A titanic motor vehicle accident occurred on Interstate 94 in Northwest Indiana, just outside Michigan City, the Chicago Tribune reports.
The weather on the day of the accident, Thursday, January 23, was by all accounts cold, but sunny with high visibility. Snow swept in, however, and conditions turned dangerous when visibility was reduced to 10 feet by a winter storm, according to the Indiana State Police. In all, 46 vehicles, including cars and semi-trucks, were involved in the accident. Three people are dead, and approximately 20 were injured. Amongst the dead was Jerry Dalrymple, 65, a resident of Chicago.
Among the first to call 911 was a semi-truck driver near the front of the crash. He had stopped to avoid hitting stopped vehicles in front of him when he felt a collision from behind. The driver of that truck was pinned in his cab with severe leg injuries. He called 911 to help the other driver, who survived the accident.
The death toll for an accident of this magnitude could have been much higher. LaPorte County Coroner John Sullivan was surprised the death toll was so low. “Lucky we didn’t have 10 more…from looking at it,” he said. “There’s just so much destruction, they have to tear apart those vehicles and semis and move them little by little to see if there is a car underneath them or under a trailer.”
Interstate 94, or the Edens Expressway in Chicago, is a major highway stretching from Port Huron, Michigan in the east, to Billings, Montana in the west. Many Chicagoans depend upon the Edens to commute to and from work. It is also well traveled by semi-trucks shipping goods between the Midwest and the West Coast.
The Indiana Department of Transportation closes highways in Indiana if weather conditions become so severe that traveling them is a significant danger. Interstate 65 in southern Indiana was closed days before the accident due to inclement weather. The lake effect snow that descended upon northern Indiana on the 23rd, however, was unexpected, and thus no plans were made to close down that portion of the highway.
In the tragic case of this unusually large-scale accident, it is difficult to tell if anyone is responsible for the tragedy. The cause of the accident is still unknown, but the weather likely influenced how events unfolded. Undoubtedly, many drivers will be seeking compensation from their insurance companies for their injuries and the damage to their vehicles. Depending on the language of the insurance contract, however, the insurance company may not pay under the policy.
Most contracts have a clause called force majeure. Literally meaning “superior force,” it is a clause that releases the company from its obligation under the contract for damages that are caused by things outside of anyone’s control. An outmoded term is “Act of God.” If the weather is deemed responsible for the accident, then the insurance company would not be obligated to pay, because they would not be able to recoup their losses from any responsible party. This is all dependent on the language of the contract.
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