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What Happens If You're Rear-Ended While Stopped For An Accident?

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As construction season begins throughout most of the continental U.S., traffic backups and accidents may increase. One of the biggest potential dangers you can face while driving is being in a vulnerable stopped position on a highway. As cars are required to quickly come to a stop, a chain reaction accident may happen -- smashing your vehicle into the one in front of it while your vehicle sustains rear-end damage from those crashing behind you. If you're injured in such a situation, who is responsible? Can you sue multiple parties, or are you limited to the person who crashed behind you? Read on to learn more about state laws governing these types of chain reaction accidents.

How is fault determined in a chain reaction car accident?

There are several common types of chain reaction accidents, and placing fault often depends on the specific type of accident. In some cases, the front car is at fault, for stopping for no reason, cutting someone off, or hitting an inanimate object on the side of the road. You or another car may then crash into this front car, causing a chain reaction as those behind you don't have adequate time to brake. In other cases, the front car (and perhaps your car behind it) have reacted in time to stop, but the driver of the vehicle behind you may not be paying attention and could fail to brake to avoid crashing into your vehicle.

And in many cases, fault can lie with more than one driver. Sometimes, vehicles behind the one that has struck you will continue the crash (if you remember feeling multiple impacts, this is a good indication that there is more than one driver potentially at fault.) If these subsequent crashes cause additional injuries or physical damage to your vehicle, the specific costs may be apportioned to the drivers at fault for each accident.

What should you do if you're injured in a chain reaction accident?

If you're involved in an accident like this and would like to recover costs from the responsible parties, you'll need to file a personal injury lawsuit. Often, you'll need to enlist the assistance of an experienced attorney before you file. Because you won't be able to recover from anyone who isn't named in the lawsuit, your attorney will need to do some preliminary investigating to decide exactly whom to sue. If you file a lawsuit against someone who is determined not to be at fault, you could later be barred from filing the same lawsuit against the truly responsible party.

When you first visit your attorney, he or she will conduct an intake interview -- asking you what you remember about the accident and perhaps wanting to see your medical bills or X-rays. This process helps the attorney determine the strength of your case so that he or she can decide whether to represent you. Because most personal injury attorneys work on a contingency basis (meaning they aren't paid unless you receive a judgment or settlement), he or she will need to be confident that you have a strong, winnable case before undertaking what could be a lengthy litigation process.

Your attorney may hire a civil engineer or traffic expert to examine your vehicle (as well as the others involved in the crash) to determine where the impact originated. Your attorney's investigators can track down witnesses to see if they can provide statements under oath confirming who was responsible for the accident. Once this evidence has been obtained, you'll know whom to sue and can begin the path to trial.

Often, the defendant's (or defendants') insurance companies will offer you a settlement in exchange for dismissing the case. Your attorney will be able to help you evaluate whether this settlement is more or less than you could potentially be awarded after a trial, and you can proceed accordingly. For more information about working with an experienced lawyer on your case, visit