Who is Liable When Bad Weather Causes an Accident?

rain droplets obstructing view from windshield

Bad weather, black ice, heavy snowfall, and slippery roads can make it more difficult for even the most experienced drivers to control their vehicles. The US Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration estimates 1.2 million weather-related crashes on average annually, 16% of which results in fatalities. 

You can always file a claim for a  weather-related accident, and insurance companies make certain considerations depending on the weather and road conditions. However, who's to blame when a car accident is caused by bad weather?

How do the Court and Insurance Companies Determine Who's at Fault?

As drivers, it remains your responsibility to take appropriate precautions when driving in bad weather. However, accidents can happen no matter how careful you are. When bad driving conditions are involved, insurance companies review all circumstances, including inclement weather, bad roads, and traffic signals. 

For example, if your car slides through an intersection or bumps into another car, insurance companies must determine for a fact that it was the bad weather or the road that caused the accident, not your driving error.    

Why is it Important to Know Who's at Fault?

Knowing who's at fault will determine the extent of insurance coverage and damage payments. 

For instance, a 50-50 fault decision might be made if two vehicles collide due to the fault of both drivers. This doesn't clear the drivers of any fault. Instead, they'll share the fault of the accident. 

It might also be different if was determined that one driver was going too fast for conditions. If this is the case, that driver may be held responsible for a larger portion or all of the total damages. 

In the case of a personal injury lawsuit, the details of accidents and determining fault will greatly affect the court's decision.

What Happens When the Fault is Determined?

Weather-caused accidents will still appear on your insurance record, and they'll treat them as any other at-fault accidents. 

If you've been determined at fault for a road accident due to inclement weather, and you feel that it was unfairly given, you have the right to appeal the decision. Remember that bad weather and road conditions can't be your only reason for the appeal. Unless you can show evidence that another party was at fault, the decision will more likely stand. 

Consult with a reputable law firm that specializes in transportation accident litigation to know what evidence you need to acquit yourself from blame. 

During Weather-Related Accidents, Attorneys Will Verify if:

  • The driver was not exceeding the speed reasonable to the weather condition
  • The driver was observing a safe distance from other vehicles
  • The weather event was unexpected, and not an anticipated occurrence
  • The driver could have done something to avoid the accident. If there are actions that the driver could have taken to avoid the crash, the driver could be held liable. 

In rare circumstances, the driver may be able to use an "Act of God" defense to prove lack of liability. This applies to instances that leave the driver no way to avoid the accident. For instance, if the vehicle is unexpectedly forced into oncoming traffic by a flash flood or a sudden tornado, then the driver may not be liable for the accident since the driver could not have done anything to avoid it.

Also, if hazardous road conditions contributed to the accident -- defective potholes, damaged roads, debris, or uneven shoulders -- the organization or entity in charge of roadway maintenance may also be at partial fault. 

Were You Injured Due to a Weather-Related Accident?

If you have been injured during a weather-related accident, you may be entitled to compensation for the damages and injuries. However, you must provide enough evidence that another party or another driver acted negligently given the circumstances. These charges include driving with limited visibility, speeding, or failure to ensure your tires and brakes are in tip-tops shape. 

Also, make sure that you observed all traffic regulations. For instance, if you weren't wearing your seatbelt at the time of the accident, the court may reduce your compensation by the degree to which you are at fault.

How to Avoid Accidents Caused by Bad Weather

Moving forward, the best way to avoid the problem is to practice extra precaution when driving during winter or bad weather. It would also help to be prepared for bad road conditions. Winter-proof your car to avoid engine trouble during the colder seasons. This will decrease the likelihood of you losing control of your car. 

Also, consider switching your windshield fluid to something that contains antifreeze to keep your windows clear. Check your tires and use appropriate winter tire models. Lastly, clean your headlights and windows to clear off any dirt that can affect your visibility while driving. 

You can never be too careful when driving during inclement weather. If the road conditions are especially bad, stay off the road altogether to avoid accidents. 

Whenever you get behind the wheel, you're accepting the responsibilities of the road. If you can't do away with driving in bad weather, make sure to drive at reduced speed, pull over if visibility is impaired, and ensure your vehicle is in perfect condition before going out on the road. 

How Can Cooney & Conway Help You?

Not sure whether you have a potential claim? Consult with a reputable personal injury attorney at Cooney & Conway. Fill out our free case evaluation to learn more about your case. 

You don't have to deal with weather-related accidents and stubborn insurance companies alone. Team up with a reliable local attorney to prevent taking all the blame for an accident caused by bad weather.