Dana Adkins, Esq.
Car Accidents on Wet and Slippery South Carolina Roads: Who is Liable?
In May of 2021, two people were injured when lightning blasted a chunk of pavement into their vehicle. While this kind of freak accident is thankfully rare, thunderstorms do cause a steep rise in car accidents each summer. One culprit is hydroplaning. This means your car actually goes above the water. You are no longer driving on the surface of the road, and have no way to steer, no traction, and lose total control of your vehicle.
Suppose you are driving along and you encounter standing water on the road. Your car hydroplanes, you lose control, and crash into another vehicle. Can you claim that the standing water was an “act of God” and therefore you should not be held legally responsible for injuries to others that occurred in the crash? We’ll help you answer that question later. First, lets discuss how big of a risk rain and thunderstorms are for drivers.
What Causes More Car Accidents Rain or Snow?
According to the Federal Highway Administration, on average, there are over 5,891,000 vehicle crashes each year. Approximately 21% of these crashes - nearly 1,235,000 - are weather-related. Even more tragically, on average, nearly 5,000 people are killed and over 418,000 people are injured in weather-related crashes each year. Surprisingly, the vast majority of most weather-related crashes happen on wet pavement and during rainfall: 70% on wet pavement and 46% during rainfall, whereas a much smaller percentage of weather-related crashes occur during winter conditions.
Who Is Liable?
The first step to claim compensation for injuries sustained in a car accident is to determine which driver was at fault and prove that their negligent behavior caused the accident. But, can you blame Mother Nature instead?
In general, it is a driver’s responsibility to be aware of driving conditions and adjust their behavior accordingly. When driving through a heavy rainstorm, or just after, drivers are expected to anticipate issues such as reduced visibility, slick pavement, and the possibility of flooded sections of roadway. In response, drivers should slow down and try to keep more distance between their car and other vehicles. Drivers are also always responsible for maintaining control of their vehicle and taking all reasonable measures to avoid collisions. Still, during a rainstorm, when there is a car wreck, it may not be obvious which of the drivers, if anyone, is at-fault for causing the wreck.
Lets think back to our hypothetical car crash. Suppose at the time you hit the standing water, you were driving well over the speed limit and tailgating the car in front of you. Suppose further that the accident occurred near your home, you knew that it had been raining heavily for some time, and you knew that areas of that road were prone to standing water. It may well be decided that you were 100% at fault for the resulting crash, because you should have anticipated the problems on the road and were negligent in your responsibility to adjust your driving for conditions.
However, if you took every reasonable precaution, you may be able to argue that you were not negligent at all. You may even be able to argue that the other driver was at fault, perhaps because they changed lanes suddenly without signaling, had burnt out taillights, or were negligent in some other fashion.
Tips for Drivers Before and After a Wreck.
The first goal is, of course, to avoid an accident. Please take a couple of minutes to review these tips for safe driving in a thunderstorm that were published by the National Safety Council.
If you are in a car accident, always call the police. This is especially true when the accident occurs during or soon after a rainstorm. The responding officer will document the details of the incident in his or her report and indicate who he or she believes to be at-fault. This report will become an important piece of evidence if liability for damages is disputed.
If you are physically able, it is also a good idea for you take as much video and/ or pictures of the scene and both vehicles as possible. You can also ask that witnesses take video and/ or pictures as evidence. Just be sure to get their full name and phone number before you leave.
When and Why You Need to Hire a Lawyer.
As our hypothetical car wreck demonstrates, determining fault in a weather-related accident can be complicated by multiple factors. Both insurance companies will get to work right away after the wreck to gather as much information as possible to try and pass the blame. Your own insurance company might even be in a position where they determine it’s advantageous for them if you are at-fault, even though it will likely raise your premium and possibly even leave you with a stack of medical bills.
This is a big reason it’s important to hire a lawyer as soon as possible after a wreck. Because we work on a contingency, it won’t cost you a thing. Like they say, we don’t get paid unless you get paid.
After you hire Palmetto State Injury Lawyers, we will get to work investigating your case. Our first priority is to level the playing field and make sure we know as much (or more) about what happened than the insurance companies. When serious injuries occur, our accident investigators will devote considerable time and resources to determining fault. This may include everything from witness interviews and examining the vehicles to studying the data from the car’s “black box” event recorder and evaluating how heavy the traffic was at the time of the wreck. We will use every resource at our disposal to determine how fast each car was traveling, whether either driver was fatigued or impaired, whether either driver was using a cell phone or otherwise distracted when the crash occurred, and information about the other vehicle, like the maintenance records.
We will also determine if any state agencies or others share in the responsibility for your injuries. For example, were all traffic signs and signals working and visible? Even if the accident was simply due to slippery roads, we will make sure your own insurance company follows the rules and pays you a fair compensation for your injuries.
These cases are most often settled out of court, although a small percentage of cases go to trial when the circumstances of the incident are in dispute. In both settlement negotiations and at trial, the key to making sure you are fairly compensated will be proving that someone other than yourself was primarily at fault in causing the accident.
The battle over liability may be hard fought but even after it is won, the war will have only just begun. Car accidents involving heavy rain or flooding roads can result in serious physical and emotional injuries. The complexities of proving liability for a car accident are second only to the intricate web of medical and legal principles pertaining to injuries and damages.
Attorney Dana Adkins is knowledgeable and experienced. At our firm, you are not a number. In fact, we don’t take every case that walks in the door. Instead, we focus our skill and energy only on the clients and cases that we truly believe in.
Before settling an accident claim, contact us for a free consultation at: