Who’s at Fault in a “Chain Reaction” Crash?

You’ve heard of a chain reaction.

In science, it’s a chemical reaction in which the products themselves promote or spread the reaction, which under certain conditions may accelerate dramatically. Or it’s a series of events, each caused by the previous one.

It’s that second definition that occurs frequently on Atlanta roadways.

Recently, a Georgia National Guard armored truck slammed into another car on the highway in Atlanta on November 5, 2020. A driver caught video of the truck rear-ending a car on I-285.

Captured on video is a caravan of National Guard trucks driving along the interstate in stop-and-go traffic. Like what happens frequently in Atlanta traffic, the big rigs were cruising along but when traffic stopped suddenly, the driver of the first didn’t react in time and plowed into the car ahead of him.


What’s a “Chain Reaction” Crash?

A “chain reaction” crash is an accident with three or more vehicles that are involved in a series of crashes.

In the accident on I-285, the truck at the head of the caravan (vehicle #2)  plowed into a stopped vehicle (#1), and the trucks behind them slammed on their brakes, screeching to a halt in an attempt to avoid crashing into the lead truck. These truck drivers were going too fast to anticipate the stopped traffic ahead on the highway.

Usually in chain reaction crashes, a car or truck is unable to stop in time (#3) and crashes into the back of the stopped vehicle ahead of it (#2). The force of that crash pushes the car into the one ahead of it (#1). Boom. Boom. Boom!

In other chain reaction crashes, a driver (#1) hits the brakes unexpectedly. That forces the driver behind them (#2) to rear-end them. Once the first rear-end collision happens, another driver (#3), who is traveling at normal highway speeds, doesn’t react in time and hits the back of car #2. This can continue with a fourth driver who doesn’t react to the crash which causes a pile-up.


What’s Driver Reaction Time?

Driver reaction time is the amount of time it takes for an individual to respond to an event, such as a road hazard or accident.

In driving, just a fraction of a second in reaction time may mean the difference between a serious crash and totally escaping injury.

Of course, reaction times vary from driver to driver. 2020 Atlanta Cup Series Winner Kevin Harvick might have a reaction time of 0.2 seconds for a given situation. The reaction time for the average person traveling home from work or going to the grocery store? It’s many times slower at somewhere between a half and a full second.

There are a number of factors that come into play with reaction time. Distractions, speed, driving experience, and physical and mental fitness can dramatically impact a person’s reactions. This applies even with drivers who have fairly quick reaction times in normal circumstances. An individual with a super-fast reaction time like NASCAR driver Kevin Harvick may see drastic changes if he’s distracted, driving impaired, tired and sleepy, stressed, angry, or not feeling well.

For example, research shows that texting while driving nearly doubled a driver’s reaction time. A big variable that can impact average reaction time is age. As drivers get older, physical and cognitive functions slow down, which results in increased time between when a road condition or hazard is recognized and the time the driver reacts to avoid danger.

Determination of whether an individual could’ve reacted more quickly and avoided an accident is typically the work of accident reconstruction experts. These professionals investigate whether a driver was paying attention to the roadway, or whether traveling at a slower speed could have prevented an accident. At Tobin Injury Law, we specialize in large truck and semi accidents, so we have expertise with these types of accidents and use only experts who are extremely knowledgeable with trucking accidents.


Who’s at Fault for the Crash?

Determining liability in these chain reaction accidents can be difficult, that’s again, why we employ only accident reconstruction experts who are extremely knowledgeable with trucking crashes. In some instances, the driver who created the first crash is liable for injuries; however, in other case, drivers can share fault. In those instances, the second, third, or fourth car or truck may be fully or partially to blame.

Following too closely is the primary cause of chain reaction accidents, but truck and car drivers can engage in other negligent behavior that can contribute to a multi-vehicle accident. This includes things like:

  • Failing to repair a broken brake light;
  • Texting while driving;
  • Speeding;
  • Driving under the influence; and
  • Failing to obey traffic signs and signals.


Damages are Worse When a Semi Truck is Involved

Remember that accidents that involve big rigs are usually much worse than car accidents. The reason is the sheer weight of heavy loads semis carry. Because of a tractor-trailer’s size and weight, a truck is unable to come to a full stop as quickly as a car. This is true even if a semi isn’t carrying a load—it still weighs significantly more than the average car.

A semi with a trailer full of cargo can weigh 80,000 pounds. With this weight, it can cause serious damage to others when involved in an accident. Commercial truck accidents often cause a lot of costly property damage, as well as the severe injuries that can be sustained by accident victims.

Injuries in these chain reaction accidents can range from minor bumps and bruises to severe whiplash, back injuries, fractured bones, traumatic brain injuries, and even death.


Our experienced Atlanta truck accident lawyer team has helped many families in truck wrecks.  You can contact an experienced Atlanta truck accident lawyer 24 hours a day, 7 days a week by calling 404-JUSTICE (404-587-8423) or using our online contact form. Tobin Injury Law offers free consultations and will be glad to answer your questions.