Posted by Laura Jackson, Associate
How to claim for injuries (and losses) when you’re involved in a multi-car pile-up
As we have seen recently, multi-car pile-ups resulting in catastrophic injuries or fatalities are all too common. So, what happens if you are injured in a crash such as this and want to pursue a compensation claim?
Multi-car pile-ups are more likely to occur on a motorway where road traffic is heavy and vehicles are travelling at a faster speed. In the last month alone, the M5 has been the scene of a number of multi-car pile-ups resulting in five fatalities as well as many injuries causing life threatening conditions. These accidents highlight the complexity of road traffic accident cases.
How do I pursue a claim for injury as a result of a multi-car pile-up?
To pursue a personal injury claim following a road traffic accident, you must be able to prove that another driver was at fault. When two vehicles collide it is often straightforward to assess who did what and how the accident occurred, but when multiple vehicles collide it can be more difficult to establish who is liable. It is therefore important, if you have suffered injuries and losses, to obtain legal advice as soon as possible (at least within three years of the date of the accident).
The earlier you obtain legal advice the better, as events will still be fresh in your mind and it will be easier for your legal representative to conduct liability investigations.
In accordance with The Highway Code, all drivers must travel at a speed that will enable them to stop well within the clear road ahead of them. If you are hit from behind, for example, the general rule is that the driver who hit you will be held responsible for the collision.
How is evidence gathered for a case like this? And how does this determine liability?
When there is a crash involving multiple vehicles it is more difficult to establish how they collided. The police and, in serious accidents, the Collision Investigation Unit, will be called to the scene and will gather evidence. They will examine the scene of the accident for any evidence that will assist in drawing conclusions as to how the collision happened.
The evidence collated by the investigating officers at the scene of the accident will form the basis for a comprehensive report detailing the circumstances of the accident. This report helps solicitors assess liability for the purposes of a personal injury claim, but it doesn’t prove who is responsible. Witness statements taken following the accident may conflict, or there may not be any witnesses who can provide an account of what happened.
It may be that the accident was the fault of several drivers and, if this is the case, it may be appropriate to agree an apportionment of liability on a split basis. For example, if one driver is 25% to blame for the accident then an agreement on a 75/25 basis would be appropriate and each party would receive a proportion of their claim.
Alternatively, a claimant may have to accept that they are contributorily negligent if they contributed to their injury. If this is the case, that fault will be taken into account when their claim is being quantified.
If a personal injury claim is pursued and it is not clear who caused the accident, or if several drivers were to blame, then a medico-legal expert instructed for the purposes of the claim may need to provide their opinion on which impact caused an injury.
How long does a personal injury claim for multi-car pile-up take?
Personal injury claims made in cases like these can take longer to pursue, and can be lengthy and costly, especially when an agreement over liability cannot be reached. The above-mentioned report prepared by the police is not available to obtain until they have completed all of their investigations and criminal proceedings have finished; this can take a long time.
It may be necessary to instruct an Accident Reconstruction Expert to carry out independent investigations and provide a report. This will detail, for example, the road layout and condition, weather conditions, vehicle speeds, lines of sight, or vehicle component failure, all of which may cause or contribute to a multiple-vehicle collision. This report will be used for the purposes of a personal injury claim and may assist in proving liability.
It is also worth noting that the injuries suffered in a pile-up can be severe. Therefore a claim may be delayed until you, or other individuals in a pile-up, have recovered.
In many road traffic accident claims it is evident who was at fault and establishing liability is straightforward. However, investigating liability in multiple-car pile-up can be complex so it is important to obtain specialist legal advice if you have suffered an injury and want to pursue a claim for compensation.
If you've been involved in a road traffic accident that wasn't your fault, contact us today to find out more about making a claim for compensation:
0800 923 2068 Email us
Taking action by bringing a personal injury compensation claim can help ease a stressful situation