The idea of being responsible for a weather-related accident may seem preposterous, but the reality is that liability with a case like this can get a little complicated. Ideally, you will never be involved in this type of accident, but no one can predict an accident. The following are seven things you need to know about weather-related liability should you be involved in this kind of accident.
1. Are You Even Liable?
Perhaps the most important question that drivers are curious about is if they are liable for car accidents that occurred during inclement weather.
The answer is you are not liable for accidents that happen in bad weather as long as you meet certain requirements. In essence, you do not want the law or the insurance company to find out you did not take proper precautions as you were driving or you purposely put yourself in danger for no real reason. Those questions make an accident like this a little more complicated.
2. Understanding the Danger
The reality is bad weather increases the chances of being involved in an accident. Rain, for example, can make the road slippery, and drivers should keep these kinds of dangers in mind.
It is no secret that many of the accidents that occur in traffic happen during bad weather, and that cannot be ignored. A driver that does not take precautions like driving slower or giving him or herself a little more space between other cars might be held responsible for the accident. Both the law and insurance companies will hold you responsible if you knew about these dangers but did not take proper precautions.
3. Precautions can Change
Another thing you need to know about these kinds of accidents is that the responsibility of the driver can change depending on the weather. For example, you are expected to slow down if the conditions have compromised the road, but this will not be enough if the conditions have compromised your ability to see.
A driver who cannot see because of the weather is extreme will now be expected to move to the side of the road and wait until the weather gets better or visibility improves. The law and your insurance company will say that you were being reckless if you continue to drive, even though you cannot see. It may seem rational to move to the side, but the reality is that most drivers think visibility is bound to get better and just continue driving. Do not be one of these individuals or you might be found liable.
4. Direct Negligence
You may not think much about a warning from the traffic authorities telling drivers not to drive because the weather is too harsh, but those warnings need to be taken seriously. The law and your insurance company will definitely take those warning seriously and will wonder why you did not.
At this point, you should find a lawyer to help explain your actions. Driving after being told not to drive could definitely put you at fault. There are some exceptions to the rule, like having a medical emergency that puts you in a bind or some other type of emergency that forces you to drive against the wishes of traffic authorities. You are going to need a lawyer to help ensure your decision is presented in a way that validates it.
5. Poor Maintenance Lifts Guilt
Sometimes, the accident might be the fault of the city. The weather does make things difficult. A safe driver can take precautions, but poor road maintenance could make safety precautions useless.
It could be found that the overall design of the road puts drivers in unnecessary danger when the weather is dire. It could also be found that road drainage was not properly maintained, which leaves more water on the road. Excess water could spell trouble for drivers who did not expect it. A good lawyer can help determine if the city of the municipality is at fault rather than the driver him or herself.
6. Other Drivers
Liability gets a little more complicated if there were other drivers involved in the accident. A lawyer and a cop can help determine who might have been at fault should there be an accident involving more than one person.
You will not find out what you are liable for until the investigation behind the accident is complete. This type of accident could mean that the damages sustained by your car may be paid by another insurance company. Of course, this could also put you in a lot of trouble if you were the one who was at fault. Determining fault in a situation like this is pretty important, so make sure you have professional investigators working on your behalf.
7. Recklessness is an Issue
An additional problem that could make it hard for you to fight liability is willfully being reckless while driving. There are a number of ways to do this but one of the most common has to do with your smartphone.
It is okay for a person to have a phone near them, especially when the weather is extreme, but the problem is using that phone while driving. Investigators can actually see if a person was texting or using an app when the accident occurred. Making a mistake like this could definitely make you liable. It is important to keep your phone with you just in case there is a weather warning, but all other activities will have been put on pause until you have reached your destination. You may want to put your phone under or behind your seat while you are driving.
Understanding your responsibilities and taking steps to avoid being in this type of accident is in your best interest for a number of reasons. You are going to be preventing financial woes, and you are going to be protecting your overall health because car accidents can be quite catastrophic. The environment is nothing to scoff at, especially when the weather starts to become harsh. It is always better to stay at home if you can.