If there is one thing many of us know, it’s that car wrecks cause bad traffic. Until the damaged vehicles can be towed away and debris cleared off the road, other drivers may not be able to safely get past the crash scene. Even if other drivers can move around the crashed vehicles safely, there are going to be rubberneckers slowing down so they can get a better look at the crash, and slowing down traffic for everyone.
You could even say that those who are not involved in the crash are still “damaged” by the delays and aggravation (although these people don’t have a claim in court)!
Even worse, crashes can cause chain reactions, where cars in front of or behind the initial crashes also get struck. This causes pileups, which may involve as few as three cars, or involve dozens of cars. One major pile-up crash in 2002 near the Georgia-Tennessee border involved 125 vehicles, including 20 tractor trailers!
The more cars involved in a pile-up, the more people potentially injured, and the more people arguing over who is and who isn’t at fault.
If you’ve been injured in a multi-vehicle wreck, it’s important to hire an experienced auto wreck attorney as soon as possible to identify who is at fault for your injuries, and ensure you get the full amount of compensation you deserve. This is especially true when there can be many people making a claim on a limited amount of coverage.
Determining the “Initiating Event”
This is the cause of the first collision. For example, if Driver A changes lanes without signaling or checking to make sure it’s safe to do so, and crashes into Driver B, and then Driver C swerves to avoid the crash and hits Driver D, the actions of Driver A are the initiating event. This is important, because that means Driver A, as the cause of the initiating event, is usually going to be considered at fault.
The first person to try to figure out the initiating event is going to be the responding police officer, based on testimony from everyone involved and any immediately available evidence.
However, if you were assigned some fault at the scene that you don’t think is correct, don’t worry just yet. While the police report is an important piece of evidence, it’s not the “end all, be all” decision. For every driver involved, their insurance company is going to send out their own team of investigators to try to prove their policy holder wasn’t at fault and someone else is.
Because that means there is likely to going to be a LOT of conflicting opinions, it’s important to have an experienced legal team on your side advocating for you. That means not just leaving it up to your insurance company, who is only concerned with making sure THEY don’t have to pay. You need to hire a lawyer whose goal is to make sure YOU get paid.
What It Means in States like Georgia
Georgia’s modified comparative fault laws mean more than one driver can actually be held responsible for a crash. For example, if we use the same scenario as above, Driver A is at fault for failing to signal and changing lanes recklessly (the initiating event), but Driver B may have been driving distracted, which is why they failed to notice Driver A attempting to merge. Driver C may also be ruled partially at fault for following Driver B too closely to stop in time.
In this scenario, let’s say Driver A is ruled 70% at fault, Drivers B and C are ruled 15% at fault each, and Driver D is ruled 0% at fault.
Any driver who is less than 50% at fault can still get compensation, so Drivers B, C, and D are all entitled to compensation for their damages.
Drivers B and C, however, can’t get as much compensation as Driver D, because they were 15% at fault each, so their compensation is reduced by 15%. Furthermore, each injured driver is not necessarily going to be collecting compensation from the same at-fault driver(s) as someone else injured in the same crash.
It’s important to hire a lawyer to help determine not only your degree of fault (if any), but how much you are owed, and where that compensation is coming from.
What It Means in States like Alabama
Like in Georgia, Alabama law says multiple drivers can be at fault for the same wreck. However, Alabama’s contributory negligence law says that if a driver is even 1% at fault for a wreck, they cannot get any compensation at all.
So if we again use the same example as above with Driver A assigned 70% fault, Driver B assigned 15%, Driver C assigned 15%, and Driver D assigned 0%, only Driver D can get compensation, even if all the drivers were injured.
However, the insurance companies for the other drivers will want to get out of paying Driver D if they can, so they may try to pin Driver D with at least 1% of fault! Unless you have a lawyer who is wise to these kinds of tricks, the same thing may happen to you if you are involved in a pile-up that wasn’t your fault.
In the event of a pile-up, getting a lawyer isn’t just about making sure your compensation payment isn’t reduced, it is making sure you get one at all!
Hurt in a Pile-Up? Get Gary Bruce!
Pileups result in a lot of people hurt—often severely—a lot of people angry, and a lot of confusion. Even a standard fender bender can be enormously stressful on the victims, so pile-ups compound that stress enormously.
Our firm has handled these types of cases before, and we know what it takes to win. Contact the Law Offices of Gary Bruce for a free case consultation after a pile-up, and we’ll go over the details of your potential claim with you to discuss its validity and your potential options going forward.
The one type of crash you never want to try to handle yourself is a pile-up. Call us today to get started.