As our northern neighbors are enduring yet another bout of arctic weather that is rendering the roadways extremely hazardous as far south as Atlanta and Birmingham, we have been hearing a great deal about chain-reaction crashes attributed to this weather.
Also known as “pile-ups,” USA Today recently reported that since the beginning of December, there has been one such weather-related pile-up reported on U.S. highways every single day. In all of last year, there were nearly 110 such incidents, averaging about two each week, though most occur between the stretch of December through February, when winter weather is at its peak nastiness.
Our Boca Raton car accident attorneys want to stress that Florida is not immune to pile-ups, though in our case, such crashes typically occur for different reasons. We may not have the build-up of snow and ice that precede northern chain-reaction crashes. However, we do have extensive problems with fog, smoke and heavy rain that have proven just as deadly.
Take for example in January 2012, the pile-up that occurred on I-75 in Gainesville. At least 10 people were killed and 18 hurt, with five cars, six tractor-trailers and one motor home involved, some having burst into flames upon impact. Investigators would later say that a thick blanket of fog and brush fire smoke combined, leaving drivers suddenly and virtually blinded. Visibility was so poor that emergency workers had to listen for screams and moans in order to locate victims.
Then in October that same year, 52 people were hurt (though thankfully none killed) in a massive chain-reaction crash on I-75 on the boarder of Sarasota and Manatee counties. Authorities identified some 12 crashes involving 47 vehicles. Here again, heavy brush fire and fog were blamed.
Of course, saying that the fog or rain or smoke was “to blame” doesn’t mean that no drivers were at-fault. While inclement weather is most certainly a factor, the biggest problem, according to traffic authorities, is that far too many drivers travel too fast for the conditions.
Posted speed limits are there to offer a maximum cut-off speed for when the weather and road conditions are optimal. When the visibility is poor or the roads are wet, drivers must slow it down considerably.
When they fail to do this, we see mass collisions.
Determining liability in these cases is often no simple matter. Often authorities will end up breaking the crash into several smaller crashes, and this is the way insurance adjusters will assign liability.
These investigations tend to be complex and often drawn-out, but there is usually a great deal at stake. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that the average fatal crash incurs an estimated $1.32 million in economic losses. A critical injury-inducing crash, meanwhile, costs about $1.5 million.
How much victims can recover – if anything – ultimately depends on the findings of those investigators. Keep in mind that insurance adjusters are generally always looking to reduce liability in any way they can, so it’s in your best interest to seek an experienced legal team to serve as your advocate.
If you have been injured, contact The Hollander Law Firm today at 888.751.7777.