For example, if a driver attempts to cross a busy highway knowing they may not have enough time, but does so anyway.
Some states prohibit a plaintiff from recovering damages if they contributed to their own injury. In other states, damages can be reduced based on a percentage of fault attributed to each party.
Most jurisdictions have a statute of limitations, or time limit on filing a claim. A statute of limitations on automobile accident claims usually varies from 2 to 6 years. If a plaintiff files their claim outside the provided time frame, it may be used as a defense.
Involuntary intoxication can be asserted as a defense if the defendant can show they were intoxicated against their will and had no knowledge of the intoxication. This intoxication must have caused the accident. Involuntary intoxication may occur when a drug is placed in someone’s beverage without their knowledge.
In some cases, a plaintiff’s failure to mitigate damages may be used as a defense. This defense is more difficult to prove, but can be used in cases where a plaintiff did not attempt to lessen the damages. For example, failing to seek medical care which lead to more serious injuries would be considered failing to mitigate damages.
Do I Need a Lawyer for a Car Accident Claim?
Yes, chain reaction car accidents can be very complex, involve multiple parties or insurance companies, and include a large amount of evidence. It is extremely important to have a car accident lawyer on your side to ensure your claim is managed properly.
If a settlement is possible, a lawyer will help negotiate and obtain the best amount possible for your case. If a settlement cannot be reached, a lawyer will file a lawsuit and represent you during any court proceedings, if necessary.