Weather-Related Car Accidents: A Deadly Force on US Roadways

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Weather-related car accidents have the potential to be much more severe than regular accidents.

In this article, Providence car accident lawyer Louis W. Grande discusses the best way to approach this unique situation should you ever face it.

Learning From the Massive Virginia Pile-up 

On Dec. 22, 2019, almost 70 passenger vehicles piled into each other in the type of car accident most people would only expect to see in action films or apocalyptic genres. Vehicles were stacked side by side, blocking both sides of the interstate.

Unfortunately, more than 50 people had to be hospitalized for injuries sustained in the mega-crash.

The accident happened about 50 miles east of Richmond, Virginia, on Interstate 64 and was caused by unsafe driving conditions in early morning fog and ice. Investigators determined that the first impact started just before 8 a.m. in rush hour and caused a chain reaction, with each involved vehicle impacting multiple other vehicles or being struck by drivers behind it.

Due to the low impact speed, most of the injuries resulting in hospitalization were minor, but two passengers and drivers did end up in critical condition. Weather-related crashes can result in serious injuries, including concussions, broken bones, and whiplash.

Currently, the root cause of the accident is unknown, but police stated to news organizations that fog and ice were contributing factors in the crash.

Most Hazardous Weather Conditions on U.S. Roadways

Hazardous weather conditions can greatly contribute to car accidents. When drivers fail to adjust their driving to match the winter weather conditions, they increase their risk of losing control of their vehicle, resulting in accidents.

Here are some of the most common adverse weather conditions that annually cause crashes in the U.S.:

  • According to the Department of Transportation, fog contributes to nearly 25,451 crashes a year and causes almost 9,000 people to be injured. It is estimated to kill nearly 464 people yearly, as well.
  • Ice is even more dangerous, contributing to 156,164 crashes yearly and injuring almost 42,000 people.
  • Heavy rain is another bad weather condition that can lead to accidents due to lowered visibility and slick, wet pavement.

Extreme weather conditions like snow play a crucial role in driving accidents and can make accidents far worse than they would have been under normal conditions. The December pile-up on a Virginia interstate is just one example of car accidents caused by large-scale weather disasters.


The Problem With Determining Fault in Weather-related Accidents

When poor weather plays a role in a crash, insurance companies try to downplay the fault of the responsible driver. Insurance adjusters argue that the driver was operating his or her vehicle in a cautious and careful manner and that the unfortunate accident was unavoidable.

By claiming that the accident could not have been avoided regardless of the driver’s precautions, they can gain an excuse not to compensate the victims for their injuries.

To some, the argument seems to have some logic. Can a driver be held responsible for the elements? The unknown driver in Virginia who started the chain-reaction pile-up certainly did not create the icy pavement, snowy weather, or fog. Does such a driver deserve to be held entirely responsible for an accident that the weather made worse?

Victims of weather-related car accidents may be left reeling after insurance companies deny their claim. They exercised appropriate care and tried to avoid an accident but were injured through no fault of their own.

In Virginia, where this accident occurred, most insurance policies include “Medpay” or other provisions that can allow recovery even when no fault is assessed. In Rhode Island, on the other hand, there is no requirement for no-fault coverage, and so victims with car accident claim denials have no recourse but to turn to an experienced car accident attorney Rhode Island residents trust.

How Rhode Island Car Accident Lawyers Can Help

When faced with a denied weather-related claim, the top personal injury attorneys don’t back down. Rather than accepting the insurance company’s assertion that the accident was unavoidable, the law firm demands to know why the at-fault driver didn’t act more cautiously given the conditions.

Just because conditions were poor doesn’t mean the other driver wasn’t negligent. Negligence—the critical claim in most personal injury cases—can exist even when other factors are involved. Every good car accident lawyer understands that establishing negligence is extremely important.

Establishing Negligence in a Winter-Related Car Accident

When inclement weather contributes to car crashes, negligence in a personal injury claim can be shown in several ways. The most important factor in showing negligence is whether the at-fault driver acted reasonably.

This isn’t just a vague, undefined term. When operating a motor vehicle, a driver must act reasonably under the circumstances and conditions. A driver who cannot see more than a few dozen feet due to fog is not justified in maintaining the same speed which would be suitable on an open, flat roadway in perfect weather. Instead, a reasonable driver who understands the risks of foggy roads and slick pavement will slow down.

When determining fault in a crash, insurance companies, police officers, and attorneys must see if the driver causing the crash was behaving reasonably. If drivers act unreasonably under the conditions, they can be held legally responsible for the damages caused by their negligent actions. That includes people involved in the crash who did not start the crash.

If vehicles in front of a driver get into a car crash, for example, and that driver is speeding on an icy road and cannot stop in time, they will be partially responsible for the damage their vehicle causes. Since their unreasonable actions contribute to the accident, such as speeding in icy conditions, making them unable to stop in time, the driver will be found partially responsible.

Overcoming Insurance Companies’ Blame Tactics

Insurance companies will try to put some partial blame on the victims in a crash with inclement conditions. Companies will claim that a victim of an accident partially caused it by not acting reasonably in the conditions. This claim removes some responsibility from their driver, which lowers the compensation they have to give the victim.

This is why an experienced Providence personal injury lawyer can help. Under Rhode Island’s pure comparative negligence standard, an insurance company may still be required to compensate an accident victim even if the insurance company claims the victim somehow contributed to the winter car accident.

Experienced Car Accident Lawyer in Providence, RI

When a weather-related car accident involves multiple vehicles, the resulting lawsuits can become extremely complex and take a long time to resolve. All involved drivers must be investigated to determine any potential fault, and all the insurance companies will insist someone else is to blame.

By retaining an experienced personal injury attorney, victims can protect themselves against false claims and unreasonable denials. At the law office of Louis W. Grande, victims are represented on a contingency basis, meaning that all consultations are free, and clients pay nothing unless the case is resolved in their favor. Contact us today!

Author Bio

Louis W. Grande is a Providence personal injury lawyer who founded his Rhode Island law firm of the same name in 2010. With more than 32 years of experience practicing law, he has successfully represented clients in a wide range of legal matters, including car accidents, premise liability, dog bites, medical malpractice, product liability, and other personal injury actions.

Louis received his Juris Doctor from the Hamline University School of Law and is a member of the Rhode Island Bar Association. He has received numerous accolades for his work, including being awarded Lifetime Achievement in 2017 by America’s Top 100 Attorneys and being named among the Top 100 Trial Lawyers and Top 25 Motor Vehicle Trial Lawyers in 2017.

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