On January 30, the New York State Police were called to a multi-vehicle crash and pileup on I-90 near Batavia. The incident, which occurred during a snow squall and involved 21 vehicles (including semis), left one trooper with minor injuries. Earlier that day, a chain-reaction crash in Wyomissing, Pennsylvania, damaged 27 vehicles and left 24 people injured, two of them critically.

It’s a catastrophic event that can happen to anyone at any time. You’re on your way home, keeping your driving speed within the legal limit and maintaining a safe following distance between you and the other car. Suddenly that driver slams on the brakes and, despite your best efforts, you hit their rear fender and push them into the car ahead. The resulting multiple-vehicle crash leaves you with a fractured wrist and blocks traffic for hours.

This is one way that these crashes can occur. They can also happen when two cars collide and come to a stop, causing additional vehicles to run into them, or when a collision pushes a car into another lane. All it takes is for one driver to become distracted or lose control of their vehicle and a significant wreck follows, often with multiple injuries.

Who is liable?

Under New York law, the driver at the rear is expected to maintain enough of a following distance to stop in time to avoid a collision, even if the car ahead brakes without warning. This presumed liability remains even during a multi-vehicle collision, but in this case, the liability may be shared by other drivers.

For example, Driver A is traveling too closely behind Driver B, who also happens to be too close to Driver C in front of him. If A runs into B, then he will be liable for any injuries or property damage suffered by B. But if B then runs into C, then A can avoid some liability for C’s losses because B was also being negligent. The degree to which the liability is shared will depend on the circumstances of the accident.

What to do after you are injured

If you’ve been injured in a multi-car pileup, then your first goal should always be to obtain medical treatment.  Then your next call should be to a New York personal injury attorney. Claiming compensation in an accident involving several vehicles can be complicated, as insurance companies are rarely eager to pay large settlements and you may find your claims for compensation diminished or denied. Jayson Lutzky is an accident lawyer with an office in the Morris Park neighborhood of the Bronx, New York. He will help you identify the party at fault and hold them accountable for your medical expenses and property damage so that someone else’s careless driving does not leave you financially bereft in the future. Call 718-514-6619 for an appointment or visit www.MyNewYorkCityLawyer.com.