Articles Posted in Multi-vehicle Accidents

When a car collision occurs that involves multiple vehicles, there can be added stress of dealing with multiple people with multiple injuries, various insurances, and determining who was the at-fault driver. In some instances, multiple vehicles end up colliding due to a chain reaction, where one vehicle bumps into the back of another vehicle, causing the second vehicle to then crash into the vehicle in front of it. At first glance, you may assume that the owner of the vehicle with the most damage is the person who should receive the most damages, or monetary compensation, for a multi-vehicle car accident. However, this may not be the case.

According to a recent news report, a crash near the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., resulted in 7 injuries and 3 critically injured. The accident involved four vehicles, leaving at least one sedan with a crumpled front end. People became trapped in two of the vehicles, and three people were extricated. One of the victims was a teenager, while all the other victims were adults. The collision is still being investigated, and investigators are looking into whether speed was a factor, or whether old reversible lane signs that were discontinued during the pandemic were a factor in the crash.

How Do Courts Determine Fault in Multi-Vehicle Collisions?

Because multi-vehicle car accidents happen in a variety of ways for a variety of reasons, it is not always so straightforward when determining who the at-fault driver is. In some scenarios, such as one where there is a chain reaction, the first driver who collided with a vehicle may be considered the at-fault driver. However, it is also important to consider the negligence laws in the state where the accident occurred.

Ice and snow swept across the east coast and mid-Atlantic earlier this week, and Washington, D.C. was no exception. Although officials were initially expecting only a few inches of snow, the snowstorm brought in more than a foot instead. Blanketing everything outside in a layer of white, the snow may have been pretty to look at and play in initially—but posed some significant safety and visibility concerns for drivers.

According to a recent news report, the recent snowstorm in Washington, D.C. left hundreds of vehicles stuck overnight on I-95 south of Washington. I-95—a 40-mile stretch of highway—is one of the busiest travel corridors in the United States. The highway came to standstill overnight after a snowstorm swept through and led to hundreds of accidents.

While some people abandoned their vehicles, others spent the night on the highway instead. Over the course of 24 hours, state troopers moved from vehicle to vehicle, providing supplies. Tow trucks also helped by dragging disabled vehicles out of the snow. Among the drivers who stayed, many were trapped without any food and water and only in the clothes they had in the car. Others chose to abandon their vehicles, walking about a quarter-mile from the highway to nearby businesses for relief. Authorities responded to more than 1,000 crashes and 1,000 disabled or trapped vehicles.

As a major city and the nation’s capital, Washington, D.C. has many different vehicles within it at a given time. From cars to trucks, to motorcycles, school buses, bicycles, and more, there is no shortage of vehicles and forms of transportation for individuals to get around the city. But tragically, each of these forms of transportation presents the risk of a Washington, D.C. motor vehicle accident. While accidents can sometimes be no big deal, they more often cause serious injury or even death.

One vehicle that may be seen around Washington, D.C., especially during times of celebration, is limousines. But limousines can be prone to some scary and fatal accidents. Recently, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) published findings regarding a serious 2018 crash. According to the NTSB, the crash occurred on October 6, 2018, around 1:55 PM. A stretch limousine operated by a limousine and chauffeur service was traveling south, driven by a 53-year-old man. Seventeen passengers were in the limousine. Unfortunately, while traveling down a hill, the brakes of the limousine failed, and the vehicle’s speed increased to over 100 miles an hour. To avoid a car stopped at an intersection ahead of them, the driver steered the vehicle away and ended up running a stop sign and entering a driveway of a restaurant parking lot. At this point, it hit an unoccupied 2015 Toyota SUV parked in a grassy field adjacent to the driveway. The impact of the crash pushed the SUV forward, striking and killing two pedestrians. But the limousine did not stop—it continued across the edge of the driveway and into a ravine, where it struck an embankment and several trees. All 18 people in the limousine were tragically killed.

The NTSB investigated this tragic crash, attempting to determine the probable cause. It ultimately concluded that the limousine and chauffeur service egregiously disregarded passengers’ safety and was reckless by dispatching a stretch limousine with an out-of-service order for a passenger charter trip. As it turns out, the company knew of the issues with the brake system but sent the vehicle out anyway. This case is an example of one set of facts that may lead to a Washington, D.C. negligence lawsuit.

