Fault in Accidents Due to Weather Conditions

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Determining who is responsible for a weather-related car accident is more difficult than many other types of wrecks. The court must delve into the at-fault driver’s behavior and decide whether it was consistent with what a reasonable motorist would do under the circumstances.

Nevertheless, car accidents due to weather can leave victims with serious and sometimes permanent injuries, causing them substantial losses. Even if another driver caused the accident, your damages award could be reduced if you were negligent.

If you’ve been hurt by someone who drove negligently during bad weather conditions, or you’re the accident victim, but you’re being blamed in part for causing it, Elrod Pope Law Firm is here to explore your legal options.

How Drivers Should Respond to Inclement Weather

Everyone knows that bad weather makes driving more hazardous. And the weather doesn’t have to be snow, ice, or other unusual situations for South Carolina.

Hydroplaning, for instance, is possible even in a simple rainstorm. But it’s essential to know that every driver is expected to observe the duty of care they owe everyone else on the roads and highways. That means acting carefully and responsibly under all circumstances, including inclement weather.

The simple fact is when bad weather hits; a driver must operate his or her automobile more carefully. Even if the driving behavior is otherwise legal, it may cause a weather-related car accident. For instance, the speed limit might be 55 miles per hour. But it would be irresponsible to drive at this speed during a rainstorm. A driver may not be violating a traffic law, but they could be driving negligently.

Examples of How Drivers Cause Accidents in Bad Weather

If a driver’s visibility or control of the vehicle is in question, they should adjust their driving or get off the road until the weather passes.

Proving fault in a weather-related car accident can be complicated, so it helps to understand a few of the most common ways drivers act negligently in these situations:

Driving too fast

As mentioned above, following the speed limit may be legal (under the traffic law) but negligent if the conditions are hazardous. Speeding during rain, snow, and other poor weather makes it more difficult to control the automobile. A hydroplaning vehicle, for example, could be evidence that the driver was going too fast.

Failure to use windshield wipers

Incredibly, some drivers either don’t use their windshield wipers, have broken wipers, or have old, worn wipers that do an inadequate job of removing excess precipitation. This makes it unnecessarily difficult to maintain visibility and can easily cause a crash.

Failure to use headlights

South Carolina law (Section 56-5-4450) requires that headlights be illuminated “when windshield wipers are in use as a result of rain, sleet, or snow” or when other weather causes visibility to be reduced. Violating the law strongly indicates negligence in a personal injury lawsuit.

Not leaving enough space between vehicles

Following a vehicle too closely is already a bad idea, and is simply irresponsible when rain, fog, and other dangerous conditions are present. Not allowing sufficient space between vehicles reduces reaction time and makes a weather-related car accident more likely.

Poor vehicle maintenance

Every driver must keep their vehicle in proper working order. Bald tires and bad brakes are unsafe, and especially so in rough weather. These and other examples of insufficient maintenance are common causes of accidents due to weather conditions.

Tips for Driving in Poor Weather

Our firm encourages all motorists to drive safely, reducing the likelihood of being involved in a weather-related car accident. If rain, ice, or other risky weather conditions are present, here is some advice for staying safe:

  • If in doubt, don’t go out. If a trip is not necessary or can be delayed, it’s best to wait until the inclement weather passes.
  • Slow down and maintain a reasonable distance. Drop your speed by at least 10-15 miles per hour below the posted limit and leave enough room between you and other vehicles.
  • Keep your car well-maintained. Bald tires, worn down brakes, and defective windshield wipers increase the odds of a catastrophic wreck.
  • Use your vehicle’s safety systems. Illuminate your headlights during rain, snow, and similar weather; use, but don’t slam on, your brakes (to avoid hydroplaning); and turn on your wipers.
  • Pull over if you have to. If you’re already driving and the weather turns bad, pull over to some place that is safe and wait it out.
  • Check the weather and plan ahead. There are more ways than ever to check weather forecasts, so know what to expect and plan accordingly.

How Elrod Pope Can Represent You

There are two ways our firm can assist in your personal injury lawsuit, depending on your role in the accident.

If you are the victim

In your case, you will need to demonstrate that the other driver acted negligently in one of the ways listed above (or otherwise). This can be a challenge because it’s difficult to catch other drivers in the act, especially while you are driving. And it is even harder to prove what they did.

Your auto accident attorney will conduct an extensive investigation of the car wreck. Were there eyewitnesses who saw the driver not using headlights or windshield wipers? Did the driver have bald tires or bad brakes? Perhaps there is dash cam or surveillance footage that can help. Your lawyer will take a look at everything that may serve as evidence in your case.

If you are accused of contributing to the accident

South Carolina has a principle known as modified comparative negligence. What this means is that if an accident victim was in some way at fault for the wreck, their damages award will be reduced by the percentage of fault assigned to them.

In the above example, a jury may decide you were 10% at fault because you didn’t use your headlights. You would have been awarded $100,000 in damages, but that amount will be lowered by 10% ($10,000) to $90,000. Note that if your percentage of fault is higher than the defendant’s, you can’t recover damages at all.

Your lawyer may take several approaches to protecting your right to recover damages. First, it could be possible to disprove the claim that you were negligent at all. Second, your attorney might argue that even if you bore some liability, your percentage should be very low (which translates to a higher recovery for you). Finally, your lawyer may show that you did everything possible to avoid an accident.

We’re Ready to Defend Your Interests After a Weather-Related Car Accident

If you were injured because someone else drove dangerously during bad weather, or you’re accused of contributing to your accident for the same reason, Elrod Pope Law Firm is ready to serve you. We will get to work immediately in obtaining the evidence needed to make a compelling legal argument for you to receive the highest possible damages. Contact us today for your consultation.

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