Snow-Related Car Accidents: Liability
Tomorrow we are expecting the biggest (and hopefully last) snow storm of the winter. Heavy snowfall is predicted tonight through the Thursday commute, creating possibly unsafe driving conditions. Snow and ice covered roads often lead to serious car accidents. Many victims of these car accidents end up in our office to discuss the damages and liability of their cases.
Do dangerous, winter driving conditions affect liability in a car accident case?
No, winter storm road conditions do not affect liability in a car accident. The driver determined to be at fault for the accident is liable for damages despite weather conditions. Though you cannot control the weather, you are expected to have full control of your car at all times. Additionally, the issue of foreseeable risk comes into play. Foreseeability can be defined as reasonable anticipation of the possible results of an action or omission. This concept may be applied here in that a driver is able to reasonably anticipate the possibility of damages or injury as a result of driving on dangerous, snow and ice covered roads.
With that being said, it is important that drivers take proper precautions to avoid an accident when roads are covered with snow or ice. If possible, try to stay off of the road entirely. If you must drive, do so cautiously and maintain a safe following distance. A safe following distance is key because this will give you more reaction time if your vehicle or another vehicle begins to slide or lose control. In favorable conditions, the minimum following distance defined by the National Safety Council is ‘three seconds plus’. A snow or ice covered road requires drivers to extend this following distance significantly.
Unfavorable weather causing poor road conditions is not an adequate defense in a car accident case. The driver at fault is liable for damages – property damage and bodily injuries – regardless of the weather, due to foreseeability and a responsibility to maintain control of their vehicle. Remember that if you need to drive on snowy or icy roads, do so cautiously.