- Even in inclement weather conditions, Georgia drivers have a legal duty to exercise reasonable care to avoid accidents and may be held responsible for their negligence.
- Because bad weather can be factored into a legal claim, a weather-related accident may be treated differently than one that took place under normal conditions.
- During settlement negotiations, the insurance company may try to argue that its insured wasn’t at fault because of weather conditions, or it may argue that the claimant failed to exercise reasonable care to avoid the accident and, therefore, shares liability.
- Because most weather-related accidents are considered preventable, drivers are usually held liable for negligence despite the adverse conditions.
Georgia weather can be hard to predict. While many days are mild and sunny, thunderstorms and flash flooding can happen frequently and suddenly, especially in spring and summer. Though snow and ice occur less often, roads and highways in Metro Atlanta can become hazardous and congested quickly in the winter, even with small amounts of accumulation.
The high winds of a thunderstorm can blow debris, trees, and power lines onto the road or destabilize a car, which can cause rollovers or other accidents. Heavy rain, snow, fog, or even bright sunshine can all reduce a driver’s visibility, which can lead to collisions. And rain, snow, ice, and sleet can decrease traction and make it more difficult for drivers to maintain control over their vehicles. Cold temperatures can also cause your tire pressure to drop, which can make your tires less effective in bad weather conditions.
Regardless of the weather, however, drivers still have a legal duty to exercise caution to avoid accidents and may be held responsible for their negligence.
Accidents in Severe Weather Are Treated Differently
Just like any hazardous condition on the road, bad weather can play a significant role in causing a car accident. Because bad weather can be factored into a legal claim, an Atlanta weather-related accident may be treated differently than one that took place under normal conditions.
Under the law, the person who caused the accident is responsible for the damages, but bad weather conditions can make a determination of fault more difficult. In any negligence claim, the legal standard is that people must exercise reasonable care to avoid injuring others. What is considered reasonable care can vary depending on the circumstances, but bad weather means an increased risk and more responsibility to take precautions when driving.
In many situations, drivers may be able to avoid accidents by exercising greater caution and paying more attention to their surroundings, while in others the accident is caused by a sudden and unexpected danger. For example, you can reduce your speed during a rainstorm to avoid hydroplaning and losing control of your car, but you may have to brake suddenly or swerve out of your lane if a large tree limb falls in front of you.
Before paying out a claim or agreeing to a settlement demand, the insurance company will carefully investigate to see what role, if any, the weather played in causing the accident. If the carrier determines its insured exercised reasonable care based on the weather conditions at the time of the crash, it may deny your claim or offer less compensation.
Negligent Driving Is Not Discredited in Bad Weather
Even though bad weather can make driving conditions more hazardous, it will not get you off the hook for negligence. Whether the road is slippery or hard to navigate because of rain, ice, or snow or whether visibility is affected by sunlight, fog, or precipitation, drivers are still required to take reasonable care to avoid accidents. In other words, when the weather is bad, you must compensate for it.
Compensating can mean driving much slower than the posted speed limit, leaving more space between your car and the one in front of you, paying closer attention to other cars and your surroundings, and turning on lights and windshield wipers. Drivers are also expected to follow normal traffic rules as well, such as stopping at red lights and stop signs and yielding to other cars.
In addition, failing to maintain your car in a safe condition to withstand bad weather can help establish negligence. Sometimes even going out on the road can be considered unsafe if a major weather event is known in advance. Because most weather-related accidents are considered preventable, drivers can usually be held liable for negligence despite the adverse conditions.
In rare cases, the weather-related accident is caused by something so sudden, extreme, and unexpected that the driver couldn’t have avoided it by exercising reasonable care. For example, if a tornado suddenly formed and blew large debris on the road that caused you to hit another car, that may be considered an “act of God” rather than negligence.
How Contributory Negligence Works in Weather-Related Car Accident Claims
When it comes to car accidents in inclement weather, multiple drivers may share responsibility. For example, if a driver loses control over their car because they were driving too fast on a wet highway and another driver hits the car because they were driving too fast to stop, both may be at fault for the accident. It’s up to the court to determine how much each driver is to blame, depending on the facts and circumstances of the case.
Under Georgia’s contributory negligence law, if you were at least partially at fault for causing an accident, your compensation may be reduced by your percentage of fault. O.C.G.A. § 51-12-33. For example, if you suffered $100,000 in damages but were 30 percent at fault for the accident, you may only receive $70,000. If you were at least 50 percent at fault, you wouldn’t receive any compensation.
While the weather may have been a contributing factor in an accident, it cannot be held liable under the law. It’s also rare for a court to determine that a driver is not liable based on bad weather conditions. In a negligence case, the finding of fault hinges on what a person exercising a reasonable duty of care would do under those conditions.
During settlement negotiations, the insurance company may try to argue that its insured wasn’t at fault because of weather conditions, or it may argue that the claimant failed to exercise reasonable care in bad weather and, therefore, shares liability. If successful, the carrier may be able to deny or reduce your compensation.
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How Lawyers Use Bad Weather in Legal Claims
In a weather-related car accident case, lawyers on both sides will gather evidence to prove negligence, including research on the weather conditions for the day and time of the crash. Lawyers will also collect police reports, witness statements, photos, and videos that can help establish the weather at the time of the accident.
Your lawyer may be able to use evidence of bad weather to build a strong case that the other driver ignored these conditions and acted negligently—or even recklessly—in causing the accident. On the other hand, the defense attorney may use weather evidence to argue that you were at least partially at fault for not exercising enough caution to prevent the accident or reduce the damage.
Call The Millar Law Firm for a Free Consultation
If bad weather may have played a role in your car accident, you should talk to an experienced attorney about how it can impact your injury claim. Our lawyers go to work immediately to investigate the accident and help you recover the full value of your claim. Call The Millar Law Firm today at (770) 400-0000 or contact us online to set up a free consultation with one of our attorneys.