In April 2019, the driver of a semi-tractor trailer drove into stopped traffic on a highway in Denver, causing a multi-car pileup of 28 vehicles. The impact resulted in a fire and several fatalities. We consider situations like this to be “freak accidents”, but a combination of factors can create a chain reaction that results in a multi-vehicle crash.

Crash Factors

From poor visibility to distracted driving, certain behaviors and conditions can lead to these dangerous accidents, including:

  • Poor Weather Conditions: Reduced visibility from fog; roads slick with snow and ice.
  • Speeding: A driver traveling too fast doesn’t have time to react to cars ahead, colliding with stopped traffic.
  • Fatigued Driving: A driver operating on little sleep poses a serious threat to others on the road.
  • Distracted Driving: Behaviors like calling or texting behind the wheel put lives at risk.
  • Drunk Driving: A driver at this level of impairment can have poor judgment and slower reaction times.
  • Tailgating: You never know when the driver in front will stop suddenly, so it’s always a good idea to follow at a distance.
  • Construction: It’s the law to slow down in work zones, but a reckless driver may collide with stopped or slow-moving cars.
  • Other Accidents: A speeding driver may approach stopped cars ahead, fail to brake in time and cause an even greater collision.

Injuries & Complications

Multi-vehicle crashes have a number of variables and complications, which may prove perilous for passengers:

  • Cars can be hit multiple times from multiple angles.
  • Rescue workers cannot always get to the injured victims. Traffic may be too heavy or the roads could be blocked off.
  • Injuries often require immediate medical attention – broken bones, back and neck injuries, internal injuries and head trauma.
  • Severe pileups may physically damage the roads, melting asphalt, weakening bridges and causing toxic smoke build-up.
  • Car airbags typically deploy once. Vehicle passengers lack this protection in a second or third impact.
  • Poor decisions may result in more fatalities. Attempting to exit the vehicle and walk off the road after a crash could leave drivers and passengers more vulnerable.
  • Multi-vehicle crashes can lead to gas leaks, so there’s a higher chance of fire and explosions.

Investigating a Multi-Car Crash

Fault in a multi-vehicle pileup is not always easy to identify – multiple drivers may be responsible. When it comes to assigning liability, damage to specific cars and how the crashes occurred can be unclear. For instance, a driver stops suddenly and is hit by the car behind him. The impact causes the first driver to hit the car in front, resulting in damage to a third vehicle. Specifically in this case, the driver who hit the first car from behind may only be responsible for damages to that car.

When an investigator goes to determine fault, multiple factors will be considered:

  • All vehicles will be examined and witnesses interviewed, including the drivers, passengers and bystanders, to determine what happened at the scene.
  • If cameras recorded the traffic, footage from the scene may be reviewed.
  • If a vehicle malfunction like brake failure could have caused the crash.
  • Other conditions to determine fault (road conditions, weather, visibility, etc.)

What to Do at the Scene

If you’re involved in a multiple-vehicle collision, make sure you:

  • Turn off the car’s engine.
  • Turn on the hazard lights to make yourself visible.
  • Stay inside the vehicle and keep your seat belt on, until you are told it’s safe to exit.
  • Once you leave your vehicle, move as far away from the accident site as you can.
  • Wait for law enforcement and first responders to arrive and follow all directions.
  • Get medical treatment as soon as you can.
  • Get names and addresses of witnesses. Some may leave before the police arrive.
  • If possible, take pictures of the vehicle, accident scene, roadway conditions and obvious personal injuries.
  • Put together your own notes regarding what happened at the scene.

In the aftermath of a multi-car accident, your life could be changed forever. Unfortunately, the insurance company may hold you partially responsible and could refuse to reimburse you for all medical treatments. Rather than watch the bills pile up while you’re out of work, speak with one of Trantolo & Trantolo’s car accident attorneys today.