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Determining Liability in Tennessee Multiple Vehicle (Pileup) Collisions

How to prove liability in your multi-vehicle accident

While any motor vehicle accident can be traumatic, a multi-vehicle collision (also referred to as a “pileup” crash) can be catastrophic for a number of reasons.

One of the most common risk factors for a multi-vehicle accident is heavy traffic. This is particularly true if a driver is speeding while exiting or entering the highway. In heavy traffic, even a single vehicle hitting another vehicle can result in a chain reaction in which multiple vehicles are involved in a pileup.

Other common causes of multi-vehicle accidents include:

Bad weather. Whenever the roads are slippery and there is poor visibility, the chances of an accident occurring increase. In such circumstances, it’s not uncommon for drivers to follow along behind other drivers too closely. On a wet road, a greater stopping distance is necessary, which can lead to 1 vehicle rear-ending another, causing a domino effect.

Distracted driving. Whether it’s texting while driving, reaching for something in the backseat or trying to apply makeup, if a driver is not paying attention while driving, it can lead to a crash. If this happens on an interstate or busy highway, this can quickly lead to a pileup.

Impaired driving. Any time a driver is operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, the potential for a motor vehicle accident increases significantly.

Drowsy driving. Just as a driver shouldn’t get behind the wheel when they’re under the influence of drugs or alcohol, neither should a driver attempt to drive while drowsy. Unfortunately, many people do try to drive while they are groggy, and the consequences can be devastating.

Aggressive driving. Weaving in and out of lanes, following other vehicles too closely or veering too closely to other lanes can result in a domino effect of crashes.

Speeding. Following too closely behind another vehicle or driving too fast for the road or weather conditions can result in a tragic multi-vehicle pileup.

Police chases. The use of high speed is a primary contributor to vehicle crashes. During a police chase, the risk of an accident involving multiple vehicles also increases.

Tennessee pileup car crash injuries

A number of injuries commonly result from car crashes in Tennessee. Both passengers and drivers involved in pileups may experience injuries, such as:


• Cracked skull

Traumatic brain injuries

• Fractured or broken bones

• Burns

• Vision or hearing loss

• Bruises, lacerations and cuts

• Spinal cord damage


In severe circumstances, an injury may be serious enough that amputation becomes necessary. Other injuries may be so severe that they result in full or partial paralysis or permanent brain damage. The most tragic result of a multi-vehicle accident is the loss of life, known as wrongful death.

At-fault liability laws in Tennessee

When you are injured in a pileup, the process of determining liability can be complicated by the fact that Tennessee is an at-fault state. This means that liability, or fault, must first be established before compensation is awarded.

Let’s look at an example:

Suppose Driver A is not paying attention to their speed or how closely they are following the vehicle in front of them (Driver B). Driver A rear-ends Driver B. However, Driver B was also not paying attention to traffic because they were texting. As a result, Driver B smashed into the vehicle in front of them (Driver C).

In this scenario, Driver B might be found to be partially responsible for the accident since they were texting. Although the chain reaction of the accident began with Driver A, under Tennessee law Driver B might not be able to collect all of the compensation they would otherwise be entitled to receive because they were also partly at fault.

Factors that might be used in determining fault for multiple vehicle crashes include:

• Location of the accident

• Road conditions at the time of the accident

• Whether any of the drivers were attempting to turn

• Speed of the drivers

• Police reports

• Witness statements

• Whether any of the drivers involved in the pileup violated any laws

• Whether any of the drivers were issued citations

• Video surveillance (if available)

• The extent of vehicle damage

• Positioning of the vehicles


If you or a loved one were injured in a pileup accident, it’s crucial to hire an experienced Tennessee car accident lawyer. Even if you don’t think you were at fault in a pileup, it’s still important to have an attorney representing your case who can work with professionals like accident reconstructionists and sort through the complex matter of determining who is at fault so that you can collect a fair amount of compensation.

Contact Gilreath & Associates today to schedule your free initial consultation.


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