Can Bad Weather Affect Car Accident Liability in North Carolina?
When the weather outside is bad, it increases the chances of getting into an auto accident. If a driver has a crash during foul weather such as snow, ice, rain or fog, how much fault can the driver have for the accident? Can bad weather affect car accident liability in North Carolina?
The answer, as with so many things in law, is it depends.
Bad weather is unavoidable and is just one component added to all the other elements of your crash.
“Reasonable Care” and Car Accident Liability
Car accidents happen every day in North Carolina, regardless of the weather. However, with added bad weather, the risk of car crashes increases. Fog, rain, sleet, snow and freezing rain create conditions that are perfect for a car accident. When there is extreme weather, the degree of caution and concern for the safety of yourself and others escalates. This is called reasonable care.
Due to the concept of reasonable care, during extreme weather, drivers will be held to higher degrees of responsibilities. For example, if you are driving the speed limit on an ice-covered road, you could still be considered driving too fast because you didn’t slow down and take reasonable care driving on the icy road.
Every driver has a duty to others on the road to maintain control of their vehicle to avoid a wreck. The important factor in a bad weather car crash is to prove the driver failed to maintain control of the vehicle due to driver negligence rather than bad weather. Drivers must use a level of care that is appropriate for the conditions on the road.
In bad weather conditions, drivers must reduce their following distance and speed. You may be able to avoid liability for a car accident during foul weather if you drive responsibly using extreme caution. For example, if a driver is using reasonable care while driving in disagreeable weather conditions and rear ends a car because of sliding on an icy road, this may not be the driver’s fault. On the other side of the coin, it is still possible for the driver to be at fault for the accident. The weather may only mitigate some of this liability and be just one factor among many that caused the crash.
Should you and the driver of the other car share responsibility for the accident, even if the weather may be to blame too, this could still hinder your accident claim. Plaintiffs who live in many other states would still be able to get a reduced amount of compensation should they have some liability. Unfortunately, this is not true for North Carolina residents. This is because of something called contributory negligence. Even if you are only one percent at fault for an accident it is enough to cause you to lose out on 100 percent of damages.
In certain circumstances, contributory negligence would not act as a complete bar to recovery. There are exceptions. For example, if the defendant had the “last clear chance” to avoid the accident and failed to exercise reasonable care to do so, then the plaintiff’s negligence is excused and will not prevent his recovery for damages.
Other ways drivers can be found negligent during bad weather conditions include:
- Distracted driving
- Driving with worn tires or worn windshield wipers
- Drunk driving
- Driving while drowsy or fatigued
- Not using lights or windshield wipers
- Aggressive or reckless driving
- Failing to obey traffic signals or road signs
If you must get behind the wheel in bad weather, here are a few tips to consider for driving safely:
- Driving in foul weather usually takes longer, so it is important to plan ahead
- Make sure you drive slowly and leave some distance between you and the car in front of you
- Always use your low beams when driving in fog
- At any time, you feel unsafe and you are able, pull over
- Make sure your wipers and lights are working properly and your tires are in good shape
- Have a fully charged phone
- Always wear your seat belt
Injured in a Car Accident in North Carolina?
If you’ve been injured in a car accident in bad weather, we are here to help. For a FREE consultation with an experienced North Carolina car accident lawyer, please call 1-800-525-7111.
There is no obligation and you won’t pay any attorney fees unless we win your case and you receive financial compensation.
Call 1-800-525-7111 today and let’s review your claim.
Our car accident attorneys have over 200 years of combined legal experience helping the people of North Carolina when they have been in an accident.
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