Pileup Accidents Are Common — and Deadly
All car accidents are dangerous, frightening, and stressful, and the more cars that are involved, the more dangerous a collision becomes. More than 6 million car crashes occur every year, and of those, between one-third and half of them are multivehicle (pileup) crashes. In fact, from 2014 to 2015 (the most recent complete data available), the number of fatalities from multivehicle crashes increased by 11.2%.
You’ve probably heard about some of the enormous pileups that have happened in recent years. For example, in February of 2017, 32 vehicles were involved in a pileup on I-37; FOX San Antonio reported that a thick fog caused a chain reaction of collisions, resulting in two people being taken to the hospital.
But pileups can be even more severe than that: in 2015, CBS News reported a pileup of 193 vehicles in Michigan, resulting in the death of one man and the hospitalization of two dozen people.
Even small pileups have their own unique dangers. Below, we’ll discuss some of the causes and hazards of pileups — and your rights if you are injured in a pileup crash.
What Causes Pileups?
Many factors come into play in a pileup. These crashes often occur at high speeds or in bad weather when one collision sets off a chain reaction. Intersections and freeways are common sites, with a pileup beginning when a vehicle hits a stopped car in traffic or sideswipes another vehicle in an intersection.
Although research into the various causes of pileups is limited, some common causes include:
- Bad weather — Poor visibility and slick road conditions contribute to increased danger for pileups.
- Driving over the legal speed limit or driving too fast for current conditions — These factors can keep a vehicle from being able to stop soon enough to avoid a collision with another car.
- Falling asleep — Tired driving is an especially dangerous cause of pileup accidents, as a dozing driver’s foot may remain on the gas pedal while no one is steering the car. The vehicle can then drift from its lane or rear-end another vehicle, pushing the second vehicle into traffic and causing a chain reaction.
- Driving intoxicated or impaired — Alcohol, drugs, and the side-effects of prescription medications can all lead to drowsiness, slower reaction times, poor perception of distance, and impaired judgment. According to the CDC, 28 people die every day due to impaired driving in the United States. In Texas, the number of people who report driving after drinking is slightly above the national average.
- Distracted driving — Anything that takes your eyes off the road, your hands off the wheel, or your mind off driving increases your risk for a crash. The CDC reports that the number of annual deaths caused by distracted driving increased significantly from 2010 to 2015, with more than 3,477 distraction-related traffic deaths occurring in 2015.
The Unique Dangers of Pileup Crashes
Regardless of the cause, pileups expose drivers to the risk of injury and even death. Some of the reasons multivehicle collisions are so dangerous include:
- Increased risk of injury — Multiple collisions mean more chances for injury, especially in pileups that occur at high speeds.
- Fires — Pileups generally cause more vehicle damage compared to a typical crash, which in turn increases the risk of a fire. In addition, pileup crashes tend to leave multiple vehicles jammed close together, which can lead to passengers being trapped inside their cars — a potentially deadly problem in the event of a fire.
- Blocked paths for emergency vehicles — On busy roads, which are more prone to multiple-vehicle crashes, emergency vehicles take longer to arrive on the scene. When victims need medical attention and every second counts, delays can worsen injuries and even cause fatalities.
- Drivers and passengers exiting their vehicles — During a pileup, people tend to get out of their vehicles, either because they are in shock or because they want to survey the scene. Unfortunately, a crash further back in a pileup can affect vehicles all the way in the front; meanwhile, many unaffected vehicles will try to quickly maneuver around the crash site. All of this leaves people outside of their vehicles at a much higher risk of being struck.
Compensation for Being Injured in a Pileup
All drivers have a duty of care toward others using the roads, which means they are responsible for driving carefully and reasonably. Failing to practice safe driving habits may be considered a willful or negligent act, making at-fault drivers obligated to compensate those they injure. Texas is one of many states that follow what is known as a modified comparative fault rule, which means drivers who are 50% at fault or less in an accident can collect damages.
In a pileup, determining fault can be very complex because multiple drivers and collisions are involved. For example, one driver may have been following too closely and crashed into another, but only because another driver rear-ended them and pushed their vehicle forward. If they had not gotten rear-ended, the first driver never would have hit the second. So, who is responsible? And to what degree?
Because multiple-vehicle accidents are so complicated, it’s impossible to give blanket advice about who is at fault in a pileup crash and whether you may be eligible for compensation. Instead, the answers to these questions will depend on the unique facts and circumstances of your case. If you have been injured or lost a loved one in a pileup crash, the best thing you can do is speak with a knowledgeable personal injury attorney who can listen to the details of your story and give you their informed opinion about what your best course of action is moving forward.
Crosley Law Firm: Advocates for Pileup Crash Victims
No matter how carefully you drive, you can’t guarantee that others will do the same. Though safe driving practices like always wearing a seat belt can reduce your risk of injury or death, there is no way to eliminate your risk of becoming injured due to another driver’s carelessness.
If you have suffered because of a pileup accident or other collision caused by someone else’s negligent behavior, Crosley Law Firm is here to help you. You can get in touch with us by filling out our convenient online form or by calling us at 210-LAW-3000 (210-529-3000). We offer a free consultation where we can discuss your unique situation and offer you candid legal advice. If we can take on your case, you won’t have to pay a thing unless we achieve a settlement or win your case in court.
Don’t wait — contact us today!
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2014, December). Sobering Facts: Drunk Driving in Texas. CDC. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/motorvehiclesafety/pdf/impaired_driving/drunk_driving_in_tx.pdf
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2017, June 9). Distracted Driving. CDC. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/motorvehiclesafety/distracted_driving/index.html
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2017, June 15). Impaired Driving. CDC. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/motorvehiclesafety/impaired_driving/index.html
Gray, M. (2015, January 13). Major car pileup in Michigan blamed on driver error. CBS News. Retrieved from http://www.cbsnews.com/news/major-car-pileup-in-michigan-blamed-on-driver-error/
SGB San Antonio. (2017, February 1). I-37 northbound reopens following massive chain-reaction pileup. FOX San Antonio. Retrieved from http://foxsanantonio.com/news/local/traffic-alert-massive-pile-up-on-i-37-involving-18-wheelers-several-cars
The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.