Weather conditions can rapidly shift from clear skies to rain, snow, fog, or even ice, creating treacherous driving environments. One moment of inattention, combined with a sudden change in weather, can lead to car accidents with severe consequences. Rain can reduce visibility and make roads slippery, snow and ice can impair traction and control, and fog can limit sight distances. And, when other people decide to drive carelessly during weather events, they may cause an accident and try to blame it on the weather conditions.
Determining liability in weather-related accidents
Liability in weather-related car accidents can be complex to determine. While drivers are expected to adjust their driving behavior according to weather conditions, it’s not always easy to determine fault simply based on the fact that weather was a factor. Generally, drivers are expected to exercise reasonable care and adapt to adverse weather conditions to prevent accidents.
In situations, however, where a driver fails to take proper weather precautions, such as driving at excessive speeds, driving drunk, or driving without headlights on, and then that driver causes a crash where you are injured, they can be found negligent. In legal terms, negligence refers to the failure to exercise reasonable care, which can lead to accidents and injuries. What all this means is that if a driver was negligent and caused an accident, they can be held liable for your damages – no matter what the weather – and that’s where your Minot personal injury attorney comes in.
It’s important to note that weather conditions can sometimes be so severe that even the most cautious and attentive driver might struggle to avoid an accident. Courts often consider the principle of “force majeure” or “acts of God,” acknowledging that certain natural events, like sudden and extreme weather, can make accidents unavoidable, despite a driver’s best efforts. Our attorneys work to ensure that you receive the proper compensation for your accident.
Gathering evidence and establishing liability in a Minot car accident
Proving liability in weather-related accidents requires thorough investigation and evidence collection. Police reports, witness statements, and photographs of the accident scene and vehicle damage can help reconstruct the events leading up to the accident. If another driver violated traffic laws, was speeding, or engaged in reckless behavior despite the weather conditions, this evidence can strengthen the case against them.
In some cases, our attorneys will call on experts such as accident reconstruction specialists to analyze the accident scene, vehicle damage, and weather conditions to determine who was responsible for the accident.
Claims and insurance in weather-related accidents
When it comes to insurance claims for weather-related accidents, many factors come into play. The type of insurance coverage you carry can influence how your claim is processed. Typically, comprehensive coverage helps cover damages caused by weather events such as hail, flooding, or falling tree branches. However, liability coverage often addresses damages caused by accidents involving other vehicles.
You should also look into your personal injury protection (PIP). Your PIP insurance can help pay injury-related expenses, regardless of fault, while our attorneys work to secure full compensation for your accident. If you’re one of the many people in North Dakota who don’t have adequate health insurance, you may end up needing your car insurance for your healthcare expenses, and your PIP coverage can give you a little short-term relief while we work on your case.
In some cases, you might be involved in a hit-and-run, or the driver who caused the accident does not have the proper amount of insurance. In fact, 13% of drivers in North Dakota are driving around without insurance. In these cases, you may have to look to your uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage (UM/UIM) to get your expenses paid. Our attorneys can help.
If you’re involved in a weather-related accident, notify your insurance company — and then speak with an experienced attorney from Larson Law Firm, P.C.. Even if you believe the weather was the main factor, the actions of other drivers might have contributed to the accident, and we can help determine that. Whatever you do, though, don’t tell your insurance company you think it was the weather; they may try to hold it against you. We’ll handle all the communication with the insurance companies once you hire us.
Comparative negligence in weather-related accidents
North Dakota is a “modified” comparative negligence state. Comparative negligence acknowledges that both parties involved in an accident might share some degree of fault. For example, if one driver was speeding in icy conditions while another driver failed to yield the right of way, both parties might be found partially responsible. In such cases, compensation is adjusted based on the degree of fault attributed to each party.
Here in North Dakota, you cannot exceed 50% of fault, or you will be barred from compensation altogether. Our attorneys work to ensure you receive the highest amount of compensation possible for your accident, placing full accountability on the party responsible for your accident.
Don’t be “that guy:” staying safe in bad weather in North Dakota
Weather can change fast, and it’s easy to get caught out in a storm or low visibility conditions. If you can’t avoid traveling during bad weather, or if you get stuck on the roads when a storm hits, the single best thing you can do is slow down. Our roads can be hazardous even in the best conditions, so turn on your four-ways if it gets really bad and drive slowly. Stick to the right lane unless it’s blocked off, and if you can’t get into another lane when there’s a tow truck or police car out, slow down even more.
Some other things you can do to protect yourself:
- Increase your following distance. Maintaining a safe distance between vehicles provides more time to react to sudden stops or hazards.
- Use lights. Turning on headlights in rain, snow, fog, or low light conditions enhances visibility for both the driver and other road users.
- Avoid distractions. Distractions are always dangerous but become especially hazardous in poor weather. Keep your eyes on the road.
- Turn down the radio. It helps you concentrate.
- Keep an emergency hammer in the car. You want to avoid getting out of the car if you can, but in a truly catastrophic scenario – your car flips upside down, you get knocked into a slough, your tailpipe somehow gets blocked – one of those glass hammer/seat belt cutter tools can be the difference between life and death.
If you or a loved one were injured in a car accident, talk to a compassionate and skilled attorney from Larson Law Firm P.C. today. Call or complete our contact form to schedule a free consultation. We handle accident cases on a contingency fee basis. We have offices in Fargo, Bismarck, and Minot.