Car accidents can happen for a variety of reasons: negligent drivers, malfunctioning vehicles, and hazardous road conditions. Speaking of the last factor, what exactly does it mean? In general, poor road conditions refer to two different things: poorly maintained roads with potholes and debris on them and poor weather conditions (fog, rain, icy roads, etc.). If you were involved in a motor vehicle accident due to unsafe road conditions, your first question is: who pays for my damages?
The experienced personal injury attorneys at Babin Law may be able to help you pursue justice either through negotiations or in court. This article will discuss some relevant aspects of vehicle crashes in which wet roads, potholes, or other dangerous conditions were a contributing factor.
Driving in Inclement Weather: What You Need to Know
First of all, every driver has a duty of care towards other road users. This means that they need to adapt their driving style to the road conditions. On a rainy day and during winters (and the state of Ohio is known for its harsh winters), tires have less traction, and it takes longer to brake and avoid rear or frontal crashes.
Truck crashes can be even more devastating than passenger vehicle crashes. In general, a truck takes 20% to 40% more distance to come to a complete stop than a regular sedan or SUV car. In bad weather conditions, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) stipulates that the driver:
- must exercise extreme caution
- must reduce the speed of the vehicle
- must cease all operations if the road and/or weather conditions become "sufficiently dangerous".
Ohio's traffic laws also have specific rules for car drivers during unsafe road conditions. Thus, before starting any journey, drivers must clear snow off their entire vehicle. The law specifically refers to:
- the windows
- the license plates
- the headlights and tail lights.
However, if you drive with snow on the roof of your car and it falls off, causing a crash with vehicle damage and accident victims, you may be found liable for causing it.
Statistics Concerning Dangerous Road Conditions and Car Accidents
Heavy rains and snow, slushy roads, fog, and sheets of ice on the road will change the way your vehicle behaves. For inexperienced drivers, the challenges of keeping the car in its lane are even higher. Winter conditions coupled with bad roads (with cracks, potholes, and various pieces of debris) make driving even riskier.
And the statistics collected by the Road Weather Management Program of the Federal Highway Administration show that a significant percentage of auto accidents are caused by unsafe road conditions. The data over the last 10 years at the national level show that:
- wet pavement was the cause of 78% of weather-related fatal accidents
- rain caused 46% of all weather related motor vehicle accidents
- slushy pavement caused 16% of all weather-related crashes
- icy roads caused 10% of all fatalities in weather related motor vehicle crashes.
Surprisingly, fog was the main cause of only 3% of weather-related accidents. This means that poor visibility per se is not as dangerous as the inability to control a vehicle on the road.
Who Is Liable for Car Accidents Caused by Bad Road Conditions?
Now, let us focus on what you really want to know. You suffered crash injuries and property damage due to unsafe road conditions. Who is ultimately liable? Where do you file your injury claim? Whom can you sue for economic and non-economic damages?
There are three categories of responsible parties in this situation:
The Other Motor Vehicle Driver
In poor weather conditions, the maximum speed limits are lowered by law. Plus, each person must know their own driving capabilities and acknowledge the higher accident risk on rainy days or in wintry conditions.
In reality, the unsafe road conditions represent just one of the factors that lead to accidents causing bicyclist deaths, pedestrian deaths, and other accident fatalities. Other contributing factors are:
- distracted driving
- drunk driving or driving under influence of illegal substances
- driver fatigue
- aggressive driving (tailgating, failure to maintain a safe distance from the other vehicles on the road).
The Driver's Employer
This is mainly applicable to truck accidents. A trucking company is responsible for its drivers' actions when they are on the job. If a speeding or distracted truck driver causes a fatal crash, their employer is vicariously responsible for paying for the victim's medical expenses and other financial and non-economic damages.
Personal injury lawyers may be able to help you identify and successfully sue a local government agency if the accident was caused by a school bus or a means of public transportation.
The roads that pass close to construction sites can be deemed unsafe for drivers. In this instance, the dangerous condition of the road is represented by debris and various items falling from a height and falling in front of cars or directly onto them.
if motor vehicle accidents were caused by construction site debris or other negligent actions of the workers that made the road unsafe to drive on, crash victims are entitled to file an accident claim against the construction company's insurance company.
A Local Government Agency
If the car crash was caused by infrastructure damage (roads in a poor state of repair), the local authority in charge of maintenance is liable to pay for your damages. However, there are specific rules set by the Ohio Department of Transportation for filing roadway defects and damage claims.
Moreover, the statute of limitations for filing a claim against any government entity is limited to 2 (two) years after the date of the crash. If you hire an experienced accident lawyer, they can help you navigate these complex legal requirements.
How to Prevent Automobile Accidents in Case of Hazardous Conditions on the Road
The FMCSA has issued a series of safety guidelines for all drivers if they need to travel in bad weather or other unsafe road conditions. Thus, in case of wet or icy pavements, drivers should:
- reduce the average speed
- enter a curve slowly
- slow down when passing by construction sites and other work zones
- drive slowly if you have a loaded trailer
- reduce speed at ramp entry/exit.
By adapting your driving style, you can also prevent an auto accident during heavy rain and other inclement weather conditions. Thus:
- you must not use the cruise control function
- do not slam on the brakes
- make sure that the headlights are turned on
- do not make jerky steering wheel movements in the attempt of regaining control over a skidding vehicle.
What You Need to Know If You Were Involved in a Car Accident
Despite your best precautions, you may be involved in a car crash. It is important to remember that what you do or fail to do in the first moments and days after the accident may influence your chances of recovering the maximum amount you are entitled to.
Here is a breakdown of the things you need to do to protect your chances of getting fair monetary compensation:
The first thing you need to do is ensure that you and other injured persons receive emergency medical attention. You should call an ambulance and the law enforcement authorities to investigate the crash. Do not leave the accident scene until the police arrive unless you need to be taken to the hospital.
Gather Evidence at the Accident Scene
You should strive to collect as much evidence as possible, including:
- photos and videos of your injuries and damaged car
- the other parties' contact and insurance details
- photos of any unsafe road conditions that may have caused the accident (potholes, debris)
- eyewitnesses' contact details.
Do Not Make Statements to the Insurance Adjuster
All accident injury victims get a visit from an insurance adjuster sooner or later. Their mission is simple: to close the case as quickly as possible and with a minimum payout. The best course of action is to refuse to discuss with the insurance adjuster or make any statement regarding:
- the causes of the accident
- the extent of your damages
- how you feel
- whether you are responsible for it or not.
Instead, inform the adjuster that your personal injury lawyer will contact them soon to discuss your accident claim.
Contact a Team of Experienced Car Accident Attorneys
At Babin Law, you will find a team of experienced and dedicated accident attorneys who have only one mission: to help our clients recover all the financial compensation they are entitled to.
If we're able to take on your case, we will analyze your situation carefully and explain your legal options in clear and simple terms that you can understand. We work on a contingency fee basis, meaning that you do not have to pay any upfront fees. Remember that you only have a limited period of time to seek justice, so call us as soon as possible if you were involved in a car accident: 614-412-0877!