It is terrifying to watch a wreck unfold before you, and know that you will be caught up in it. Many times, while stopped in traffic on interstate exits you can’t move forward because of stopped traffic. Traffic on the through lanes moves past you at highway speeds, while you inch forward, waiting for your lane to start moving again. I recently had several clients come to me who had been in this position and watched an inattentive driver behind them shift from the through lanes into their lane and strike the driver behind them, driving them into the vehicle in front of them.
These chain reaction automobile wrecks present complicated questions of liability. Kentucky law obligates drivers to have their vehicle under control and to leave sufficient space between them and vehicles in front of them so that they will not strike that vehicle. Generally, this duty applies when driving in traffic. If a driver leaves sufficient space between their vehicle and the car in front of them so they can stop if the front vehicle suddenly stops, the following driver has met his legal burden. In stop and go traffic, however, few drivers leave more than a car length between their stopped vehicle and the one they are following. They are still complying with the general duty imposed on every one of “a reasonable person exercising ordinary care under similar circumstances.” If you exercise ordinary care in stopped traffic few people would believe you should leave more than a car length of space between your vehicles. This distance is not, however, sufficient to stop before you are pushed into other stopped cars if you are struck from behind at normal traffic speeds. You have little ability to avoid the wreck, no room to maneuver, and you will then be subjected to two different collisions, the first when you are struck from behind, and the second when you hit the car in front of you. The split second it takes for your car to travel forward one car length at 35 miles per hour does not give your body time to react, time to brace, and muscles and ligaments that were hyper-extended by the first collision are further harmed by the sudden stop when your car hits the stopped vehicle in front.
Wrecks of this sort are often the fault of the first vehicle, and seldom will the stopped cars be held responsible for the resulting injuries. If you were injured in a chain reaction wreck, contact an attorney as soon as possible, so your rights can be protected and you can receive the compensation you deserve.