Pile up classified as 2 separate accidents, car totaled?

by Teresa
(Asheville, NC)

I came up a hill at green light, and my speed was at or slightly below the 45mph limit. Suddenly I saw red flashing rear hazard lights and a few people, realized they were in my lane, not in the middle, turning lane. I hit my brakes hard, and hit the 2nd car with the left front side of my car.

In a second, it seemed, I was hit hard from behind, and it pushed me back into the 2nd car hard. My airbag deployed, but very gently, like a fizzle. Then the fifth car hit the fourth, I don't remember feeling that one - shock I guess. This was a first time experience for me. I'd just picked my dog up from grooming.

The boy from car 2 had been sitting on his car, which I did not observe, and he was in a lot of shock. They (paramedics) laid him on the ground and checked him out. He wasn't badly hurt according to his girlfriend, but was taken for X-rays. No person was directly hit by a car, and not a drop of blood was anywhere. It was a Christmas miracle.

Anyway, the police wrote it up as 2 separate accidents. Car one and 2 had had their accident before I was close, were out of the cars, and just talking. I and the girl who hit me were given tickets for speeding and not slowing down to avoid an accident, which is absurd.

The boy in car 2 is listed on both accident reports. I don't understand all of this. I know I wasn't speeding. The cop said if you hit someone in the rear, it's your fault - period. He gave me and car 4 a ticket, and said that we probably would not have to pay the total amount, since both of us have pristine, clean driving records.

I don't know what to do. I have extensive body damage, as do cars 2 and 4. My car was running, heat working, lights ok, and radio good. It's mainly the front left hood, headlight, grill and front of fender that were damaged...the same on rear left. The right side is untouched.

Everyone, cops, insurance company, etc. said it's totaled. Why is that? If it's ok mechanically, why can't the body be repaired? It's 3 years old, 18,000 miles, and topped out with options. My husband passed 3 years ago, so I have no one to ask for advice. Any opinions or perspective you can give would be great. Thank you!

Visitor Question:
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ANSWER for "Pile up classified as 2 separate accidents, car totaled?":

Teresa (Asheville, NC):

It is likely you were issued at least one citation for a violation of North Carolina's Motor Vehicle Code Section 20-152 (a) for "Following too Closely." Section 20-152 reads as follows:

"The driver of a motor vehicle shall not follow another vehicle more closely than is reasonable and prudent, having due regard for the speed of such vehicles and the traffic upon and the condition of the highway."

In almost all cases where one driver collides with another driver from behind, the driver following behind is guilty of following too closely.

Why the police officer issued a citation for speeding when you were driving at, or below the speed limit is unknown. In both cases, you have a right to dispute the traffic citations in court. Most police officers are not qualified to render opinions of the fair market value of cars, especially when the determination is related to the cost of repairs.

Insurance companies normally pay repairs for a damaged car when the repair costs are substantially less than fair market value. In your case, it appears the insurance company decided the cost of repair was more than the fair market value.

You can go online to websites like Autotrader and look for cars of the same make and model as yours. Be sure you find cars with similar low mileage. Take that information and send it to the insurance claims adjuster who has been handling your claim.

If the fair market value of the cars you locate are substantially more than the repair costs, negotiate with the adjuster to pay for the repairs instead of totaling the car. While there is no guarantee that will work, if you are intent on having repairs made instead of accepting the value of the totaled car, than you should at least try.

The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from an attorney licensed in your state. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here, or call (888) 647-2490.

Best of luck,

Judge Calisi

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Update
by: Teresa

The car was totaled, mainly for the fact that the insurance company will profit from parts sales.

They paid close to what I wanted after a lot of foot stomping and see you in court from me. Not a done deal yet. No check, changed payout to $1000 less, then back to what we settled on.

They want me to sign a release...when pigs fly. I want the check, and permission from Nissan to sign. Now, the next fight is the ticket the cop wrote me. I'll sit in a dang cell before I sign off or pay that, the way it's written.

Lies, lies, and quota, along with, well, someone had to get tickets. Only two of five got written up for willfully and unlawfully refusing to decrease speed to avoid collision.

Only a crazy person would do what I am accused of in that citation. It's jail or not guilty.

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