Inclement Weather and Car Accident Liability

Car accident liability can be challenging to prove, especially when other issues (such as inclement weather) are factored into a case. The bottom line is that negligence must be determined when pursuing a car crash claim. Although inclement weather could be a key component, whether the driver exercised reasonable care behind the wheel must still be established.

Impact of Inclement Weather on Car Accident Liability

Rainstorms, ice, high winds, fog and snow are just some examples of poor weather conditions. While they might create additional hazards on the road drivers must still adjust to these conditions accordingly. With recent storms like Hurricane Sandy ravaging the coasts, a good understanding of how inclement weather can affect driving patterns is important for everyone.

For instance, slippery roads caused by ice or rain would warrant slowing down. Fog or heavy snow could make visibility difficult. This should cause a driver to not only reduce his/her speed but also turn on the vehicle’s headlights, defrosters and/or windshield wipers.

A common type of accident when the weather conditions are poor is a rear-end collision. Although speed could be a factor, many times it is also a result of drivers not allowing enough space between vehicles. When the weather is inclement the space between the vehicles should be increased to allow for appropriate stopping distance.

Spinouts are another common type of accident. This can happen when driving too fast for conditions especially when making a turn or taking a curve. As a result, the driver might crash into another vehicle. Again, although weather might have been a factor, if the driver wasn’t exercising reasonable care, he/she would likely be liable.

Traction can be a real issue when driving in poor weather conditions. So if it’s determined the driver’s tires were worn or windshield wipers were not working properly, the driver’s failure to maintain the vehicle could be an issue.

Of course, a driver might have been doing everything right and was driving safely and cautiously. Yet despite these efforts, an accident still occurs. It could also be that conditions are completely unexpected. Flash flooding and black ice are some examples. Situations such as these might make proving liability difficult.

How Negligence May Play a Role in a Car Accident Involving Inclement Weather

A driver could be found at partial fault when weather is factored into the case. In the state of New York, this would still allow for recovery of damages. In fact, even if the person was mostly at fault (99 percent), he/she would still be entitled to compensation.

But any degree of fault assigned is going to impact the amount of damages available. So let’s say a driver is 70 percent responsible for a crash. That is the amount (70 percent) by which total damages will be reduced. Even if the driver is 99 percent at fault for the accident, the driver will still be entitled to recover one percent of his/her damages.

Keep in mind that the weather may not be the only deciding factor. If there is evidence of other types of negligence, such as a driver talking on the phone while driving through fog or a driver failing to use a turn signal when changing lanes during a snowstorm, this would certainly affect the outcome. While these actions are dangerous in any condition, doing them when the weather is poor could increase one’s liability.

For help understanding how fault may be determined in a car crash claim involving inclement weather, contact an attorney. At Gacovino, Lake & Associates we can help clients answer these and other legal questions. Give us a call at 800-246-4878.

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