Traffic data shows that nearly ⅓ of all traffic accidents in the U.S. are multi-car crashes. When an accident involves more than two vehicles, not only does the crash scene result in more extensive property damage and numerous injury victims, but it also becomes more difficult to determine the cause of the accident and to untangle liability. In Texas, it matters who caused an accident, due to the state’s modified comparative negligence laws that allow injury victims to make claims for damages if they are less than 51% at fault. But when an accident involves three or more vehicles, how do you determine liability?
How Do Pile-Up Car Accidents Occur?
Multi-car crashes are also known as chain reaction accidents or pile-ups. They typically occur when a single vehicle or two vehicles crash on a major roadway with high-speed traffic. Oncoming vehicles moving at high speed don’t have time to stop. They then hit the crashed vehicles, multiplying the number of cars involved in the accident and greatly increasing the number of injury victims. In many cases, the injured victims in the first vehicles in the accident sustain further injuries with every additional impact, often without the benefit of protective airbags which have already deployed and deflated.
Major causes of multi-car accidents include:
- Inclement weather
- Distracted driving
- Driving while intoxicated
- Drowsy driving
- Making unsafe lane changes on high-speed roadways
- Police high-speed chases
- Reckless driving
The risk of multi-car pileups increases during inclement weather with slippery road conditions and compromised visibility due to snow, rain, or fog, especially when drivers don’t adjust their speed to accommodate poor weather conditions. While the average multi-car accident involves up to 4 vehicles, one of the worst pile-ups in Texas history occurred on February 11, 2021, and involved a staggering 133 vehicles in winter storm conditions.
Identifying Fault in a Multi-Car Crash in Texas
It can be particularly challenging to identify the initial cause of a multi-car accident and determine liability. Because the later cars in the pile-up crash into the first vehicles at the accident scene, it can be difficult to analyze evidence of the initial crash. An experienced accident attorney often relies on the police report and eyewitness testimony to determine the cause of the first car crash and determine liability. When dashcam videos, traffic camera footage, or nearby surveillance camera videos are available, it can help the police and a diligent accident attorney to identify the liable party. In some instances, expert testimony from accident reconstruction specialists can greatly assist in determining fault in multi-car pileups. An experienced accident attorney can make a compelling case for compensation for accident victims by demonstrating the following aspects of legal liability on the part of the person at fault:
- The at-fault party had a reasonable duty of care to prevent injury to others by following traffic laws, avoiding distractions, and practicing safety on the roadway
- The at-fault party breached that duty through negligence or recklessness
- The negligent or reckless act caused injury
- The injury victim(s) suffered real damages
Damages Available in Multi-Car Crash Claims
Once there is a determination on liability and comparative fault in a Texas multi-car accident, injury victims can gain compensation for their damages from the insurance party of the driver at fault. Damages may include:
- Past and future medical expenses related to the accident
- Lost income during recovery time away from work
- Lowered earning capacity if the injury caused a permanent partial or total disability
- Pain and suffering, and any other appropriate non-economic damages
It only takes one mistake or a single reckless action to cause a chain reaction accident on a major roadway. When serious injuries and property damage result, the insurance company of the party at fault must provide compensation to victims.