Determining Fault When Poor Road Conditions Are a Factor
Cold weather brings dangerous road conditions, which can significantly affect drivers’ abilities to maintain control over their vehicles. When ice, snow, construction, animals, or other roadway conditions contribute to an accident, it can be difficult to assess who should be at fault for the accident. In addition, the insurance companies will frequently place blame on the other insured driver to reduce what they need to pay out on the accident.
Mother Nature can create some precarious driving conditions, but trying to sue Mother Nature would not be a good use of your time. If you were injured in an auto accident due to weather conditions, there are times when you may have no recourse. However, just because the accident occurred under less-than-ideal driving conditions does not mean that no one was at fault.
Drivers have a duty to operate their vehicles safely in adverse weather conditions. For example, if a driver is speeding down a snowy interstate and loses control of his vehicle, he can be held liable for driving too fast for conditions. A driver who hydroplanes because she sped through a large visible puddle could be held liable for causing an accident that could have been avoided.
Yes, accidents happen, but careful drivers can avoid many of the accidents that occur on roads if they’d just use basic safety techniques such as increasing following distance, avoiding sudden stops or starts, and moderating their speed appropriate for conditions.
Road crews and construction companies owe the public duties of care to warn of dangers created by their construction activities and to protect the public from hazards. If an accident occurs because of their failure to warn drivers of dangerous conditions, then they could be on the hook for the damages sustained by the crash victims.
It is possible to make a claim against the government for dangerous roadway conditions, but it is generally more difficult than making the same type of claim against a private individual or company. Regardless, if you’ve been injured because of the government’s carelessness, you may be entitled to damages. We recommend you quickly contact an experienced attorney because claims against the government have different time and notice requirements than private claims.
Animals on the roadway can be a serious hazard. If an animal on the roadway causes a crash, there are a number of possible persons who may be responsible.
If you run into an animal because you were driving too fast for conditions, especially if the roadway signs warned you of the possible presence of animals, then you are likely at fault. If someone runs into you because you stopped for an animal, that person is probably liable for not following at a safe distance and driving too fast for conditions.
If a domesticated animal, such as livestock, is on the roadway, then the animal’s owner may be liable for failing to adequately maintain the fence or other enclosure meant to keep the animal off the road.