The United States has two separate sets of laws that govern the citizens of each state. There is federal law and state law. Each state has their own law, and as long as it does not conflict with the federal law in that same area, the state law will apply to many cases. This is especially true in personal injury cases, since most personal injury cases do not give rise to federal court “jurisdiction.”

The term “jurisdiction” essentially means the power to hear a case and impose judgment over the parties to the case. For example, a court in New Mexico will not likely have jurisdiction over a case arising between two Marylanders who get into an accident on a Maryland road. In that case, Maryland would likely be the most proper venue for the lawsuit.

As noted above, each state has the ability to create its own set of laws, and it stands to reason that the law in every state will be a little bit different. This can create major consequences for accident victims in certain cases because under one state’s law a victim’s case may be strong, but under another state’s law the case may be much weaker. This also can have implications regarding the applicable statute of limitations, or the time in which the accident victim has to file their lawsuit against the defendant.

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Earlier this month in Hyattsville, Maryland, not far from Washington, D.C., an accident between a church van and a pick-up truck resulted in four people losing their lives and another 14 being seriously injured. According to one local news source, the accident took place on a Sunday afternoon on Hyattsville Street.

Evidently, police believe that the driver of the pick-up truck rear-ended another passenger vehicle and then lost control of the truck. After traveling several hundred feet past the site of the initial collision, the truck crossed over a double yellow line into the line of oncoming traffic. A church van with 16 people inside traveling in the opposite direction was unable to avoid the collision, and it struck the truck on the passenger side.

After that collision, the pick-up truck ignited in flames. The flames burned intensely until emergency workers were able to get the fire under control. However, ultimately the driver of the truck was pronounced dead at the scene. Thankfully, the flames from the truck did not spread to the van. However, three people in the van – two adults and one child – were killed as a result of the collision. Fourteen others in the van were injured and were taken to various hospitals in the area.

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Earlier this week in the Chinatown area of Washington, D.C., one man was killed when an SUV rolled over him, pinning him underneath until emergency responders were able to free him. According to one local news report, the accident occurred at H Street between 4th and 5th Streets.

Evidently, the driver of an SUV was speeding down H Street towards 5th Street when he lost control of the vehicle. The SUV began to roll and collided with a traffic-light pole, which came crashing down into a nearby building. After going through the pole, the vehicle continued until it hit a wall, causing it to rotate. Ultimately, the SUV came to a rest on top of a pedestrian. At some point in the SUV’s tumble, it collided with another person as well.

The man pinned underneath the SUV was pronounced dead at the scene. The driver of the SUV, as well as the other pedestrian who was hit by the SUV, are both in the hospital with serious but non-life-threatening injuries. Police are currently conducting an investigation into the fatal accident, and charges are pending against the driver of the SUV.

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Earlier this month, police arrested and charged a man who was involved in a series of hit-and-run accidents across Washington DC. According to a recent report by the Capital Gazette, the man was charged with 18 counts, including drunk driving and multiple charges of failure to remain at the scene following an accident.

Luckily, many of the vehicles the man ran into were unoccupied, but one person was taken to Maryland Shock Trauma as a result of the injuries he sustained. Evidently, the hit-and-run spree began around 6:15 in the evening in the area of Juliana Circle and Newtowne Drive, when a black Jeep sideswiped an unoccupied Nissan that was parked on the side of the road.

After that initial collision, the Jeep continued on down Newtowne Drive. As the driver was negotiating a curve, however, he ran head-on into a city bus. The driver then put the vehicle in reverse, ran over the curb and through a fence, and pulled away, hitting the bus again on the way out.

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Generally, a personal injury plaintiff must prove four elements to prevail in a negligence claim: duty, breach of duty, causation, and damages. However, in some cases, plaintiffs can take a “short cut” under the legal theory of “negligence per se.” Negligence per se is a Latin term that means negligence in and of itself. Under Washington D.C. law, negligence per se is applicable “where a particular statutory or regulatory standard is enacted to … prevent the type of accident that occurred.” Further, an “unexplained violation of that standard renders the defendant negligent as a matter of law.”

