There are many things that contribute to car accidents. A moment of inattention. Falling asleep at the wheel. Speeding or disregarding traffic laws. In these instances, it is usually very easy to determine who was liable for the crash and hold them responsible for their negligence. However, when cold weather elements like snow, sleet, or ice contribute to the cause of a car accident, determining liability can become more complicated.
If you were involved in an accident during the cold-weather months and sustained injuries or damage to your vehicle, don’t simply accept that rain, ice, or snow caused the accident. Even though poor weather conditions may have contributed to your accident, the other driver still may have been negligent in causing the accident if they failed to act reasonably under the circumstances.
To find out if you may be able to receive compensation for the damages you sustained in your accident, call the law firm of Foster Wallace, LLC, today. Even if the other driver “skidded on the ice” or “simply couldn’t stop in time,” the lawyers at Foster Wallace, LLC, can help you determine whether the other drive was negligent when driving in the poor weather conditions that contributed to your accident. If so, you should be compensated for your injuries. Let the experienced car accident attorneys at Foster Wallace, LLC, help you to receive the compensation you deserve.
Can Cold Weather Contribute to the Cause of an Accident?
According to the Federal Highway Administration, nearly 25 percent of weather-related crashes occur in snow, slush, and ice. Of those weather-related crashes, 15 percent occur when it is sleeting or snowing. Clearly, cold weather is a significant factor that contributes to car accidents.
Although drivers cannot be responsible for poor weather conditions while driving, they are still responsible for how they drive in those conditions. This means that even though the weather or road conditions may have contributed to your accident, the other driver still may be liable for any damages resulting from the accident if they were negligent while driving under those conditions.
What Does a Typical Negligence Claim Look Like?
To satisfy a typical negligence claim, you must show four things:
A duty of care
Breach of that duty of care
Every driver has a duty to act with reasonable care when operating their vehicle. This is true regardless of the weather conditions or any other circumstances. For instance, a driver must:
Be aware of their surroundings
Avoid driving too close to other cars
Be informed of and follow all traffic laws
Avoid driving too fast
When a driver fails to exercise reasonable care, they breach their legal duty. If that breach of duty causes an accident that results in damages, then the driver was negligent and may be financially responsible for those damages. Although this rule applies regardless of the weather conditions, poor weather conditions like ice and snow can impact what it means to exercise “reasonable care.”
How Can Cold Weather Impact a Driver’s Duty of Reasonable Care?
The statistics above from the Federal Highway Administration clearly show that cold weather can make driving conditions much more hazardous than normal. However, a driver still has the same legal responsibility when driving—to exercise reasonable care under the circumstances. This means that a driver must consider all of the surrounding circumstances, including weather, and act reasonably when driving under any conditions.
When snow, sleet, or ice affect driving conditions, a driver must act reasonably under those conditions. A driver should not drive as they would under normal conditions. If it is snowing, they must take that into consideration and exercise greater caution while driving under those circumstances. If another driver fails to exercise greater caution while driving under hazardous conditions and causes a car accident, they cannot automatically defend themselves by blaming the accident on the ice or snow. Their failure to take greater caution under the circumstances may have been negligent.
There are several ways that a driver may act negligently while driving in cold-weather conditions:
Driving too fast
Under normal conditions, if you drive at or under the posted speed limit, you are probably satisfying your duty to act with reasonable care while driving. But posted speed limits are not necessarily safe speeds at which to drive when there is heavy snow or ice on the road. Under these conditions, driving the speed limit actually may be driving too fast.
Even if a driver maintains the speed limit, poor weather conditions may decrease visibility, cause the road to be slick, and make it more difficult to control or stop the vehicle to avoid an accident. Under these conditions, driving the speed limit may not be reasonable. In fact, it may be negligent.
If you were involved in an accident involving poor weather conditions, call Foster Wallace, LLC, today. Even though the other driver may have been driving at the speed limit, they may have been negligent by failing to consider the dangerous weather conditions at the time. The attorneys at Foster Wallace, LLC, can help determine the real cause of your accident. If the other driver was negligent, we will help you receive the maximum compensation you deserve.
Driving too closely to other cars
Likewise, a driver may be negligent by driving too closely to the car in front of them. As a driver, if the car in front of you brakes quickly, you will need to brake quickly as well. It is your duty to maintain a safe distance behind the car in front of you so that you can react in time and stop safely to avoid an accident.
Although the distance you keep between you and the car in front of you may be a safe distance under normal weather conditions, that distance may be unreasonable when the road is wet or icy. Under these conditions, every driver has an obligation to account for the fact that ice and sleet may make it more difficult to stop their car if they have to brake suddenly. Failing to account for these conditions can cause an accident.
If you were involved in a cold-weather accident in which another driver failed to stop in time to avoid hitting you, the other driver may be liable for any damages you suffered if they failed to account for the poor road conditions. The attorneys at Foster Wallace, LLC, can help assess your accident and determine if the other driver may have been negligent by driving too closely to your car under the circumstances.
Not maintaining your vehicle
Whatever kind of car you drive, it likely has many safety features that help you to avoid crashes or protect you in an accident. However, there are certain features of your car that are critical for driving safely in cold weather:
Tires. Tires that are old may have lost some of their traction, making it more difficult to stop the vehicle quickly, especially when the road is wet or icy.
Brakes. Brakes also wear out over time from normal use. Worn-out brakes can increase the likelihood of skidding while braking or taking too long to stop the vehicle to avoid an accident.
Lights. Lights are essential not only for you to be able to see the road in front of you but for other drivers to be able to see your car. This is particularly true for brake lights. Driving in the snow with brake lights that don’t work dramatically increases the likelihood of an accident.
Windshield wipers. Windshield wipers that are worn out decrease visibility and increase the likelihood of having to brake suddenly to avoid an accident.
Failing to maintain your tire tread or windshield wipers may not amount to a breach of your duty of care when driving under normal weather conditions. However, in cold, icy weather conditions, failure to maintain these critical safety features on a car may be considered negligent if the driver’s failure to maintain them causes an accident.
Have You Been Injured in a Kansas City Motor Vehicle Accident?
If you've been hurt in a Kansas City motor vehicle accident you need to speak with an experienced motor vehicle accident attorney as soon as possible. Contact us online or call our Kansas City office directly at 816.249.2101 to schedule your free consultation.