Who is Liable in a Pileup Car Accident?

This video features Grant Lawson, a Personal Injury attorney based in Wyoming.

Wyoming Attorney Investigates Multiple Vehicle Accidents

Video Transcript:

Grant Lawson:

Immediacy is the name of the game to try and make sure that attorneys like us can get our hands on the information, who the witnesses are, conduct interviews, and collect all that information before it starts to slowly fade away.

Rob Rosenthal:

So if you're injured in a big pile up on the road, how and where do you get help? That's what we're going to find out on this episode of Ask the Lawyer.

Hi again, everybody, I'm Rob Rosenthal with askthelawyers.com. My guest is attorney Grant Lawson with the Metier Law Firm. I want to remind you if at any point you have questions about your own specific situation, you can go to askthelawyers.com, click the button that says “Ask a Lawyer” at the top of the page, and you can do your asking there. Grant, thank you for helping us out today.

Grant Lawson:

It’s always a pleasure to be here. Thank you.

Rob Rosenthal:

So let's just start. Over the last few months I've seen quite a few stories about big accidents both in Wyoming and in Colorado. In your experience—you've had a lot of experience with this kind of thing—what is some advice to help people, first of all, avoid getting into those kinds of big pile-ups?

Grant Lawson:

So number one is to practice defensive driving. Make sure you're driving slow, driving slow for the conditions, watching out for what's going on around you; and if for any reason you need to stop or pull over, try to do so on an exit ramp and not be on the shoulder of the road. Some of the biggest accidents and unfortunately the highest probability of severe injury or death happen when vehicles that are parked along the side of the road are struck. So whether it's you having to pull off the road or you see others that are pulling off on the road, make sure that you try to do your best to get to a safe location; because especially in adverse or treacherous weather conditions like icy roads, snow, or fog, you don't want to be in a place where other vehicles are still coming at highway speeds. So make sure you're using defensive driving. Make sure you're doing your best not to pull over on the side of the road. If you do have to pull over onto the side of the road, make sure you try to get as far off the road and be in as safe a place as you can; in a place that's clearly open to other people seeing you—not on a hill, not on a curve, in locations that make it less likely that someone could potentially run into you—but doing your best to see what other drivers are doing and trying to watch out for what their actions may be, trying to think ahead about what potential hazards may occur. That's the best way to approach your driving, especially in the winter time, and to avoid these big pileup accidents.

Rob Rosenthal:

That's great advice already. I love that. But let's say somehow you're caught up in one of these chain-reaction, multi-vehicle collisions. For you, is it more difficult to determine fault in those kinds of situations? Or is it maybe similar to a one-on-one vehicle accident?

Grant Lawson:

It completely depends on the situation. For example, we have a number of cases right now involving very large pile-ups, 80+ vehicle pileups on the interstate. You have to break it down per little incident; it’s not just one big reaction and therefore it's a big mess. It actually is more broken down than that. The driver in front of you may have stopped safely and properly, even though there's a wreck in front of him, there's vehicles colliding in front of him, you may be able to stop safely and appropriately, but then somebody coming up behind you doesn't, and hits you, pushes you into another vehicle, and it is part of this big chain reaction. And that has to be looked at individually because the driver that came behind and hit you was not driving safe for conditions, not slowing down and practicing good safe principles when driving in those treacherous and hazardous conditions. So it's more than just bad weather, I guess it's a chain reaction and nobody's really at fault. That's never the case. It has to be broken down sequence by sequence to find out why each particular collision occurred. Who was driving too fast for conditions? Who didn't keep a safe stopping distance or a proper look out? All of those things are combined in figuring out whether or not somebody did something wrong individually, versus everybody was at fault, because that's never the case when you're looking at these types of big pileups.

Rob Rosenthal:

It does seem to be that it's an even more crucial situation to get somebody with experience to help sort all that out, because it could be just trying to sort out all the different little scenarios can be difficult.

