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North Carolina Chain Reaction Crashes: Determining Fault

A mile-long stretch of busy interstate was blocked by mangled metal that ground traffic to a halt. Nearly four dozen vehicles – many of those tractor-trailers – were involved in a chain-reaction wreck on I-94 in Indiana that was eerily similar to the I-77 pileup on the Virginia-North Carolina border last year.

In the latter case, there were some 17 crashes involving 95 vehicles within a one-mile span of the southbound lanes. There, three were killed and 25 injured. In the Indiana crash, there were also three killed, while 20 were seriously injured.

Both of those wrecks were caused by sudden, inclement weather. Asheville car accident attorneys know that anytime you have a chain-reaction crash like this, it can be very difficult to determine who is at-fault.

That can be a major problem in the aftermath of these cases, which tend to result in far more injuries than deaths. In a lot of these situations, law enforcement investigators as well as insurance company claims adjusters begin looking at crashes within the crash, determining liability on that basis, as opposed to pinning it all solely on the driver of the first vehicle that started the chain-reaction.

This can be especially tough when the crashes you’re talking about all occurred within a matter of moments.

For example, a traffic camera in Wisconsin recently was positioned in such a way that it filmed a pileup in real time. The images reveal that it started out as so many of these cases do: In heavy snow. Three lanes of traffic creep along, but suddenly, a few cars are seen speeding past the rest. They skid out of control. They crash into each other. The road is blocked. Other vehicles traveling too quickly don’t have enough time to stop. In less than a minute, 70 vehicles are involved.

Very few of these collisions have the benefit of video evidence to help sort through the facts. Mostly, there is a heavy reliance on witness statements. However, these might be flawed, particularly when you consider that if visibility was already a problem, accurate accounts may be difficult to come by. Even those involved may have little sense of the overall picture.

While crash investigators may be brought in, often in pileups vehicles may be too damaged and close together to come to any definitive conclusion about what really happened.

An example of this stemmed from a crash out of Ohio – in fact the largest in that state’s history, occurring in January of last year on I-275 near Cincinnati. The wreck involved some 86 vehicles and resulted in the death of a 12-year-old girl. The interstate was closed for five hours. In all, some 16 investigators were involved in trying to figure out what caused the crash. There was scene reconstruction, scores of photographs and numerous witness interviews. Charts were kept of which vehicles were towed by what company. All of this resulted in a 260-page report. The findings? It was “impossible” to determine who was at fault.

In these cases, you may be pursuing a damages claim from your own insurance carrier. It’s important to note, though, that even if a person hasn’t been charged with any wrong-doing by law enforcement, he or she can still be found “at-fault” by the insurance company, even though North Carolina is a liability insurance state.

These cases require the involvement of a personal injury law firm with extensive experience in complex accident litigation.

If you or a loved one is involved in an Asheville car accident, contact Grimes Teich Anderson LLP. Call 1.800.533.6845.

Additional Resources:
Indiana highway reopens after massive pileup kills 3, injures 22, Jan. 24, 2014, By Jeff Black and Elisha Fieldstadt, NBC News
More Blog Entries:
Carter v. Standard Fire Insurance – Stacking Underinsured Motorist Coverage in South Carolina, Jan. 9, 2014, Asheville Personal Injury Lawyer Blog

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