Multiple car collisions often result in devastating injuries for which accident victims are entitled to make a claim for compensation.
Multi-vehicle collisions often result in catastrophic or fatal injuries for many accident victims. The most destructive consequences for multi-vehicle accidents typically occurs on highways when vehicles are travelling at high speeds and one or more vehicles fail to stop in time, causing a chain reaction of crashes. Poor visibility and extreme weather conditions such as ice, fog or heavy rain are often a factor in these accidents, but driver inattention, speeding and following too closely are also common elements.
If you are seriously injured in a multi-vehicle accident, you have the right, under the Ontario Insurance Act, to file a claim for Statutory Accident Benefits from your car insurance provider. Some of the benefits to which you may be entitled include: income replacement, medical and rehabilitation benefit, attendant care benefits, and housekeeping and home maintenance benefits. Family members may be entitled to funeral and death benefits if they lost a loved one in a vehicle collision.
Persons injured in a vehicle collision also have the option to sue the ‘at fault’ party for damages. Damages include compensation for financial losses due to your injury (including lost income, medical expenses and other expenditures) and also, for pain and suffering. The highly experienced ILO car accident lawyers invite you to contact our offices to find out more about your rights and options in seeking rightful compensation for injuries resulting from an accident.
Within a few weeks, two devastating multi-vehicle accidents occurred along the same section of Highway 401 under similar circumstances. In October of 2015, 20 vehicles were involved in a multiple-car collision on the 401 near Ajax and Whitby. The crash resulted in 16 people injured, 5 of whom were critically injured, and 3 fatalities including a 12 year old child. The accident resulted when a transport trailer truck rear ended the vehicles in front when the truck failed to slow down in a construction zone. This accident followed in the wake of a similar collision in late September when another transport truck plowed into vehicles on the 401 after failed to reduce its speed in a construction zone.
The most common injury in a multiple car collision is whiplash and spinal injury. When your vehicle is rear ended, the violent thrust when another car hits you from behind causes your body to jerk forward; this movement results in a sudden and severe extension of the neck that reflects a whip-like motion (hence, the term ‘whiplash’). Whiplash often involves hyperextension and/or myofascial injuries. The violent motion causing whiplash also frequently results in severe back and neck pain. Whiplash injuries can occur at any speed, but the symptoms from whiplash, and from back and neck injuries, may take days to be felt by the accident victim.
Head injuries also frequently result from multi-car collisions; these injuries are severe and result in traumatic brain injury in about half the cases. The most devastating injuries to vehicle occupants can occur when a car is involved in a rollover or a hit from the side. Injuries to the hands, arms and shoulders and the lower extremities most frequently occur in rollovers associated with multiple-vehicle accidents when victims are severely injured. Injuries to the chest, pelvis, face and head are also not uncommon in these types of accidents.
Chest, pelvic and leg injuries most often occur in front-end collisions, when occupants are wearing a seat belt. When seatbelts are not worn in a front-end collision, passengers are at high risk of experiencing severe facial and head injuries and more devastating injuries to their lower body. Vehicle occupants not wearing a seatbelt are far more likely to suffer fatal injuries, as well.
Some of the most severe injuries occur to people hit by an oncoming vehicle in a side-on crash. Injuries to the chest, then the legs, pelvis and head are most common in these accidents, and in many cases victims suffer severe internal injuries.
Liability in multiple car collisions
Rear end collisions are the most common type of car accident and are typically a causal factor in multiple car collisions. In the vast majority of cases, Ontario courts find the driver of the rear car at fault in rear-ending situations. In a landmark case, Ruetz v Goetz, 1955, the Ontario Court of Appeal declared that when one vehicle is following another, the onus is on the following vehicle to exercise reasonable care, and in the event of a collision the burden of proof is on the rear driver.
The fault determination rules defined in the Insurance Act of Ontario specify the fault of drivers involved in collisions. The rules find the driver of the car behind 100 per cent at fault if it rear ends the car in front while the cars are travelling in the same direction; this rule applies whether or not the first driver is stopped, in motion or in the act of turning. If multiple cars are stopped when they are rear ended, then the last car is the only one that has liability in the accident (specifically, 100 per cent liability in striking the car in front of them). However, if the first two or more cars are in motion when they are rear-ended, then the last car is still 100 per cent at fault in striking the car ahead of it, but the middle cars are also 50 per cent at fault in striking the vehicles ahead of them. There are other scenarios where only 25 per cent fault in causing a collision may be assigned by your insurer, but by Ontario law, drivers who are deemed 25 per cent at fault cannot have their vehicle insurance rates hiked.
