Who Is at Fault for an Accident Caused by Weather?
Fault, or liability, for a car accident, comes down to negligence. The driver who is guilty of the act of negligence or carelessness that caused your crash will be financially responsible for damages. When bad weather causes a car accident, you might not know how to file. After all, you cannot file a lawsuit against the weather. Taking a closer look at your crash, however, may uncover signs of human negligence – allowing you to hold someone else responsible for your losses. A personal injury lawyer in Richmond is a great resource if you’ve been in a weather-related car crash and aren’t sure what to do next.
The Other Driver
If another driver crashed into you in a bad rain or snowstorm, do not take the driver at his or her word that the crash was unavoidable due to the weather. Instead, hire an attorney to look into the real reason behind the collision. Oftentimes, a crash in bad weather involves a driver’s fault or human error. For example, a driver has a responsibility to weatherproof his or her vehicle by checking tire pressure, windshield wipers, visibility, lights, and other parts before driving. A driver that heads out in bad weather in a poorly maintained car could be partially responsible for a collision.
Drivers also have a responsibility to drive safely according to road and weather conditions. Driving in bad weather requires extra caution, such as slowing to below the posted speed limit if that is what it takes to drive safely. A driver who was behaving carelessly or recklessly in bad weather may be liable for a resultant accident. If the driver was speeding, driving without headlights, texting, chatting, driving drunk, driving drowsy or not paying attention, for instance, he or she could be responsible for the crash.
An investigation of the car accident may be necessary to assign fault for a crash attributed initially to bad weather. While it may be true that the storm contributed to the driver crashing, it may not be the only reason for the collision. If the other driver was even partially to blame for the accident, he or she may be responsible for paying part of your damages. Liability would depend on what a reasonable driver would have done in similar conditions.
The Roadway Maintenance Team
Bad weather conditions can make dangerous road conditions worse. For example, rain on the road could be what sends a driver careening off the road, but if the guardrail is missing, the driver’s injuries could be much worse. If hazardous road conditions contribute to a driver’s accident, the entity in charge of roadway maintenance could bear partial fault. Examples of dangerous road defects include potholes, damaged roads, debris, tree limbs, uneven shoulders, overgrown brush, obstructed street signs, malfunctioning stoplights, and poorly designed roads.
The private roadway owner or the government that owns the road could be liable if another party would have recognized the hazard and repaired it sooner. You may not, for example, have a case against a maintenance crew for failing to pick up a limb that just fell during the storm. If, however, the crew received notice of the downed limb a week before your accident yet failed to remedy it, that could be evidence of negligence. You may need help from a lawyer to prove a property owner’s responsibility for a crash in bad weather.
Contributory Fault = No Recovery in Virginia
If you contributed to your wreck through some type of driver negligence in bad weather, you may not have a case. Virginia is one of the very few states that still abide by harsh contributory negligence laws, meaning any degree of negligence on your part will bar you from financial recovery. You may, however, still be able to file an insurance claim with your own provider for financial recovery if you have collision, comprehensive or no-fault insurance. Speak to a Richmond car accident lawyer for advice about your specific car accident claim.