There are many choices we can make that can make driving unsafe. For instance, driving while tired or intoxicated can lead to serious accidents. However, one big factor in roadway safety that you can’t control is the weather.
Inclement weather of all kinds can lead to dangerous driving conditions that can make accidents much more likely — especially when another driver is acting recklessly. Many of these sorts of crashes involve similar legal defensive tactics that may come into play if the case goes to court.
Let the Houston car accident attorneys of Lapeze & Johns, PLLC, provide you with some information regarding weather-related accidents, defenses that are used by defendants, as well as a few tips on how to better protect yourself.
Weather-Related Accidents Facts
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, there are nearly 6 million crashes every year in this country. Of those crashes, more than one in five are related to weather conditions.
Weather-related accidents result in the deaths of roughly 5,000 Americans and the injury of another 418,000 every year. The vast majority of these sorts of crashes occur during rainfall or on wet pavement, 46%, and 70% respectively. Snow, ice, and fog make up a relatively smaller, but still significant percentage of these accidents at 18%, 13%, and 3% respectively.
Legal Defences Used in Weather-Related Accidents
We all know that it’s important to drive cautiously in bad weather. However, despite our best efforts, accidents can still happen.
If an accident does occur, those involved may wish to file a claim or take their case to court. In either situation, the following types of defense may be used to prove a lack of negligence or responsibility.
1. Act of God
The ‘Act of God’ defense can be used in some, though not many, car accident cases involving poor weather conditions. This defense allows individuals to legally avoid culpability for their accident by claiming that it was an unavoidable and unforeseeable act of nature.
This defense can be difficult to prove, particularly since the accident must be entirely the result of an act of nature, so it isn’t used as commonly as the following defenses.
2. Sudden Emergency
A sudden emergency defense may be useful for those who have been involved in an accident caused by poor driving conditions due to poor weather. This defense allows individuals to claim that their accident was caused by a sudden and unexpected event.
In order to make this defense work, it must be proven that the accident was caused by a sudden emergency and that you took the appropriate actions to respond to that emergency.
3. Unavoidable Accident
An unavoidable accident defense could technically be brought in any car accident case, but it is particularly useful in weather-related car accident claims. This defense argues that the claimant isn’t responsible for their accident because they couldn’t have done anything to prevent it. This defense is used to prove that a crash wasn’t caused by the negligence of either party.
Precautions to Take While Driving in Poor Weather
You’ll notice that the legal defenses rely in large part on the actions you take leading up to an accident. Because of this, driving safely is important not only to help you avoid a crash but also to protect you in case the worst should occur.
When driving in poor conditions, follow the tips below to stay as safe as you can.
1. Snow and Ice
The key to driving on the snow and ice is speed; you want to be sure to give yourself plenty of time to travel so that you can be cautious. While it’s important to take things slowly the entire time you’re driving on snow, it’s particularly important to take care when taking turns. Before heading out, you should also take time to test your brakes and see how your car will react on the ice. When you are ready to take off, accelerate slowly so that you don’t spin out, and remember to keep an eye out for black ice! This means avoiding areas that look slick.
One of the biggest contributors to dangerous driving conditions in the rain is a lack of visibility. Because of this, make sure that your car is equipped with quality windshield wipers that will clear your view. When driving, expect slick roads and puddles that can cause your car to lose traction. Give yourself plenty of room to stop and react to the vehicle in front of you, and drive in the middle lanes where water is less likely to accumulate.
Based on the statistics, fog is the most dangerous weather condition for drivers. This is largely due to the lack of visibility that often accompanies this form of precipitation. Avoid driving in fog if you can, but if not, there are a few precautions you can take. First, don’t use your high-beams. Your bright headlights can reflect off the fog and make it even harder to see. Since your view is likely to be impacted either way, it’s important that you keep a significant reaction distance between you and any vehicles in front of you. Similarly, use your signals early to give those behind you time to react. You can also use the white stripes on the side of the road to guide you, especially when vehicles pass with their lights on.
Lapeze & Johns, PLLC: Your Houston Car Accident Lawyers
This hurricane season has been a particularly active one, and it’s not over yet. Once it is over, winter weather isn’t likely to be far behind. Suffice to say, the weather is fickle in Texas, and Texas drivers know they need to be prepared.
If you or a loved one have the misfortune of being involved in a weather-related car accident, don’t hesitate to reach out to the dedicated Houston car accident lawyers of Lapeze & Johns, PLLC, for assistance. We’d be proud to represent you in insurance negotiations or in a court of law.