According to the Department of Transportation, approximately 21% of car accidents in the United States are related to bad weather.
Though you might want to, you can’t sue the weather. So, who’s responsible when a car accident is caused by bad weather?
Let’s take a closer look.
How does bad weather cause car accidents?
When most people think about bad driving conditions, they think about driving through a snowstorm or over ice. But in fact, the data shows that most weather-related accidents are caused by rain.
|Road Weather Conditions||10 Year Averages||10 Year Percentages|
|Wet pavement||860,286 accidents||70% of weather-related accidents|
|Rain||556,151 accidents||46% of weather-related accidents|
|Snow/sleet||219,942 accidents||18% of weather-related accidents|
|Ice||156,164 accidents||13% of weather-related accidents|
|Snow/slush||186,076 accidents||16% of weather-related accidents|
|Fog||25,451 accidents||3% of weather-related accidents|
While Florida drivers don’t generally have to worry about snow, Florida ranks 5th when it comes to states that receive the most rainfall per year. Rain can impair a driver’s visibility and reduce the amount of friction between the car’s tires and the road, which may result in hydroplaning.
So who is at fault when a car accident is caused by bad weather?
It’s often said that bad weather doesn’t cause accidents, people driving in bad weather causes accidents. When it comes to the law, this is true. In order to recover damages (beyond those recoverable from your own insurance company), you’ll have to show that another driver was at fault for the accident. In other words, you’ll have to show that another driver was negligent.
Negligence is the failure to exercise reasonable care when driving. The term “reasonable care” is defined as how a “reasonable” person would behave in the same or similar circumstances.
What is reasonable when driving in bad weather?
What is considered reasonable differs depending on the specific weather conditions. For example, while it’s reasonable to drive the speed limit on a dry day, it may be unreasonable to drive the speed limit during a torrential downpour.
Similarly, while it’s reasonable to leave your headlights off while driving on a sunny day, it’s unreasonable to leave your headlights off while driving through fog.
Whether or not a driver behaved reasonably is not limited to the driver’s actions while driving, but also includes their actions before getting into the car. For example, failing to do any of the following before setting out on the road might be enough to show that a driver acted unreasonably depending on the weather conditions:
- Replace regular tires with snow tires
- Clean headlight covers
- Replace broken windshield wipers
- Properly inflate tires
- Scrape ice from the windshield
Proving weather conditions after an accident
Let’s say you’re involved in a car accident with another vehicle during a downpour and the other driver was going the speed limit. You’ll want to provide the insurance adjuster (or the court) with proof that there was in fact a downpour at the time of the accident. This can be done by providing the relevant:
- Weather reports
- Police reports
- Witness statements
Keep in mind that more than one driver can be found at fault for an accident. For example, if you’re driving in a rain storm and collide with a car that has a broken taillight, but you were following the car too closely, a court might determine that you were both partially at fault for the accident.
Florida follows pure comparative negligence, which means that your recovery will be reduced in accordance with your percentage of your fault. If you’re a victim of a car accident in Florida, consider talking to an experienced attorney. In Tampa and Clearwater, look no further than our personal injury law firm. We offer free case evaluations to clients like you. Contact us today if you need help.