Recent Blog Post

What Are the Causes in Michigan for 100+ Car Pile Ups?

Steven Matz
February 16, 2023 | Car Accident

multiple car pile up on the highway

Being involved in a normal two-car accident can fill you with fear, trauma, betrayal, and pain. Now, imagine being in a car accident with almost a hundred cars. Who is at fault for this? What can you do to get to safety? How can you avoid further injury? Where do you turn to get paid for your serious injuries, pain and suffering, medical bills, lost wages, and other damages? If you are involved in a multi-vehicle crash this year in Michigan, reach out to the personal injury attorneys at Matz Injury Law for help.

What is a Vehicle Pileup?

A vehicle pileup is a car accident involving multiple vehicles. Not every multi-car crash is necessarily a pileup. Usually, a pileup is named so because it creates a pile or mass of vehicles due to one after the other striking each other. Most pileups include three or more cars, but few see the epic level of damage like that of the infamous, massive I-95 Michigan pileup that took place on January 9, 2015.

Vehicle pileups can be devastating, and determining who is responsible can be extremely complicated. If you have been in a multi-vehicle pileup, the attorneys at Matz Injury Law are here to help. Contact us today at 1-866-22Not33 or use our easy contact form to request a free consultation with a legal team member.

The Infamous Michigan Car Pileup

Years ago on Interstate 94 in Michigan, just outside of the Battle Creek metro area, what began as a single accident on a Friday morning eventually turned into a historic accident involving a more than 100-car pile, all due to driver negligence. The final tally in the pileup was a whopping 193 vehicles, with dozens of injuries and catastrophic levels of property damage. The damage took up nearly a half mile of highway.

The winter weather that day had howling winds with gusts over 40 mph. The winter storm created whiteout conditions and icy roads. Despite the wintry conditions, the cause of the accident was ruled to be driver negligence.

It began with a two-vehicle crash between big rigs. This initial wreck involved a tanker truck carrying over 44,000 pounds of formic acid, a common antibacterial agent and preservative in livestock feed, and a tractor-trailer hauling 40,000 pounds of commercial-grade fireworks, which immediately went off upon impact. Motorists and passengers alike dove for cover as the icy conditions and inches of snow led to more vehicles colliding. Miraculously, the deadly pileup resulted in only a single fatality, but it could have been far worse.

Police officers issued 63 citations to motorists at the scene due to improper driving for the road conditions. The massive pileup made national news and received coverage on NBC, Fox, and other major news outlets. The incident caused both the eastbound and westbound lanes to be closed for hours as first responders, the police department, and the fire department worked to clear the accident and contain the deadly conditions.

What Are Common Factors for Michigan Pileup Accidents?

cars driving down the highway while it is snowing

Multi-vehicle accidents, while less common than normal accidents, can cause truly catastrophic damage. Many factors cause pile-ups, but the following are the most common.


Snow and ice are the primary weather factors in multi-car pileups. Freezing rain can turn highways, turnpikes, and other busy thoroughfares into sheets of ice, resulting in a loss of control and catastrophic accidents. Even rain can cause a vehicle to go out of control, and on busy roads, it only takes one crash to create a chain reaction.

Time of Day

 Department of Transportation and vehicle accident lawyers often use the time of day to help determine the cause of a crash. For example, crashes that occur on a Thursday afternoon are less likely to be caused by drunk driving than an accident on Saturday evening.


The location can help determine the cause of an accident as well. For example, multi-car pileups in cities or suburbs almost always happen at intersections, particularly intersections with stoplights. One driver may ignore a stoplight or try to beat a yellow light and get struck by another moving through the intersection, which leads to more crashes. Alternatively, a car speeding through an intersection can T-bone another vehicle, which creates conditions that cause other drivers to swerve and potentially crash.

Outside of cities and suburbs, vehicle pileups almost always happen due to poor road or weather conditions. Ice, rain, or an oil spill can cause a driver loses control and create a chain-reaction accident. Sometimes a driver may simply be speeding and lose control on a curve, leading to a massive accident.

How Do You Protect Yourself in a Multi-Car Pileup?

Being in a multi-car pileup is not just terrifying; it can also be deadly. Taking the right steps can mean the difference between safety and catastrophic injuries. Of course, the best way to protect yourself is by not getting into an accident in the first place. Here are some important precautions to take to protect yourself from a vehicle pileup in Michigan.

Slow Down

The moment you see anything that seems like a red flag, slow down gradually. Avoid brake slamming; this can just lead to more accidents. Slowing down also applies to bad road conditions. If it is foggy, raining, snowing, or sleeting, or the road presents conditions like broken pavement, gravel, or chemical spills, slow down to accommodate the conditions.