Grant Lawson:

Absolutely. We have to start with getting the traffic accident reports from the appropriate law enforcement who did the investigation, finding out what they did. A lot of times with today's technology, a lot of commercial motor vehicle drivers, the semi-truck drivers, are going to have cameras in their cabs or equipped in their trucks, and so you may get video clips from different angles, from different drivers, that help piece together what happened in these big chain reactions to help understand who did what and when. So there's a lot of investigation that has to happen; and a lot of that will not happen without a lawyer. A lot of those materials, especially the video footage, you can't get that unless you have a lawyer who's fighting with the insurance companies and the trucking companies to actually obtain those video clips and get other information, and find out who witnesses are, and interviewing witnesses; that takes somebody who knows this process and the ability to have boots on the ground to conduct that. Otherwise, you're kind of just shooting in the dark.

Rob Rosenthal:

When we've talked before about just a two-vehicle collision, Grant, the advice is get names, take as many pictures as you can, and that sort of thing. Are people to be expected to gather 80 different vehicles’ information and pictures? What's your advice there?

Grant Lawson:

Yeah, no. I mean, there's just too much going on there. So it has to be broken down. It takes time to figure out where in the sequence in the chain reaction you were involved, what other vehicles were there, and that's going to take likely an investigator working with the appropriate law enforcement to find out what traffic accident reports were done, what reconstructions were done, contacting the appropriate trucking companies, vehicle owners, their insurance companies and representatives, and starting to piece it together; it's a lot of work. Most people who just get in a crash, they're going to be given information by an insurance company, and you don't know if you can trust it number one, but number two, they're going to try to bargain for the best deal for them and not for you. So that's why you want somebody, a lawyer, who knows how to do this, who knows how to make sure that they're getting every piece of information to put together the puzzle to find out why this happened, why it shouldn't have happened, and who's responsible.

Rob Rosenthal:

Does it add an extra layer of difficulty if there is a commercial vehicle involved? When we see these stories on the news, of course, the most dramatic videos are of 18-wheelers that slide into other vehicles. Does that change things?

Grant Lawson:

Well, it does. I mean, with these commercial motor vehicles, they're big heavy rigs that take longer to stop and they cause more damage when they're involved in an accident. And of course, the insurance companies have built an entire system on how to fight when somebody's involved in an accident, and how to try to protect their insurance money and their assets. It's a war; it's an ongoing war and if you don't have somebody on your side to fight for you who knows how to navigate through all the Federal Motor Carrier Safety regulations and all the requirements a truck or commercial motor vehicle operator has to meet, and everything that goes into the rules and regulations, then you're going to get railroaded. That's what the end result is for a lot of people who don't take the time to find the right attorney and representative to fight for them.

Rob Rosenthal:

I would imagine in any of these cases, maybe some more so in these kinds of situations, getting someone like yourself on their side as early as possible in the process is vital?

Grant Lawson:

Absolutely. The earlier the better, because that evidence needs to be collected and preserved, and the longer time goes on, evidence is lost and things are not preserved and things magically disappear or witness recollections and stories start to fade. So immediacy is the name of the game to try and make sure that attorneys like us can get our hands on the information, who the witnesses are, conduct interviews, and collect all that information before it starts to slowly fade away.

Rob Rosenthal:

Lots of great information as always, Grant. Thank you for making some time and answering our questions.

Grant Lawson:

Yes. Absolutely, thank you. And best of luck to everybody out there and stay safe on these winter roads.

Rob Rosenthal:

Absolutely. That's going to do it for this episode of Ask the Lawyer. My guest has been Wyoming attorney Grant Lawson with the Metier Law Firm. Remember, if you have specific questions about your situation, you can always go to askthelawyers.com, click the little button at the top of the home page that says “Ask a Lawyer” and ask away right there. That's going to do it. Thanks for watching, everybody. I'm Rob Rosenthal with AskTheLawyers™.

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