According to the most recent data from the Nevada Department of Transportation, more than 50,000 car accidents occur in our state every year. Collectively, these accidents lead to approximately 27,000 injuries, many of which are very serious.
While many car accidents involve two vehicles, about 12 percent of them involve three or more vehicles. These multi-vehicle accidents are also known as chain-reaction collisions.
In any accident, determining fault may not be easy. This is especially true when it comes to multi-vehicle crashes. They present legal complexities because several parties may be responsible for a portion of the bodily injuries or deaths and property damages.
One primary issue is that it is difficult to determine exactly who was responsible for causing the collision. Drivers typical blame each other and witnesses may not know who or what specifically caused the accident. Evidence may be altered, damaged, or destroyed in succeeding collisions.
It is also difficult to determine the proximate cause of a bodily injury. Was it produced by the first impact, or by the third impact when a driver swerved to avoid hitting a school bus involved in a second impact?
A chain-reaction collision can quickly involve many vehicles on a busy roadway, becoming a major incident, and making the investigation difficult and the results subject to interpretation.
Typically, when an accident happens, the party who was at fault for the crash must be held legally liable for the resulting damages. Nevada is considered a “tort” state, which means that injured parties are able to sue the at-fault parties for damages.
In contrast, in no-fault states, drivers are not able to file lawsuits against each other.
In a tort system, in Nevada, the full amount of compensation can be recovered from the at-fault driver’s insurance policy, as well as additional damages – such as pain and suffering – not provided in most auto insurance policies.
The challenge in a multiple-vehicle accident will be to establish fault. Even if you think that the accident was your fault, you may not be responsible for all of the subsequent accidents.
You should contact an experienced car accident attorney to represent your interests. Your attorney should be able to conduct an independent investigation to collect evidence and determine negligence, and will act on your behalf with the insurance companies and the court.
Examples of common multi-vehicle crashes
All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.
Multi-vehicle accidents can occur in many different ways. The similarity is that they involve three or more vehicles.
In order to determine who is responsible for the crash, the unique circumstances of each multi-vehicle crash always need to be reviewed. Independent investigations may be conducted by law enforcements, each of the insurance companies whose policy holders were involved in the accident, and each of the parties to the accident (or more likely the legal representation of each of the parties).
The investigative process can take some time to complete according to the complexity of the crash.
Some textbook example of multi-vehicle collisions that frequently occur in Nevada include the following:
- Rear-end chain-reaction crashes — Rear-end collisions are among the most common types of car accidents. When these accidents occur on busy Las Vegas streets, they often involve more than two vehicles; when one car rear-ends another, it can push that vehicle directly into a third car, creating a chain-reaction incident.
- Cross lane accidents — Some of the surface roads in Las Vegas are four and five lanes wide. When a collision occurs, vehicles can be sent across several lanes, potentially hitting many other cars along the way.
- Freeway/highway pileups — These pileups are among the most dangerous types of car accidents, involving several or even dozens of vehicles, many of which are traveling at a high speed. These crashes can result in very serious injuries, and it can be very difficult to determine fault.
Who is liable for a multiple-vehicle accident?
Liability in a multi-vehicle accident is similar to other accidents. Any driver who is at fault for an accident can be held liable for the resulting damages.
In the case of a multi-vehicle crash, it may be determined that more than one driver is at fault. Multiple at-fault drivers share in the liability according to the extent that their negligence caused the events (the individual accidents) comprising the multiple-vehicle accident.
Ultimately, thorough investigation is the key to multi-vehicle accident claims. You need to get an attorney who can identify every party whose negligence caused your accident so that they can be held responsible for your damages.
I wrote about who is liable, in general, in another article.
Compensation available to victims of multi-vehicle accidents
If you are the victim of a multiple-vehicle accident, it is possible that you were severely hurt and your vehicle was wrecked. You will need compensation for your medical expenses and recovery, and for new transportation so that you can return your life as near to normal as possible.
In Nevada, injured accident victims are entitled to recover money for the full value of their damages. Even if you are partly at fault for the accident, you may still be able to recover some damages from the other at-fault parties.
Unfortunately, depending on the complexity of the accident, the insurance companies (including your own) may either:
- offer you a smaller settlement than that to which you are entitled for a full recovery; or
- delay settlement for as long as possible until all of the investigations have been completed in order to encourage you to accept a smaller settlement.
If there is a cause for action, the litigation process for a multiple-vehicle crash can be lengthy. It will be a daunting task to do this by yourself, especially if you are counting on a compensation reward commensurate to your losses. In a complex case, it probably cannot be done successfully if you are not a lawyer.
You should contact an attorney so that you do not have to fight for your successful recovery on your own.
In another article, I wrote about the available compensation for victims of accidents in general.