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. Providence Car Accident Lawyer Louis W. Grande discusses the best way to approach this unique situation should you ever be faced with it.

On December 22, 2019, almost seventy 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, over fifty 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 am 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. Highway auto accidents can result in serious injuries, including concussion, 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. This isn’t uncommon. 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 a year and injuring almost 42,000 people yearly. Weather plays 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 this being the case.

When weather plays a role in a crash, insurance companies invariably 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 precautions taken by the driver, they are able to 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 conditions 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 were exercising appropriate care and trying to avoid an accident, but were injured through no fault of their own. In Virginia, where this accident took place, most insurance policies include “Medpay” or other provisions which can allow for 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 claim denials have no recourse but to turn to an experienced car accident attorney Rhode Island residents trust.

When faced with a weather-related claims denial, 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 in a more cautious way 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 there are other factors involved.

When inclement weather contributes to accidents, negligence can be shown in several different ways. The most important factor in showing negligence is whether the at-fault driver was acting reasonably. This isn’t just a vague, undefined term. When operating a motor vehicle, a driver must take actions which are reasonable 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 look to see if the driver causing the crash was behaving in a reasonable manner.

If any drivers are acting 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 an accident, and that driver is speeding on an icy road and is not able to stop in time, they will be partially responsible for the damage their vehicle causes. Since their unreasonable actions contribute to the accident, such as speed in icy conditions making them unable to stop in time, the driver will be found partially responsible. 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 in turn lowers the amount of compensation they have to give to the victim. This is why an experienced Providence personal injury lawyer can help in this situation. 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 accident.

When weather-related car accidents involve 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.

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