Multi-vehicle accidents involving three or more cars account for only about 12% of auto wrecks across the country each year. That 12% of accidents, however, results in 40% of traffic deaths annually, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). If you survive a multi-car accident, you could be seriously injured and not sure exactly who is liable for your damages.
Causes of Multi-Vehicle Car Accidents In South Carolina
Multi-vehicle accidents often result from chain reactions:
- One car rear-ends another car, forcing that car to rear-end the car in front of it, and so on.
- A collision between two vehicles causes a road hazard that other vehicles cannot avoid hitting.
- One car strikes another and knocks it into an adjacent lane or oncoming traffic, causing more collisions.
- A driver gawking at an accident fails to watch the road and causes a second accident.
- Bad weather conditions at the scene prevent nearby cars from stopping in time to avoid a pile-up.
Multi-car crashes happen most often on Interstate highways and in other places where cars are traveling close together at high speeds.
Multi-Vehicle Crash Injuries
Victims in multi-car crashes often suffer major vehicle damage and sustain severe injuries:
- Broken, fractured, or crushed bones
- Whiplash/other neck injuries
- Spinal cord injuries/paralysis
- Internal bleeding
- Organ damage
- Concussions/traumatic brain injury
Injuries like these can lead to exorbitant medical bills and extended time off work. You may file a claim for damages against the insurance company of the driver(s) who caused the accident if you know who was responsible.
Determining Liability in a South Carolina Multi-Car Accident
In a two-car accident, the driver of one car is apt to be primarily responsible for the other driver’s and/or passengers’ damages:
- Medical expenses
- Property damage
- Wages lost due to time off work
- Pain and suffering
South Carolina car accidents are on the rise according to a recent Department of Motor Vehicles study. In a multi-car crash, though, it is often more difficult to determine who initially caused the accident. Various patterns of fault are possible:
- The vehicle at the front of the chain stops very suddenly in congested, high-speed traffic (or does not have working brake lights), causing a second car to rear-end the front car, a third car to rear-end the second car, and so on. The driver at the front could be found liable for all damages.
- A middle car rear-ends the car in front of it and stops, causing the front car to rear-end the car in front of it, and so on. Cars in the rear then hit and pile up behind the stopped middle car that started the chain reaction. The driver of the middle car could be responsible for all damage done in the crash.
- The car at the rear of the chain is speeding or traveling too close to the car in front of it and strikes that car, forcing the car in front of it to hit the car in front of it and so on. The motorist at the rear could be found liable for all damages or for a percentage of damages if some cars were traveling too close together.
- An unknown hit-and-run driver rear-ends the car at the back of the chain and flees the scene, damaging the back of the car it hit and causing a chain reaction among all cars in front of it. This driver could be liable for all damages if apprehended by police.
In the accident scenarios described above, each motorist involved might have a different account of the crash and cast blame upon the other drivers. A meticulous investigation, as well as accident reconstruction and analysis, could be necessary to assign accurate percentages of fault to the different drivers involved so that victims know whom to file claims against or sue if necessary.
Other Liable Parties
If improperly maintained highways or hazards on the road contributed to the crash, you might have a claim again the agency responsible for road maintenance.
If the at-fault driver was under the influence of alcohol, you might be able to invoke dram shop liability laws to bring a claim against any bar/restaurant that served the driver drinks the day/night of the crash.
If the liable party was driving a commercial vehicle like a truck, you might have multiple claims against:
- The trucker
- The trucking company
- The owner of the truck
- A leasing/rental agency
- A manufacturer
- A repair service
Protecting Your Charleston Car Accident Claim
There are several things you can do at the scene of the accident to protect your claim. If you are physically able to, you should get to a safe place and do the following:
- Call 911 and report the accident.
- Take photos of all damaged vehicles, the scene, skid marks, and other evidence.
- Exchange contact information with other drivers, but don’t discuss the accident or admit fault.
- Get contact information from witnesses.
- Sign no documents beyond what police require.
- Seek medical attention immediately even if you don’t feel you’re seriously injured.
- Contact your insurance company.
- Consult an attorney.
South Carolina follows a doctrine of modified comparative negligence with a 51% bar. This means that you may recover compensation for damages even if you are partially at fault in your accident. Your award will be reduced according to your percentage of fault as long as you are no more than 50% responsible for the crash. If you are found 51% responsible or if your percentage of fault is greater than the other drivers’ percentages of fault combined, you may not collect any compensation at all.
To make matters even more complicated, South Carolina’s joint and several liabilities rule can hold any liable defendant responsible for all the damages awarded to injured plaintiffs. If you’re hurt in such a crash, a car accident attorney can help you by:
- Interviewing and getting statements from all drivers, passengers, and witnesses to the crash
- Bringing in an accident reconstruction worker to help figure out percentages of fault
- Obtaining data from the “black box” of any commercial vehicle involved before that data is erased
- Obtaining video footage from any cameras mounted near the scene
- Organizing/presenting your medical evidence and assigning a monetary value to your pain and suffering to evaluate your claim
- Filing claims against or suing multiple liable parties to get you full compensation for damages