This means that the plaintiff must prove only that the statute was designed to protect against the type of harm caused in the accident, and that the defendant was the person or entity that engaged in the conduct. Therefore, when the facts of the case allow it, a plaintiff will almost always want to instruct the jury on negligence per se because it makes the plaintiff’s burden that much easier to meet.

For that reason, when a court erroneous instructs a jury on negligence per se, the defendant may have an issue on appeal because of the harm caused by the instruction. However, a recent D.C. Court of Appeals case held that an improper negligence per se instruction can be “redundant” rather than harmful in some cases, and does not always require reversal.

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A wrongful death lawsuit arising from a Nebraska automobile accident invokes that state’s fetal death statute, reportedly for the first time since the Nebraska Legislature enacted it in 2003. The plaintiffs in Baumann v. Slezak, et al are asserting multiple causes of action in relation to the deaths of a Maryland couple, their two children, and their unborn child. The unborn child was a viable fetus at the time, which is an important distinction in some jurisdictions. The right to recover damages for the wrongful death of a person requires that the law recognize the decedent as a “person.” Nebraska’s statute explicitly applies to unborn children “at any stage of gestation,” while the District of Columbia’s statute does not mention unborn children or fetuses. Case law from DC, however has established that the law may apply to a “viable” fetus.

The accident in Nebraska occurred during the early morning of September 9, 2012. A family of four, consisting of a father, a pregnant mother, and two children, were driving through western Nebraska on their way to California. Each parent was driving a separate vehicle, and the children were riding with the mother. Traffic on westbound Interstate 80 was at a standstill because of an accident between two semi-trailers about one mile further up the road. While the family’s two cars were stopped, one behind the other, at the rear of the line of traffic, another semi-trailer approached from behind at about seventy-five miles per hour. The driver allegedly did not slow before colliding with the father’s car. This caused his car to collide with the mother’s car, propelling it under the trailer in front of her, and killing the four family members and the unborn child.

The legal representatives of the two parents filed suit on behalf of the parents, the children, and the unborn child, asserting causes of action for negligence and violations of federal trucking safety regulations. They sued the truck driver, his employer, and the driver and truck companies allegedly responsible for the accident that caused the traffic jam, asserting causes of action for negligence and violations of federal safety regulations.

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The city of Greenbelt, Maryland has found itself with no working fire engines as the result of two accidents in recent weeks. One accident involved a driver who failed to yield the right of way and collided with a fire engine. The other accident occurred when two cars struck the city’s remaining engine while it was blocking part of the Capital Beltway to shield emergency workers. The county fire chief, in speaking about the accidents, reminded drivers in the Maryland portion of the Washington DC area of the state’s “move-over” law, which aims to protect emergency responders helping people after automobile accidents and other crises.

On the morning of September 1, 2012, one of the Greenbelt Volunteer Fire Department’s engines was hit by a civilian vehicle while responding to a residential fire in Berwyn Heights. According to a spokesperson for the Prince George’s County Fire/EMS Department, the civilian vehicle failed to yield the right of way to the fire engine. Two firefighters sustained minor injuries in the collision. The county described the damage to the fire engine as “significant” and said that it will remain out of service for some time.

Greenbelt’s only remaining fire engine was serving as a barrier for emergency workers, who were clearing a wreck on the inner Beltway in the early morning of September 8. Firefighters sometimes position fire engines across multiple lanes of traffic to protect emergency crews who must work on busy roadways on foot. In this case, the fire engine did its job well. At about 2:45 a.m., a 2005 Lexus passed multiple warning lights and crashed into the side and rear of the parked fire engine. Maryland State Police troopers arrested the Lexus driver for multiple traffic violations. While emergency crews were still clearing the Lexus from the scene, a second vehicle barely missed several firefighters and collided with the Lexus, causing even more damage to the fire engine. That driver reportedly fled the scene, but was stopped further down the road and now faces a similar number charges for traffic offenses. The county estimates that the damage to the fire engine will exceed $30,000.

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