Winter Accidents – Are You at Fault if You Have a Car Accident Caused by Snow or Ice?
Here in Pittsburgh, we’re no strangers to long, harsh winters. Snow and ice are just a part of living in the Steel City. Our proximity to Lake Erie also means lake effect snow, which can come on fast and lead to extremely dangerous driving conditions. While most of us consider snow driving a part of everyday life, accidents can and do happen each day around town. But what happens after the fact? Who determines liability in an accident where winter weather plays a role? Knowing the laws surrounding winter accident claims can better prepare you for your next steps should you ever be involved in an accident due to inclement road conditions.
Determining Liability in Snow Accidents
When snow or ice play a role in a car accident, insurance companies review the specifics much as they do any other claim. If you lose control of your vehicle while driving, skid through an intersection, and T-bone the other driver, you may feel that you’re not at fault for the accident. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case – at least, in the eyes of the insurance company.
Your insurance company presumes that it’s your responsibility to keep control of your vehicle, even under inclement road conditions. While drivers cannot control the weather or the condition of the roadways, they can take preventive actions that would reduce the risk of an accident.
Insurance companies make a fault determination depending on existing road conditions as well as other factors – for example, how fast you were traveling, your evasive maneuvers, even whether you panicked and slammed on the brakes. They’ll use both eyewitness testimony and evidence like skid marks to make a final fault determination. Road conditions alone do not clear drivers of all responsibility regarding an accident.
After the Fault Determination
You might be unpleasantly surprised to find that an insurance company deems you at least partially at fault for an accident. If you don’t agree with the decision, you always have the option of appealing it. You may be able to cite that inclement weather played a role in your crash, but remember, your insurance company is unlikely to use this as the sole factors in its fault investigation. Unless you can show that someone else – such as another driver who slammed on the brakes ahead of you – also contributed to the accident, the determination is likely to stand.
If you incurred injury in a snow-related accident and your insurance company determines that you were partially at fault, your claim will be reduced by your percentage of fault using the “comparative fault rule.” This applies if you were less than 50% at fault for an accident. For example, if you incurred $100,000 in damages but were 40% at fault for the accident, you would be able to collect only $60,000.
Rules regarding winter accidents can be complex. If you feel that you’re being treated unfairly by your insurance company or that someone else is to blame for your injuries, contact a personal injury attorney as soon as possible. Our Pittsburgh accident lawyers can answer you questions concerning your snow accident, and help you determine if you have grounds to take legal action.