Emergency services were alerted to a smash on the southbound stretch between Junction 31 for Aston and Junction 32 for the M18 at 6.30am yesterday.
The road was closed for around 10 hours for vehicle recovery and crash scene investigative work.
An operation also had to be mounted to turn around thousands of cars caught up in miles of tailbacks on the motorway.
A black Vauxhall Corsa, driven by a 43-year-old woman, was involved in a collision with a maroon DAF HGV.
The Corsa then collided with the central reservation barrier before it was involved in a second collision involving yellow Volvo HGV and a silver Renault Trafic.
The 43-year-old woman was taken to hospital, where she remained last night, with life-threatening injuries.
Witnesses or anyone with dash cam footage should call 101.