One of the largest multi-vehicle collisions in Ontario occurred near Barrie on Highway 400 in March 2003. About 200 vehicles were involved in the crash. Poor visibility due to fog was cited as a factor in the collisions, nevertheless, the fault determination rules were applied by insurers.
Two of the cars involved in this collision, the Rigby and Jones vehicles, were fully stopped in the southbound lane when they were rear-ended by the Gaspar truck, which subsequently propelled the middle (Rigby) car into the Jones vehicle. Ms. Jones sustained injuries for which she received accident benefit compensation from her insurance company, AXA Insurance. AXA Insurance went after Mr. Gaspar’s insurer, Royal Insurance, for 100 per cent indemnity for the benefits paid to Ms. Jones. The arbitrator applied Rule 9 of the Fault Determination Rules, which says that when only the rear car is in motion and strikes cars that are already stationary, the rear car is 100 per cent at fault and the cars that are stopped have no liability in the collision.
In Royal & Sunalliance Insurance Company of Canada v. AXA Insurance (Canada), 2012, Mr. Gaspar’s insurer, challenged the arbitrator’s decision to hold them 100 per cent liable for the damages, but the Ontario Court of Appeal agreed with the arbitrator’s finding. Thus, Royal was required to reimburse AXA for 100 per cent of the accident benefits paid to Ms. Rigby.
Causes of multiple car collisions
Multiple car collisions often occur when one or more cars encounter a problem, such as losing control on black ice, and the cars behind fail to stop in time and successively hit the car(s) in front. Such collisions can also occur when cars slow down for hazards such as construction or an obstruction on the road, but the car(s) behind don’t reduce their speed before crashing into the vehicles in front. In multi-vehicle collisions involving many cars on a highway, it is often difficult for law enforcement and the courts to determine negligence in causing an accident. However, when only a few vehicles are involved in a chain reaction collision, particularly in an urban center where drivers should be travelling at a lower speed, the negligent driver(s) are generally identifiable. In particular, rear drivers who barrel into the car(s) in front of them are highly likely to be found liable in causing the collision.
Even when driving conditions have deteriorated due to poor weather, drivers can be found at fault in causing a multi-vehicle collision when they did not adjust their speed accordingly or were following too closely. Ontario accident reports overwhelmingly show that driver carelessness or negligence is a factor in causing most collisions. Similarly, driver error or carelessness is often responsible for multi-vehicle collisions, with the following most common causes.
- Driving too closely, tailgating
- Driver distraction
- Driving too fast for the road and weather conditions; speeding
- Careless lane changes
- Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol
Under the Highway Traffic Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. H. 8, it is considered an offence to follow another vehicle too closely. The Act also states that before turning left or right at an intersection or onto a private road, drivers must first check that the turn can be made safely and they should plainly signal their intention if their movement may affect the operation of another vehicle.
On a December day when it was snowing heavily and road conditions were icy, a woman was rear-ended as she was slowing down in order to make a left-turn into a driveway. The woman sustained serious injuries in the accident, and in an Ontario Court Appeal trial, Martin-Vandenhende v. Myslik, 2015, the rear driver was found 90 per cent liable in causing the collision. The two drivers gave contradictory evidence with respect to whether or not the first driver was signalling her turn, and the rear driver testified that he believed the first car was slowing down to allow him to pass.
The trial judge did not accept the poor driving conditions as an excuse for the collision; he concluded that the rear driver was driving too fast for the road and weather conditions and was attempting to pass without being sure of the first driver’s intentions. The driver who was rear ended was assigned 10 per cent blame for not clearly signalling her intentions.
Multiple vehicle collisions all too often result in serious injuries and debilitating expenses for accident victims. Severely injured persons are frequently unable to work for an extended period and sometimes, permanently after an accident. The recovery and rehabilitation period can be painful, costly and stressful, and loved ones often sacrifice their jobs and personal life in order to support an injured person while they are healing.
The Injury Lawyers of Ontario (ILO) has helped many accident victims who incurred significant losses resulting from a serious car accident and we understand the inordinate challenges for victims and their loved ones at this time. Our team can provide strong representation in obtaining a favourable settlement that will at least remove the financial burden arising from your accident. Call our office today for a free consultation.