There are many reasons car accidents happen. Overwhelmingly, accidents are caused by a driver’s reckless or negligent behavior. Reckless and negligent behaviors often include texting while driving, speeding, impaired driving, or fatigued driving. In these situations, it is usually clear and easy to determine who caused the accident and hold them responsible for their actions.
With winter approaching, driving becomes more treacherous, and the chances of being in a car accident may increase. Inclement weather, such as snow, sleet, and ice, can contribute to accidents. These added elements can make determining fault and liability more complicated. This is where having a knowledgeable and experienced attorney on your side can help you to prove negligence and hold the at-fault person responsible. The at-fault party will try to entirely blame the ice or snow for the accident, but this isn’t often the case, and drivers are still expected to act reasonably under the circumstances. Speak to a Kansas City attorney who will evaluate the circumstances of your case and fight for you to get you the compensation you deserve for your injuries.
How to Prove Negligence Under Normal Circumstances
Under ordinary circumstances, there are four things that someone filing a personal injury claim must prove to establish negligence and receive compensation. These four things are:
- A duty of care. A duty of care is a legal construct that refers to the responsibility each person has to avoid causing harm to another. Because of the realization of the great harm that can be caused by the misuse of a vehicle, the law imposes a duty of care on each driver to operate their vehicle safely. Therefore, under the law, all drivers owe the other drivers on the road a duty to drive safely, as well as a duty to obey all traffic laws at all times, to avoid causing harm to another person. A driver must also be aware of their surroundings at all times, must maintain a safe distance from other cars, and drive within the speed limit. The standard of care that is owed is generally determined by what a reasonably prudent person would do in the situation.
- Breach of that duty. It must be shown that the defendant has breached their duty to operate their vehicle safely. An example could be to identify the traffic laws that were violated.
- Causation. The plaintiff must prove that the defendant’s breach of duty is what has directly caused their injuries.
- Damages. The plaintiff must be able to calculate the amount of the damages they incurred as a result of the accident. They must be able to calculate their losses and the other costs they’ve incurred due to their injury in a quantifiable amount.
How to Prove Negligence in Cold Weather Conditions
Cold weather is a significant factor that contributes to car accidents. According to the Federal Highway Administration, almost 25 percent of weather-related crashes occur in cold-weather conditions, such as snow, slush, and ice.
Weather conditions are outside of the control of the drivers on the road. While no one can be responsible for the snow or icy conditions that increase the likelihood of an accident, they can still be held responsible for how they drive in those conditions. This means, even though the weather or road conditions may have contributed to your accident, the other driver still may be liable for any damages resulting from the accident if they were negligent while driving under those conditions. The legal duty of care standard still applies, whether the weather is ideal or not. A driver still has the same legal responsibility to exercise reasonable care under the circumstances. This means, a driver must still pay attention at all times and must consider all of the surrounding circumstances, including weather, and act reasonably when driving under any conditions.
How a Driver Can Be Negligent in Cold Weather
For example, when it is snowing, sleeting, or icy, a driver must act reasonably under those conditions. It would be unreasonable for someone to drive their vehicles the same as they normally would. They must exercise greater caution, drive slower, and leave more space between vehicles. If a driver fails to exercise greater caution while driving under hazardous conditions and causes an accident, they cannot blame the accident on the ice or snow. The accident could have been prevented if they had taken greater caution. Therefore, they may be found to have acted unreasonably, which breached their duty of care, and may be liable for the damages caused by their actions. There are many ways a driver can be negligent in bad weather.
Driving Too Fast
Traveling at the speed limit is reasonable under normal conditions. However, when there is inclement weather, traveling at the speed limit is not always safe, as vehicles often need to travel below the posted speed limit to maintain control of their vehicle. Poor weather conditions may decrease visibility and cause the road to be slippery. Under these conditions, driving the speed limit may be unreasonable and negligent.
Driving Too Closely to Other Cars
Likewise, the distance you keep between you and the car in front of you may be a safe distance under normal weather conditions, but that distance may not be reasonable when the road is wet or icy. Under these conditions, every driver must take into consideration the fact that the weather may make it more difficult to stop if they need to brake suddenly. Failing to allow more space may cause an accident.
Not Maintaining Their Vehicle
Maintaining your vehicle in optimal working condition is of utmost importance when the weather is less than ideal. Certain features of your car are essential for safe driving in cold-weather conditions, and you want to have these items assessed and replaced before the weather turns bad to avoid the chances of causing an accident.
- Old tires that have lost their traction do nothing to help you when you need to stop suddenly. They will not grip the road and will cause you to slip and slide when the roads are wet or icy.
- Worn-out brakes should be replaced before winter as they can increase the likelihood of skidding while braking or taking too long to stop the vehicle in emergencies.
- Headlights are essential to see the road in front of you and for other drivers to be able to see your car. Make sure your headlights, brake lights, and hazard lights are in working order. Driving in the snow with brake lights that don’t work dramatically increases the likelihood of an accident. If you are driving significantly below the speed limit due to weather conditions or are in an area with low visibility, it is advisable to turn your hazards on to alert the other drivers around you.
- Windshield wipers that are worn out decrease your visibility and increase the likelihood of being in an accident.