Driving in winter weather can be extremely hazardous, particularly when snow and ice cover roadways. Ice makes it difficult for a vehicle’s tires to gain traction, significantly increasing the likelihood that a motorist will spin out of control and cause an accident.
While hazardous conditions can contribute to motor vehicle accidents, drivers are still obligated to ensure they take proper precautions when driving in winter weather. If a motorist fails to exercise caution, they could be held liable if an accident results.
How Is Fault Determined When Ice Causes a Car Accident?
The insurance companies for each motorist will typically investigate the crash. They will consider all possible contributing factors. However, legally, and also from the insurance company’s point of view, even if roads were icy at the time of the accident, drivers are still responsible for adjusting their driving to account for hazardous conditions and maintaining control of their vehicles.
While no one can control winter weather, drivers are still required to be extra careful when driving on dangerous roadways. If a motorist causes a car accident in inclement weather, they can still be held liable if the accident resulted in injuries, regardless of ice’s role in the crash.
Who Determines Fault in a Winter Car Accident?
It is up to insurance companies to determine fault after a car accident. While the insurance company can take icy roads into account, their focus will ultimately be on the drivers involved and trying to discern which driver was negligent.
It’s always good to get an attorney’s opinion because the attorney will have your best interests in mind, unlike the insurance company. A skilled car accident lawyer can conduct an independent investigation into the cause of the accident and gather evidence to prove liability.
If the insurance company doesn’t offer you a fair settlement, you and your attorney may decide to file a lawsuit. The court will make the ultimate determination about who was at fault.
What to Do After an Ice-Related Car Accident
If you were injured in an ice-related car crash that was caused by another motorist, there are several steps you should take to protect your rights, both at the scene and in the days and weeks to come:
- Call 911 and wait for law enforcement to arrive on the scene, especially if someone was injured or killed in the crash.
- Take photos and videos of your injuries, the damage to each vehicle involved in the crash, debris in the road, and the whole accident scene.
- Ask any nearby witnesses for their contact information.
- Gather your medical records, hospital bills, evidence of lost income, the police report, and other documentation related to the accident.
- Document your recovery in a daily pain journal.
- Don’t discuss the accident on social media until your claim is resolved.
- Consult with an experienced car accident attorney right away. An attorney can help you prove liability, determine the value of your claim, and even negotiate with the insurance company on your behalf.
Tips to Avoid Winter Car Accidents
If you must drive in winter weather:
- Have your vehicle regularly inspected and maintained, and ensure that it is prepared for icy conditions. Tire tread is particularly crucial.
- Adjust your speed to accommodate winter weather conditions.
- Accelerate and brake cautiously.
- Avoid distractions like texting, talking on the phone, eating and drinking, and other activities that shift your focus away from the road.
You can also review the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) winter weather driving tips here.