Pileup Car Accidents & Insurance: Who Pays for Damages?

Usually massive pileups happen only occasionally. But smaller pileups do happen especially in bad weather conditions. We all sit in traffic waiting for an accident to be cleared off the road. Imagine a pileup involving 10s of vehicles. It would take hours to clear the road to start with. Preparing an accident report can take a long time as well and they may still fail to pinpoint the blame.

Then, it could take many weeks for auto insurance companies sort out the claims and start paying out. Sometimes, it could take years before all the claims are settled and lawsuits concluded. Companies will have to investigate the claims further to determine and perhaps lower their exposure. They can make counter claims against each other on behalf of their policyholders.

Massive pileup auto accidents can involve about hundred cars and real misery on the roads. It would at least take a day to clear all out after the accident scene is cleared of injured people and police complete the investigation. Traffic will have to be diverted somehow away from the location of the incident.

For example, heavy fog in Texas caused a 140-car pileup on Thanksgiving Day 2012. Two people were killed and 80 injured in this particular crash. The initial crash started on the eastbound of the highway, which led to a chain of crashes on both the eastbound and westbound lanes.

Why Do Pileups Happen and Who is Responsible?

If we look at the Texas incident above; first of all there is heavy fog and secondly heavy traffic because of Thanksgiving. There you have two of the main factors in accidents; bad weather and heavy holiday traffic. Generally, truly large accidents happen in bad weather conditions.

However, it is never an excuse and you probably cannot get out of the blame. You have to take the weather into account and adjust your driving speed and distance. In one smaller crash involving about 50 cars Florida Highway Patrol issued 20 traffic citations to drivers involved even after considering the effects of weather in the accident.

Pileups can be the result of one incident and happen in several small crashes to make one large accident scene. By the time it is all over it may be a real problem to sort it out and in most cases it is hard to pin the blame on one or few drivers. With so many vehicles all tangled up, it is difficult to find the responsible drivers. It is generally a chain of events and several drivers may be responsible.

Smaller (and larger) pileups may be cause by drunk, speeding or red-light running drivers. One such driver may start the chain of events that will involve several cars. It would usually not cause a serious concern to sort out the blame in a crash involving several cars. Almost always you are responsible for the damages you caused to the car in front or to the car hit by your car. It is not an acceptable excuse that you were hit by another car to start with. You have to always keep a safe distance. Even you were hit from behind you should have reacted in time to stop before hitting the car in front.

The real problem in a larger accident would be to determine who hit who. A car may be hit by several cars and by the time it is over it ends up in a different location than where the initial contact started. Unless, one driver was drunk, it is difficult to single out anyone. Even one driver was responsible for the initial crash, he/she cannot be held responsible for the actions of all the other drivers in a 100-car pileup as mentioned above.

Auto Insurance Consequences of Pileups

Generally, nobody carries enough car insurance liability coverage to pay for even a smaller pileup with injuries and damages to many automobiles. In a large one, there could be deaths and serious injuries as well as several totaled vehicles. The overall costs could be in the several millions. Anyway, it wouldn’t be fair and technically possible to load all the blame onto one driver.

Even so, you should try to figure out who hit you and collect driver, vehicle and insurance details, if it is safe to do so. Then, you should get your claim in as soon as possible to get in front of the queue, just in case third party driver doesn’t have sufficient liabilities coverage.  If you do, you may have a better chance of getting paid before the coverage runs out.

However, it could take months for the investigations to be concluded by the police and insurance companies. Most insurers would want to have their own investigations based on police report, witness statements and damages apparent on the cars. This could take a long time and you may not want to wait until third party insurer pays you.

The best option may be to get your automobile repaired using own Collision Coverage. Your collision coverage would pay for the damages to your car even you were at fault. You will have to pay deductibles initially and hope that your insurer will be able to get the money from third parties (if they were at fault) and pay your deductible back. Depending on the outcome your claim may go down as no fault accident when the other driver is found to be at fault and your insurer is paid back for the pay-out they made.

It may not be straightforward as blame may be shared, not possible to determine the blame or third parties don’t have sufficient liabilities coverage. Your insurer may have to make complex calculations and allocations and conclude their assessment. At the end, part of your claim may even come out of your Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist coverage depending on your state automobile insurance laws. You will have to wait and see the outcome of your insurer’s subrogation works.

If you don’t have Collision Coverage you will have to wait and hope that third parties will pay you at the end. In the meantime, you may have to find money to get your automobile repaired or make alternative arrangements.

If you are at fault and don’t have sufficient liabilities auto insurance, your troubles will be much worse. You will be waiting in agony to see how the third parties proceed against you and you may have to deal with lawsuits and allegations on your own. Previous two paragraphs highlight the importance of buying sufficient coverage.

You shouldn’t give up essential coverage easily if it means lower premiums. If you are worried about the costs there are a few ways of finding cheap auto insurance policies. You should try to bring down costs by getting the discounts you deserve and shopping around for the best deal.

Share on Pinterest
There are no images.