Get to Safety

If you see a big accident ahead of you, put your blinkers on and pull off to the side of the road. Try to stay well clear of the incident. It could be several hours after one of these accidents before the road reopens. To stay safe, keep a vehicle emergency kit in your car with water, emergency flares, a blanket, snacks, a spare charger for your cell phone, and other necessities. 

Maintain Distance

Maintaining the right distance between your car and the cars around you is essential to defensive driving. Make sure you give cars around you plenty of time to slow down. You should always have enough space to react to unforeseen circumstances on the road.

Who is at Fault in a Pileup?

It can be extremely tricky to assign fault in a chain-reaction type of accident like a multi-car pileup. Many drivers involved in these accidents may have been speeding or otherwise negligent in some small way, eventually leading to their involvement in the accident.

For example, a driver who failed to maintain a safe distance from the vehicle in front of them holds some negligence in an accident. If a vehicle suddenly changes lanes and cuts off another driver, causing that driver to swerve out of the way and strike others, the original lane changer could be responsible. However, the driver they cut off may also be responsible if it can be shown they should have left more space to react to unforeseen situations.

In vehicle pileups, attorneys look at many factors to determine fault. It starts with identifying how the original crash happened. From there, they will consider the above factors: weather, time of day, and location. Even the number and types of vehicles involved can come into play.

Michigan is also a no-fault state for insurance purposes. No-fault laws do not mean that nobody is at fault for an accident. They mean that you are required to carry no-fault insurance, also known as personal injury protection or PIP coverage. When you are in an accident in Michigan, you file your initial claim with your insurance company under your PIP policy.

This insurance covers your lost wages, medical expenses, and other basic expenses from a car accident, including up to $20 per day for replacement household services and, if necessary, survivor’s loss benefits should you die in the car accident. PIP benefits do not include pain and suffering or other invisible injuries. In addition, insurance companies will often look for reasons to deny coverage, even when you deserve the compensation.

Michigan law requires you to carry PIP on your insurance policy. Only those covered by Medicare Part A or B are exempt, provided others in their household have an auto insurance policy or health coverage. The level you carry is up to you and can range from $50,000 to $500,000.

To seek pain and suffering damages for your injuries, you must file a lawsuit against the responsible party. This is where you should speak with a knowledgeable and experienced car accident attorney like those at Matz Injury Law.

Getting to Safety is Your Top Priority in a Pileup

woman calling her insurance company after a rear end accident

Matz Injury Law has decades of combined experience helping people like you all across Michigan. If you are involved in a multi-car pileup accident despite your best efforts to get to safety, you deserve compensation for your injuries.

When the insurance company denies your claim or offers an insufficient settlement, our car accident lawyers can take over negotiations. We can help you file the right paperwork on time and correctly and help you avoid making critical mistakes. We can take over the fight so you can focus on getting well again.

You owe us nothing if we do not win your case, and our contingency fee is only 22%, compared to the 33% many competitors charge. Call our law office at 1-866-22Not33 or use our online contact form to request a free consultation with a member of our legal team today.

steven matz headshot

Written By Steven Matz

Founding Shareholder

Steven J. Matz is a founding shareholder of Matz Injury Law. The firm’s concentration is on personal injury litigation, with an emphasis on traumatic brain injury.

The maximum contingency fee permitted by law is actually 331/3%. Michigan court rules require that the attorney fee be computed on the net sum recovered after deducting all disbursements properly chargeable to the enforcement of the claim.

What does 22not33 mean, exactly?

We can charge 22% while virtually all other injury attorneys charge 331/3% because we are very, very, good at obtaining results for our clients.

We do not spend millions of dollars on television ads; instead, we offer a lower fee to all our clients. We do not have dozens of lower paid associates handling our work. All our clients are represented by Steven and Jared Matz. Steven Matz started the firm in 1977 and since then has dedicated his life to representing injury victims. Jared joined the firm in 2016 but grew up listening to stories, discussing theories, and generally learning at the dinner table about how to effectively and compassionately represent injury victims. Jared Matz was literally born to represent individuals involved in motor vehicle crashes.

All of our cases are handled on a contingency fee and all our cases are handled at 22%. Whether the case settles or goes through trial, the fee does not change. While our competitors make excuses as to why they charge so much, we are obtaining results for our clients at a lower fee.

At a typical television advertising law firm, your first call will be handled by a receptionist, who may refer you to an intake person, who will discuss your claim with an intake manager, who then discusses your claim with an associate, who may then report to a partner. You may never speak with the person whose name is at the top of the letterhead. At Matz Injury Law you will always speak with either Steven Matz or Jared Matz.