Massachusetts Legal Blog
Winter Driving – The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly
Massachusetts winters see it all—snow, sleet, freezing rain. While traffic accidents can occur at any point during the year, winter weather makes the road much more dangerous for New England commuters. If you’ve been in a car crash that was caused by bad weather, can you really blame the other driver? Regardless of the circumstances, all car accidents are caused by something, and at least one party is always going to be liable. Let’s break down winter-weather driving and how liability can play a factor.
The Good – Being a Safe Driver When the Snow Starts to Fall
Although there are no regulations or rules for how drivers must behave during winter weather, there are some general safety tips that should be followed. If these safety tips are ignored, it could be considered reckless behavior, which could leave a driver liable if they’re involved in an accident.
Here are some specifics to keep in mind before hitting the road:
- Check all components, including the headlights, battery, tires, brakes, and fluids, before operating the vehicle. A malfunction of one of these components could result in a serious accident. Moisture from snow and ice can affect every part of a vehicle.
- Clear snow and ice from the vehicle before starting the car. If snow and ice are not removed, they can impede visibility and even become a hazard for other drivers on the road.
- Stay a safe distance behind other vehicles. The greater the distance between vehicles, the more reaction time drivers allow themselves. While motorists should always maintain a safe distance regardless of the weather, keeping an appropriate distance in winter weather is especially important.
The main thing to remember is that you should only drive as fast as current road and weather conditions allow. Keep a safe distance, give yourself plenty of travel time to arrive at a location, and always keep your eyes on the road.
The Bad – Getting into a Winter-Weather Car Accident
Just because you’re involved in a car crash doesn’t necessarily mean you’re the one at fault. Liability for a car accident depends on who is deemed to have been negligent. If one person was careless or didn’t take a proper precaution, he should be held responsible for damages resulting from the car crash. Damages may include medical bills, loss of income, and repairs to other vehicles.
If you were operating your vehicle safely and responsibly given the current road and weather conditions while adhering to traffic laws, you are not going to be found at fault in having caused the crash. The weather may contribute to unsafe road conditions, but it is a driver’s responsibility to always operate their vehicle as safely as possible given those conditions, thus minimizing the risk of a car accident occurring.
If a person was driving down a snow-covered road and hit something, several questions would have to be answered. Did they slow down? Were they on a smartphone at the time of the accident? If the person was driving safely, acting in a manner another reasonable person would, they would likely not be found liable to the victim.
The Ugly – Liability in a Winter Vehicle Accident
Due to the extenuating circumstances of winter weather, it can be difficult to determine liability in a winter-weather accident. Drivers will be quick to blame the road conditions, even if they weren’t driving as safely as they could have been. However, if any driver is found to have been operating their vehicle in an unsafe manner, especially by breaking a traffic rule of any kind, that driver can and likely will be held liable for having contributed to the car crash.
Your recollection of the car accident is extremely important. If you saw the other driver using a cell phone, or you observed the driver running a red light, it’s critical to record this information. Often, the story the victim tells the insurance company is different from the story the at-fault driver tells, so witness testimony is a valuable part of any successful car accident claim. It’s important to go over every detail you can recall with the police officer at the scene. The officer’s job is to file a report based on the presenting facts of the incident, so the more information you can provide the officer, the better.
You’ve Been in a Winter Car Accident…What Now?
A qualified Boston car accident attorney can help hold at-fault drivers responsible for damages resulting from the accident. An attorney will take the information you’ve provided and investigate the scene, gather statements from any eyewitnesses, and seek out video surveillance footage to get a further glimpse into what really happened.
While you might assume the insurance company will be on your side given that the accident wasn’t your fault, paying out very small amounts is how insurance companies maintain their profitability. In some cases, your claim might be denied altogether. When dealing with the insurance company, it’s important to have an experienced attorney who can handle all correspondence with the adjusters. Insurance companies tend to respond differently to lawyers than they do to their customers. Whereas the average person has a basic understanding of how insurance claims work, attorneys have more intimate knowledge of the process and can’t be taken advantage of by the insurance adjuster.
If you have been injured in a car accident involving winter weather, call DiBella Law Offices, P.C., at (617) 870-0907 for a free consultation. We can help you sort through the details of your accident, determine all parties who are liable, and make sure you are appropriately compensated for any damages you suffered. Contact our Boston office today for more information on your rights as a car accident victim.
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