Example of a Chain Reaction Accident We Handled
Chain reaction accidents are fairly common on I-295 and I-95, particularly in the summer months when traffic is heavy. Motorists traveling from “elsewhere” are often very tired, having been on the road for sometimes many hours. Long-distance travel, combined with exhaustion, can result in drivers not being as careful as they should to maintain adequate stopping distances distances between their vehicle and the vehicle ahead. Congested traffic (whether combined with exhaustion or not) can also result in drivers trying to merge or shift lanes without adequate space to do so and/or without properly gauging the speed of an approaching vehicle. All of these factors can result in one or more drivers braking suddenly, causing a chain reaction accident due to the close proximity of vehicles traveling behind each other.
We have handled hundreds of chain reaction accident cases over the years. One that stands out in particular involved a seven car pile-up on I-95, just before the exit to I-295 heading North. A couple from Massachusetts were apparently having trouble determining whether they should take the exit and the husband decided to slow to approximately 35 miles per hour to give himself more time to read the signs. The sudden deceleration, combined with a heavily congested roadway, resulted in a serious pile-up. Our client was the third car in the chain and was seriously injured as a result.
As is almost always the case in chain reaction accidents, the “finger pointing” began immediately. Obviously everyone was pointing at the driver from Massachusetts as being primarily responsible for causing the accident. However, the agreement among the other drivers involved in the accident ended there. We consulted with an accident reconstructionist who we had employed in another case to assess from the pictures and physical evidence at the accident scene how the accident happened and who, other than the Massachusetts driver, was responsible for the accident occurring in the manner it did. Our expert was able to demonstrate from skid marks and the damage to the vehicles that the vehicle traveling behind our client hit our client’s vehicle forcefully, driving our client into the vehicle ahead of her that was slowing to avoid colliding with the Massachusetts couple’s vehicle. This information contradicted the claim of the driver of the vehicle traveling behind our client that our client hit the vehicle ahead of her before being hit from behind.
It was particularly important for our client’s case that we were able to establish that the driver behind was at least partially at fault because the Massachusetts driver had relatively little in the way of insurance coverage to pay for our client’s injuries, as well as the injuries of several others who were involved in the accident. The Massachusetts driver simply did not have enough insurance coverage to go around. (He also did not have personal assets that could compensate our client or the other injured parties.) Our client also maintained minimal underinsured motorists’ coverage on her own policy and, therefore, was not able to receive compensation from her insurance carrier. Fortunately, the driver who hit our client’s vehicle from behind had a very large insurance policy that was more than adequate to fully and fairly compensate our client for her injuries.
Our expert’s report was instrumental in getting a fair, timely, and reasonable resolution to this case for our client. She was very pleased with the outcome. (Settlement information not included in order to maintain confidentiality for our client.) This case illustrates the importance of aggressively seeking all available insurance coverage because, as is often the case, there may not be adequate insurance coverage from a driver who is primarily responsible for an accident, particularly in multicar collisions such as chain reaction accidents.