Authorities finished clearing Monday’s 25-vehicle accident yesterday, in which six people died following a sudden dust storm in New Mexico.
Dust storms bring high winds and low visibility, a deadly combination on the road. “It’s a topographical area in which the winds come through,” New Mexico state police spokesman Carl Christiansen said. “There’s nothing that can be done to prevent it.”
Commercial motor vehicles like tractor-trailers made up the majority of the vehicles involved in the I-10 pileup, according to ABC15.
A sudden dust storm led to a 25-vehicle pileup on a New Mexico interstate, leaving 6 people dead including an infant https://t.co/WL08j1JXFK— AP West Region (@APWestRegion) June 20, 2017
This isn’t the first dust storm related accident in the area. Seven died in a 2014 accident when a driver slammed on the brakes when blowing dust interfered with visibility.
It’s not clear if any of the drivers involved on Monday could have done more to avoid this accident, but the aftermath could be a nightmare.
Piling Up Legal Trouble
You can’t ignore the simple math of a pileup accident: more cars means more drivers and more insurance companies. A lot of disabled cars is likely to attract the attention of authorities, too. For a crash like this one, it’s best to stay inside your car until law enforcement arrives. Cars could continue to pile up, endangering you and your loved ones.
Determining what caused the chain reaction is the first step when facing a pileup, but the actions of each driver, and the state the accident happened in, changes the equation. If a driver admits to causing the chain reaction, they may face full liability in an at-fault state like New Mexico. But if they don’t, authorities must wade through the circumstances of every collision in the chain, and determine responsibility for each one.
Some states like Florida and New York use Personal Injury Protection (PIP), a system that doesn’t take fault into consideration except for in the most severe accidents. People with PIP insurance provide themselves with financial protection in case of an accident but only up to a certain limit. When costs that result from the accident exceed what your policy covers, you may be able to pursue damages from the liable driver. PIP is sometimes more expensive than insurance in at-fault states but streamlines the insurance process for less severe accidents.
Insurance companies will also factor in comparative or contributory negligence depending on your state. In comparative negligence systems, the percentage of fault assigned to you limits your recovery. In contributory negligence states, even 1% fault for an accident can prevent you from recovering damages. Several states fall between these two systems, making them difficult to navigate.
Additionally, the role of commercial vehicles in the accident creates even more problems. Trucking companies carry their own insurance, and the size and scope of their policies make insurers fight tooth and nail to reduce their liability.
The variables add up, and a knowledgeable car accident attorney may be your best move if you need help investigating your accident and filing a claim for your damages or injuries.
For now, authorities may have cleared the wreckage off I-10, but many questions swirl around the accident: who to blame for the loss of property, and more importantly, the loss of life.
(Editor’s Note: This is a news story from the ‘Morgan Monitor,’ a news wire offering legal perspectives on news in your community.)
Feature photo not of the accident described.