A pileup accident, also known as a multi-vehicle accident, is the term that is used for car accidents that occur on a highway. These types of accidents involve some number of motor vehicles crashing into one another in succession. In general, pileup accidents typically start off as one vehicle hitting the bumper of the car in front of it (i.e., a rear-end collision), which in turn, causes a domino effect in the string of cars behind the initial vehicle that caused the first accident.

Pileup accidents are extremely dangerous and can result in multiple casualties. What happens is that as the cars collide into one another they get jammed together. So as more and more cars become involved in the accident, it creates this chain of ongoing impact that can cause further property damage and severe injuries to those engaged in the pileup.

While not every pileup accident may result in an emergency situation, it is possible for these types of multi-vehicle accidents to involve anywhere from a handful of cars to one hundred or more vehicles in serious cases.

Some examples of the specific dangers that pileup accidents can cause in their aftermath include:

  • Passengers and drivers being trapped in their vehicles, which may lead to a situation involving a “crush injury”;
  • The possibility of explosions, fires that spread to other vehicles or lanes, and chemical spills (e.g., gasoline, antifreeze, etc.);
  • Traffic backups that can cause collisions in other lanes as drivers attempt to move from the lane that contains the pileup accident; and
  • They can make it difficult for rescue teams to reach drivers and passengers that are stuck inside their own vehicles or buried under other persons’ vehicles.

In addition, the injuries and property damage associated with a pileup accident may be more severe if the following factors are part of the incident:

  • Drivers who collide with the vehicle pileup at high speeds or while using aggressive driving maneuvers;
  • Drivers who either cause or hit the pileup accident because they are driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol; and/or
  • When buses, passenger vans, commercial trucks, tractor trailers, or any other type of large vehicle is involved in the pileup accident.

Pileup accidents can occur for a number of different reasons. For instance, weather conditions that cause poor driving visibility like dust storms, blinding sunlight, or snowstorms may be to blame for a pileup accident. Another factor that can cause pileup accidents to happen is if there are bad road conditions, such as black ice, potholes, unfinished construction, or when the road itself is built on a steep or natural incline.

Some other factors that can give rise to pileup accidents may include a vehicle mechanical failure (e.g., brakes malfunction, worn tire treads, engine overheats, etc.), or a specific event that temporarily causes a driver to lose control (e.g., heart attack, argument with a passenger, etc.).

Since pileup accidents can involve serious injuries and multiple parties, you may want to consider hiring a local personal injury lawyer if you intend to file a claim. A lawyer will be able to help you navigate the often-complicated procedures that come with bringing or defending against a pileup accident lawsuit.

Who Can be Held Liable for a Pileup Accident?

Generally speaking, figuring out which parties should be held responsible for a pileup accident can pose quite a challenge. As previously mentioned, pileup accidents can involve anywhere from a few to over a hundred motor vehicles. This can make it difficult to determine exactly which parties to assign liability and damages. Thus, the outcome for many of these types of cases will depend on the individual facts of a specific matter.

In many instances, however, it is usually the first car in the pileup that will be held liable in a lawsuit. The injured parties may cite to reasons, such as a driver’s brakes failed or they skidded on black ice, causing the accident that initiated the entire pileup incident. Drivers behind the first accident may also be held responsible if they were doing things like speeding, driving drunk, or tailing the cars in front of them too closely.

Therefore, it is crucial that the parties to a pileup accident lawsuit gather substantial evidence to support their arguments. Some examples of the types of evidence that may be useful in such cases include:

  • Statements from eyewitnesses;
  • Photos or video footage of the incident;
  • Medical reports; and
  • Data collected by the vehicle (e.g., recording devices, digital readings from certain vehicle parts, etc.).

In particularly difficult cases, expert witness testimony and accident reconstruction may be helpful as well. To learn more about the different kinds of evidence that can be useful in supporting one’s claim in a pileup accident lawsuit, an individual should consult with a local personal injury lawyer who will be familiar with what makes a case successful. Additionally, a lawyer can assist in hiring an expert witness or accident reconstructionist.

Are There any Legal Remedies for Pileup Accident Claims?

As discussed above, pileup accidents can result in severe damage to all persons and vehicles connected to an incident. In some cases, pileup accidents may also lead to loss of life and structural damage to surrounding property. Accordingly, there are a number of legal remedies that an injured party may be able to recover when they prevail on a pileup accident claim.

Some of these legal remedies may include the following:

  • A monetary damages award, which can be used to cover expenses, such as:
    • Hospital bills,
    • Property replacement and repairs (e.g., if the injured party’s vehicle is damaged in the accident),
    • Lost wages or future earning capacity,
    • Costs associated with wrongful death claims,
    • Administrative court costs and attorneys’ fees, and
    • Various medical expenses like medical devices, in-home care aids, and prescriptions.
  • A punitive damages award (note that courts rarely issue this type of damages award for a standard pileup accident); and
  • Any other damages that may be associated with separate claims being asserted in the lawsuit.

Given the extensive range of remedies that may be available to an injured party, opposing parties who are allegedly at fault for the accident should retain their own separate counsel. A lawyer will be able to assist them in calculating damages, which can be extremely complicated to figure out when there are multiple parties and vehicles involved in a pileup car accident.

Do I Need a Lawyer?

In general, lawsuits that arise from pileup accidents tend to involve multiple parties and require extensive knowledge of state-specific laws. Therefore, it may be in your best interest to hire a local car accident lawyer for further legal advice on your pileup accident issue.

An experienced personal injury lawyer will be able to inform you about your rights under the relevant laws in your state and can offer recommendations on your best options for legal recourse. Your lawyer can also assist you in drafting any legal documents that you may need for your case as well as can help you to gather evidence.

In addition, if some of the parties involved in your lawsuit are insurance companies, your lawyer can try to negotiate a fairer and more favorable settlement award on your behalf. Alternatively, your lawyer can also provide legal representation in court if your case goes to trial.