Winter weather brings an increased risk of snow, sleet, freezing rain, and icy roads. Although most drivers understand the need to respond to these conditions with heightened caution, far too many don’t. But an icy road doesn’t just make it more likely that a catastrophic accident will occur. They can also make it more difficult to prove liability and, therefore, seek monetary compensation.
That’s where you need a skilled and experienced automobile accident attorney. The law firm of Cooper Schall & Levy is dedicated to helping victims demand the justice they deserve after another driver’s negligence has hurt them. Give us a call today to talk about your case.
The Dangers Of Icy Roads
Plummeting temperatures, which are common during Pennsylvania winters, can cause ice to form on the roadways. However, icy roads are often accompanied by other dangerous weather conditions such as snow, freezing rain or sleet, and fog. That’s why icy roads often present these and other hazards to drivers:
- Lost traction. The most obvious risk posed by icy roads is lost tire traction. This makes it more likely that a vehicle will skid, even at relatively low speeds. Losing control of your car can quickly cause a deadly chain reaction and pile-up
- Black ice. Ice on the roads is bad enough, but black ice can be a hidden, deadly danger. Black ice can form on relatively dry roadways if there is sufficient moisture and below-freezing temperatures. If a driver hits a patch of it, there’s a good chance he or she will lose control and crash
- Low visibility. Along with icy roads, you’re likely to encounter fog, freezing rain, and other conditions that make it difficult to see. When you combine low visibility with icy roads, the risk of a serious automobile accident increases dramatically.
Factors That Increase The Danger Of Icy Roads
Icy roads are bad enough, but several factors can make them even deadlier. They include:
- Poorly maintained vehicles. Your automobile should be maintained at all times with working windshield wipers, properly inflated tires, and working headlights. If a driver fails to keep up with basic car maintenance, however, icy roads and associated bad conditions become that much more hazardous
- Speeding. It should be common sense that if the roads are icy, you should slow down. Incredibly, however, many drivers not only maintain speeds but may even accelerate. This is extremely dangerous behavior that makes a catastrophic accident more likely.
- Nighttime driving. Icy roads, especially black ice, are much more difficult to detect at night. Decreased visibility is already a likely side effect of the icy weather. But if you’re driving at night, you’re at serious risk of getting into an accident in these conditions.
Who’s responsible for an icy road accident?
All drivers owe a reasonable duty of care to other drivers on the road. This basic tenet of Pennsylvania personal injury law imposes a legal obligation on all motorists to drive carefully. That duty becomes more pronounced when road conditions are icy.
When any sort of weather makes accidents more likely, drivers should take certain precautions such as:
- Slowing down
- Turning on their headlights
- Keeping a safe distance between them and other vehicles
- Minimizing distractions like the radio or noisy passengers
- Keeping your car windows free of ice and snow
- Double-checking your car’s condition (especially your tires) before driving
- Avoiding the use of cruise control
Failure to observe these and other adjustments could make a driver liable in the event of a car accident. However, liability is not necessarily clear-cut in an icy road accident.
To begin with, some conditions are simply out of anyone’s control. Black ice is difficult to spot and dangerous at any speed. So slowing down and using extreme caution doesn’t necessarily make the situation any safer. Additionally, icy roads and related weather conditions can sneak up on drivers. Sudden storms or unexpected temperature drops are not something that anyone can reasonably avoid, especially if a vehicle is on a long commute.
Could I share responsibility for an icy road accident?
Another complication posed by icy road accidents is the concept of modified comparative negligence. This is a legal doctrine that concerns the relative negligence of the plaintiff versus the defendant. Many car accidents are not black and white cases where one party is absolutely at fault and the other one is completely innocent. Plaintiffs who are themselves found liable will see their damages reduced by whatever percentage of fault is assigned to them.
For example, let’s say a plaintiff driving on icy roads failed to clear the ice from their windshield. This reduced the driver’s visibility and contributed to the accident. A jury may determine that the plaintiff was 15% responsible for the wreck. Damages that would have been awarded by the court in the amount of $100,000 would be reduced by 15% to $85,000.
Pennsylvania follows a modified comparative negligence rule which says a plaintiff can still recover damages unless his or her percentage of fault exceeds 50%. In other words, if your own liability is more than 50%, you won’t recover anything.
Icy roads make it more likely that all drivers on the road will engage in some form of negligent behavior. If you’ve been hurt, therefore, there’s a good chance the other driver’s attorney will turn the tables and accuse you of negligence. This may reduce your compensation or, in a worst-case scenario, bar you from it entirely.
It’s not enough for your attorney to understand how to pursue a personal injury case. A skilled accident lawyer will also know what it takes to refute allegations of negligence that may be made against you. That could mean turning to forensic evidence and expert witnesses to defend your interests in court.
Contact Our Philadelphia Icy Road Accident Attorney
If you or a loved one were injured in an icy road accident, don’t hesitate to take legal action. Most personal injury cases in Pennsylvania are generally subject to a two-year statute of limitations. That means you will have two years after an accident, in most cases, to file a lawsuit. But taking action much sooner than that will improve your chances of recovering the compensation you need after suffering an injury. Reach out to the team at Cooper Schall & Levy to get started today.