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Who is at Fault in a Multi-Vehicle Accident?


Fault in a multi-vehicle accident can be assigned to one or more parties, and determining fault requires careful investigation of the facts and evidence.These types of car accidents can occur at both low and high speeds on highways, city streets, or county roads. Multi-vehicle accidents are particularly dangerous because rather than getting hit from one direction, drivers and passengers can suffer impacts from multiple directions in rapid succession.

Causes of Multi-Vehicle Accidents

There are many causes for multi-vehicle accidents. These include but are not limited to the following reasons:

Poor Visibility - Fog and rain are the most common reasons for multi-vehicle crashes. In these conditions, it is quite common for drivers to follow too closely to vehicles in front of them.

Ice - Black ice is particularly dangerous as drivers often don't realize they are traveling on a sheet of ice until they are on it or too close to it to safely decelerate.

Obstructions -Obstructions can appear suddenly, such as debris falling from a truck, an animal crossing, a tree falling in the road, etc. In such cases, drivers typically brake suddenly or swerve to avoid the obstacle. When this happens, the driver can travel into the path of other vehicles or cause vehicles to "rear end" them.

Excessive Speed - Excessive speed involves driving too fast for conditions, such as in rain/ice/snow. It can also be a factor even if the driver is traveling at the posted speed limit if there is traffic on the road. For example, if a driver is driving and fails to reduce speed following posted notice of construction zones.

Distraction -Sending text messages, talking on the phone, eating, chatting with friends, rubbernecking an accident, drowsy driving, etc., are distracted driving activities that take a driver's attention away from the road. At 60 MPH, a vehicle travels 50 meters per second; and one second of innattention is sufficient to rear-end vehicles down the road.

Common Injuries in Multi-Vehicle Accidents

Multi-vehicle accidents often cause serious injuries to drivers and motorists who are caught up in them. Multi-vehicle accidents account for just undre 10% of all accidents, but more than 25% of all fatalities. Most recently, a six-vehicle multi-car accident on I-81 claimed the lives of two men from Blountville, Tennessee. The accident was caused when an intoxicated motorist failed to reduce speed as she came upon the scene of an earlier accident.

These injuries can include:

Whiplash - Rear-end impacts, and sudden jarring from side-to-side can cause severe injuries to the neck and spinal column. Front and side airbags can help reduce the severity, but they cannot fully prevent it.

Crushing -Vehicles are designed to crumple from the front and the rear. However, severe damage in these areas can easily cause the vehicle's frame to collapse and crush the vehicle's occupants.

Fire & Fuel Inhalation -These are most dangerous in accidents where motorists or passengers are trapped within a crushed vehicle. Exposure to toxic fuel fumes can lead to long-term respiratory damage, and should these fumes ignite, motorists can suffer severe burns and succumb to their injuries. This was the cause of death for the two men who were killed in the I-81 accident.

Shrapnel Injuries -Shattered glass, dislodged automobile parts, and unsecured items can become fast moving missiles during a multi-vehicle collision. These can strike drivers and passengers from multiple angles and cause everything from contusions and concussions to severe lacerations and amputation of limbs.

Proving Negligence in Tennessee

Tennessee statutes require motorists and other injured parties to establish negligence in order to recover damages from a multi-vehicle accident. The fault of a multi-vehicle accident may be the result of the actions of many different motorists involved in the crash. It may also involve contributing factors such as a poorly maintained road surface, the improper securing of items that "fell off the back of the landscaping/trash/flatbed truck," etc.

Because multi-vehicle accidents can involve impacts from many different directions that occur at gradually reducing speeds, it is often necessary to complete a full accident reconstruction. This shows how the drivers reacted during the crash, and how their actions subsequently affected other motorists, their passengers, pedestrians, etc.

This information is combined with accident reports, eyewitness testimony, insurance claims, medical records, and other evidence including video and photographs that can be compiled by a plaintiff's car accident lawyer. This evidence is then presented to the court to determine who is at fault. In Tennessee, the state adheres to a modified rule regarding comparative negligence. As such, the judge or jury has the authority to determine the total damages to be awarded, and based on the percentage of fault assigned to each party, how much each plaintiff can be awarded. Only motorists who are less than 49% at fault can collect damages for the accident.

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