With the recent wintry weather, many people were involved in accidents involving multiple cars. Whether due to poor visibility, snow or icy hills, these accidents are an unfortunate part of living in an area with rare, but extreme weather. As compared to a "typical" crash involving two cars, these accidents can contain a large number of vehicles, and more challenge and hassle to resolve.
What do you do if you are involved in a multi-car pileup accident?
1. Make sure the police investigate. Often a police report is the final word that insurance adjusters rely on to determine who is at fault.
2. Do not admit any kind of fault at the scene. Just give your version of events.
3. If possible take photos of the vehicles were they came to rest, as well as the accident scene.
4. Get medical attention if you are hurt.
5. File a claim with the appropriate insurance company. And this is where it gets tricky. In situations with multiple cars, more than one person may be at fault for the accident. Cars are often hit multiple times, by different cars. You may be partly at fault for the accident. This is what the various insurance adjusters will have to figure out. They will refer to the applicable law in the state where the accident occurred, to apportion (divide) liability between the parties.
In a multiple car accident, the insurance companies will assign a portion of liability to each party. An example is: Car A is sitting still waiting for the light to change at the bottom of a hill. Car B slides into A because of ice. Car C makes an abrupt lane change, causing it to slide into both A and B. Car D slides on ice into C. Liability could be assessed as follows: Car A - 0%, Car B - 20%, Car C - 60%, Car D - 20%. Your recovery will be calculated depending where you fall in the liability assessment.
Washington is a pure comparative negligence state. This means that each party is assessed a portion of fault, and his recovery is limited or reduced by his level of liability. In the example above, Car C could recover damages but only at 40%, because he is 60% at fault.
Oregon is a modified comparative negligence state. Similar to Washington, each party is assessed a portion of fault, and their recovery is limited by their level of liability. However, in Oregon if a party is determined to be 51% or more at fault, s/he cannot recover at all! So in the example above, Car C would not be able to recover anything, due to fault over 51%.
It can be difficult to recover monetary compensation in these situations. Sometimes it's easier to file all of your claims with your own insurance company and let them process your vehicle repair and PIP claims while you are waiting for liability to be sorted out. Chances are you will get some of your deductible refunded (especially if you are Car A in the above example). Once liability is sorted out you will be able to determine which parties to pursue for compensation for your injury claim.
If you were involved in a multiple car accident and are either being blamed wholly for it or are having a hard time determining who to pursue for compensation, it is time to consult with an experienced attorney.