Chain Reaction Collisions and How Comparative Negligence Laws Factor In

by Gina Corena

Last Updated on September 21,2023

Chain Reaction Collisions and How Comparative Negligence Laws Factor In

Chain reaction collisions tend to be among the most severe traffic accidents. Generally, chain reaction crashes happen in low-visibility conditions on high-speed roads, like freeways or highways. These multi-vehicle accidents can involve as little as three automobiles or over a hundred.

While chain reaction collisions pose significant risks, other factors can exacerbate the dangers on the road, especially during certain times of the year. As we approach the year’s end, there’s a notable uptick in impaired drivers.

What makes chain reaction collisions so deadly is the accumulation of cars creates a crushing force, trapping drivers and their passengers. If motorists can leave their vehicles, they may be hit by another car.

While chain reaction collisions are a year-round concern, they become even more prevalent during certain periods. The End of the Year Brings Out More Drunk Drivers, and this is a time when heightened vigilance is necessary. These multi-vehicle accidents can involve as little as three automobiles or over a hundred, and year-end festivities can lead to a surge in drunk driving incidents

Vehicles involved in chain reaction collisions are often stuck multiple times, sometimes at high speeds. Emergency personnel can be overwhelmed by the number of automobiles, making rescue efforts difficult and slow.

What is a Chain Reaction Collision?

A chain reaction collision, or multi-vehicle accident, involves more than two automobiles colliding into the next. Chain reaction collisions are characterized by a series of rear-end accidents that happen one after the other.

Fault for chain reaction collisions is challenging to determine. They may result from one driver’s negligence or the carelessness of multiple drivers.

What Typically Causes Multi-Vehicle Automobile Accidents?

One negligent driver can lead to numerous motor vehicle pile-ups. Any of the following circumstances can cause a chain reaction collision:

  • Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs can slow reaction time. When cars come to a halt at a stop sign, traffic light, or due to an obstruction in the road, an intoxicated driver may not react in time and slam into the stopped vehicle. Depending on congestion, the cars behind may struggle to come to an abrupt stop and begin the chain reaction collision.
  • Speeding is another factor in many chain reaction collisions. When drivers excessively speed, the distance needed to reach a complete stop lengthens considerably. If a car or truck must stop abruptly, a speeding vehicle behind will inevitably hit the one in front.
  • Following too close to the vehicle in front is another common cause of chain reaction collisions. Cars are heavy, many weighing more than 3,000 pounds. When weight and speed are combined, the stopping distance lengthens. If a vehicle follows too close to an automobile, the stopping distance will put them in the same occupying space as the one in front, causing a collision.
  • Fatigue or drowsy driving has a similar effect on a driver’s cognitive abilities as alcohol. A drowsy driver is more likely to react slower or not pay attention to the road.
  • Distracted driving is a significant factor in chain reaction collisions when there are multiple instances of negligence. A distracted driver may follow too close or not see when traffic slows or stops in many cases.
  • Driving too fast for weather conditions, like rain, ice, or snow, can lead to multi-vehicle accidents. When the road is slick, cars will need to reduce their speed and leave longer stopping distances between vehicles. If a car fails to do so or takes advantage of wide traffic spaces by weaving in and out of the lanes, a chain reaction collision becomes very likely.
  • Chain reaction collisions can also be caused by drivers failing to follow traffic laws, like changing lanes without checking blind spots, improper yielding, or not using a turn signal.

Multi-car collisions are more likely to happen when there is poor road visibility from snow, rain, fog, or poorly lit streets.

How Prevalent Are Chain Reaction Collisions?

Chain reaction collisions produce more severe and catastrophic injuries than other crash types, especially in highly congested areas like highways and freeways. When multiple vehicles are involved in an accident, the mass of automobiles can be crushing and prevent many accident victims from escaping.

In the last reporting year, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) found that chain reaction collisions resulted in the following:

  • 61% of traffic fatalities are due to multi-vehicle accidents
  • Chain reaction collisions involving rear-end crashes totaled 1,106

Last year, one of the worst chain reaction collisions in history occurred in Fort Worth, Texas. On February 11, 2021, 133 vehicles were involved in the deadly crash along Interstate 35W. The mass collision is:

  • The 5th most fatal chain reaction collision in U.S. history
  • 6th highest injury rate
  • 7th most vehicles in any collision

In Tennessee, another horrific accident took place on Interstate 75 in Calhoun. The crash involved 99 vehicles. A fire broke out in the mass of cars and caused 12 deaths and 42 injuries.

Chain reaction collisions are responsible for the deadliest car crashes in U.S. history.

Who Is Responsible in a Chain Reaction Collision?

Determining who is responsible for a chain reaction collision is challenging and requires an in-depth investigation. Law enforcement will analyze the evidence against the following questions:

  • Did inclement weather play a role in the accident?
  • What was the position of the vehicles?
  • Which driver set off the chain reaction?
  • Was the initial driver negligent in any way, e.g., distracted, intoxicated, speeding?
  • Were other drivers negligent, e.g., following too close, failing to follow the rules of the road?

Police will conclude who is at fault for the accident and explain how it occurred. In some cases, only one car may be responsible for the chain reaction collision, but it is possible to have two or more negligent drivers.

Comparative negligence plays a key role when determining liability in a civil action case involving a multi-vehicle accident.

What is Comparative Negligence?

Comparative negligence is a legal concept that assigns a percentage of fault to each liable person. If one person is responsible for the crash in a chain reaction collision, they will receive 100 percent of the fault. When there are multiple negligent drivers, the fault percentage will represent the degree of wrongdoing.

For example, two are responsible for a chain reaction collision involving ten cars. The vehicle that started the chain reaction is assigned 80% of the fault. The other is allocated 20% of the fault due to speeding.

Modified comparative negligence will allow anyone who is found to be less than 50% responsible to recover compensation in a civil suit. However, accident victims will not receive the full settlement or verdict. Instead, they will collect a portion of the settlement or verdict based on their fault percentage.

In the case example above, the car that started the chain reaction collision is not entitled to recover any damages. The second car may collect damages less than 20 percent. If the awarded damages are $100,000, they may collect $80,000.

What You Should Do if You Are in a Chain Reaction Collision

When you are involved in a chain reaction collision, it can be deadly to exit your vehicle. To protect yourself and your loved ones, take the following steps:

  • Stay in your car and keep your seatbelt on and in the correct position. Chain reaction collisions have involved over a hundred vehicles. It may not be safe to leave your vehicle if more automobiles are careening into the pile. Wait for the police or paramedics.
  • Be sure to turn your hazard lights on, especially in low visibility.
  • After a professional at the scene allows you to exit your car, take the opportunity to take pictures of the scene and your vehicle. Speak to witnesses and collect what information you can.
  • Seek medical attention at the scene whether or not you feel injured. In some cases, people can experience a delay in their symptoms. Without proper medical treatment, minor injuries can become serious.

Chain reaction collisions can lead to debilitating injuries. If you have been hurt in a chain reaction collision, Gina Corena & Associates can advise you of your rights and protect your best interests.

If you’ve been involved in a car collision, our Las Vegas car collision attorney can provide legal guidance and help you obtain compensation for your injuries.

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