Drivers who fail to use due caution in winter weather may be liable for resulting accidents, but other factors may also help determine liability.
Wallingford residents often face challenging driving conditions during winter and early spring. As a result, accidents involving weather-related hazards such as ice are not uncommon. According to NBC Connecticut, over 216 crashes were reported when freezing rain produced slick roads during one storm earlier this year. Unfortunately, when these accidents result in injury, determining liability can be difficult.
Common accident circumstances
If a driver loses control when driving during winter weather and causes an accident, the driver is typically considered liable. Connecticut law requires motorists to travel at prudent speeds that take several factors, including weather conditions, into account. A driver may be considered liable for failing to travel at a reasonable speed that allows for proper vehicle control.
If other factors also contribute to an accident, other parties may be at fault. As an example, a vehicle may slide in icy conditions due to road or vehicle problems. If issues such as poor signage or road hazards contribute to an accident, the driver may not be found liable. Similarly, if vehicle defects or improper maintenance are factors, a third party may be liable. These potential contributing factors should be considered in all of the following types of accidents:
Single-car accidents in which vehicles hit buildings or other structures
Multicar collisions with other vehicles, such as trucks and passenger vehicles
Accidents with other road users, including bicyclists and pedestrians
In accidents that involve multiple vehicles or other road users, the relative contribution of every party must be evaluated. If one party ignored traffic signals, signs or laws, that party may be found liable. For instance, if a driver slides while trying to avoid a vehicle that ran a red light, the driver of the second vehicle may be liable.
If multiple drivers or road users violated traffic laws, they may share fault in the accident. The final determination of liability may depend on the severity of each driver’s violations. Similarly, if two road users undertook legal but potentially dangerous actions, some level of fault may be attributed to both. The relative risks associated with each action may determine which driver is ultimately liable.
Accidents involving passenger injury
Other vehicle occupants may suffer injuries in all of these situations. If this happens, passengers may seek compensation from the party that was most at fault, including the driver that the passenger was riding with. This is true whether passengers are riding in commercial vehicles, such as taxis, or personal vehicles.
Injured passengers may hesitate to pursue claims when personal acquaintances are liable for an accident. This type of situation can strain personal relationships, sometimes causing conflict or a falling-out. Victims may be reluctant to add to the situation by making claims against exes, estranged relatives or old friends. However, given the life-changing consequences that car accidents can have, victims should not immediately rule out seeking compensation.
Protecting victims’ rights
Connecticut observes fault insurance laws, which require people injured in accidents to make claims against the at-fault person. In contrast, under no-fault laws, injury victims can make claims against their own insurance policies, regardless of fault. Given the state’s fault laws, determining liability is essential in Connecticut accidents that involve injury.
Anyone who has suffered harm in a winter driving accident should consider speaking with a personal injury attorney. An attorney may be able to investigate the circumstances to determine how each party contributed. An attorney may also help an accident victim secure documentation to help establish liability.