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Michael J. Duber and Brandon T. Duber

Who is at Fault for a Weather-Related Accident?

Dec 2, 2019 |

Vehicle accidents happen every day, and usually it’s evident which driver is at fault. It’s important to know who’s at fault because it gives injured parties the ability to receive any compensation they deserve. But what happens when an accident occurs due to inclement weather conditions? Identifying the driver at fault in these situations can be more difficult. Here’s how weather-related incidents are evaluated and what it means for the people involved.

It’s always the driver’s responsibility to adapt to road conditions

The bottom line is that drivers must change how they drive when the roads become dangerous due to weather conditions like snow,ice, fog and heavy rain. Although this might seem unfair to the drivers who are determined to be at fault, it’s ultimately their decision to drive in the bad weather. In other words, they assume the risk when they choose to get on the road.

Drivers are responsible for their vehicles and need to do everything they can do in order to stay safe on the roads. This includes slowing down (even below the speed limit in some cases) and increasing the distance from the car in front of them so they have more time to react if there is a sudden stop. For example, a driver who attempts to stop at a stoplight, but slides into the back of the car in front of them because the roads were icy, will likely be found at fault for the accident.

Duty of Care

Duty of Care is the notion that every driver on the road has the duty to avoid collisions with other vehicles, regardless of the environment around them. Common actions that have a negative impact on a driver’s ability to avoid collisions with other vehicles include driving too fast, being impaired by drugs or alcohol, failing to use windshield wipers, not properly maintaining their vehicle (wipers, tires, headlights, brakes, etc.) and failing to obey traffic signals and road signs.

How liability is determined in these situations

Insurance companies will always push to find out which driver is liable for damage or injuries caused to others. If the actions by one of the drivers could have potentially prevented the accident, that driver will likely be found liable. For example, sliding on an icy road could be why one driver hit another, but if that driver’s tire treads were worn down, they would be found liable. The reason being that tires with better tread might have handled the ice better and prevented them from sliding.

In some cases, liability can be split 50/50 between the parties involved. For example, if the weather conditions cause two drivers to start sliding and they end up hitting each other, both drivers may be found partially at fault. In very rare cases, it’s possible that no driver will be found liable due to an “Act of God”. These situations involve rare events in which there was nothing the driver could have done to avoid or prevent an accident. For example, a boulder starts to roll down a hill and into a nearby road. It strikes an oncoming car and causes that car to swerve into another car.

Weather is the main cause of 1.2 million car accidents each year (about 22%). These numbers alone show the importance of taking all the necessary precautions before drivers choose to go out in bad weather conditions. If you were recently involved in a car accident due to inclement weather and are considering legal help for your situation, contact our experienced team of attorneys now. We’ll be happy to review the details of your case and come up with the best plan of action for you.

About the author: Brandon Duber, a Partner with Bentoff & Duber Co., LPA, is a lawyer with proven experience in the courtroom and expertise in the areas of workers’ compensation, criminal defense, personal injury and medical malpractice law. He received his B.A. from Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, NY and his J.D. from The Case Western Reserve University School of Law in Cleveland, OH.