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Fault in chain-reaction car accidents depends on circumstances

Chain-reaction crashes can sometimes present difficult problems of determining liability, or the percentage of liability, owed by each operator under New Hampshire law. In some car accidents involving chain-reactions, the first operator that causes the chain-reaction will be solely responsible for all ensuing injuries. Each mishap will depend on the facts of negligence occurring in the circumstances.

A chain-reaction occurred on Interstate 93 recently in the southbound lanes between exits 14 and 13. A small car hit a deer on at about 1:15 p.m. and then was rear-ended by a tractor-trailer, per the New Hampshire State Police. A vehicle behind the tractor-trailer was also struck by another vehicle.

Three persons in the first car were taken by ambulance to Concord Hospital with serious injuries. Some victims had to be extracted by responders and as is often the case with chain-reaction mishaps, the highway was backed up for several miles before order was restored. With respect to liability, it does not appear likely that the car that hit the deer will be held responsible, barring specific facts of carelessness being documented.

Generally, the tractor-trailer operator and owner would be looked to for compensation and liability under these facts. The tractor-trailer operator, in the middle of the day, had a good picture of the highway ahead. Anticipating accidents involving animals is not an unreasonable aspect of driving with due care.

A general negligence rule regarding car accidents in New Hampshire is that one must have the vehicle under sufficient control to bring it to a stop within an assured clear distance ahead. Under that reasoning, the truck driver was negligent in not keeping a safe and sufficient lookout on the road ahead. Barring exculpatory facts emerging, it is more likely that the truck driver could have prevented the collision by having a greater control of his vehicle and being more vigilant in looking ahead.

Source:, "Accident on I-93 South shuts down lanes near Exit 14 in Concord", May 30, 2017

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