The likelihood of a motor vehicle crash skyrockets when the weather is poor. Are poor driving conditions a reasonable excuse for causing a car accident. As always in the law, the true answer is – it depends. Here in Washington State, if you are in a car crash where weather played a role, understanding how the law affects your claim will be imperative to managing a successful case.
The general rule of thumb is that a driver is at fault for causing a motor vehicle collision if they were negligent. In other words, would a reasonably prudent person have acted differently in the given scenario. In some situations, this is easy. Perhaps the rear driver glanced down at their cell phone to check a text message just as traffic ahead was coming to a stop. Establishing liability against the driver may be simple because a reasonably prudent driver would not have taken their eyes off the road in that situation.
Where negligence can become a bit trickier is when inclement weather approaches. Let’s – for a moment – assume we are in a stretch of gloomy Washington winter rain. The grey clouds create a dreary environment and the patches of water create some mildly slick surfaces. In this very typical scenario, it is unlikely that the weather would provide a defense for an otherwise negligent driver.
What if we raise the stakes? Now there is a light, or even medium, snowstorm on the horizon. The snow is causing some loss of traction as you’re driving, but you left your home to go to the grocery store knowing the conditions were not ideal. While perhaps more possible to blame the weather, in most situations even somewhat heavy snow on the ground is not a good defense to negligence. Often, the Court may find that the reasonably prudent driver would have slowed down, left more space between vehicles, taken a different route, or perhaps driven a more suitable vehicle.
Now, what if we create a more consequential scenario? A calm late fall evening led to a casual drive down the freeway. Without warning, you and your fellow travelers enter a storm with howling winds and sheets of hail. Vision becomes treacherous and cars start spinning out left and right. Believe it or not, this example comes from a true story, and it’s possible this type of scenario might find weather an appropriate villain. You can also consider more traumatic events like rockslides or small avalanches. For weather to play a more substantial role in your case, expectation – or more specifically the lack thereof – is going to be supremely important.
Washington weather tends to be consistent, which means weather related issues are less relevant for purposes of determining liability after a car accident. However, the unexpected nature of sudden weather events can lead to frantic and unsafe driving. If you are involved in a motor vehicle collision in Washington State, contact the experienced personal injury attorneys at the law offices of Magnuson Lowell PS. Call today for a free case evaluation.