7 Jul, 2023

Who Is Liable for a Car Accident Due to Weather Conditions in Peoria

Author Todd A. Strong
A red car has slid on the icy road. Concept of Who Is Liable for a Car Accident Due to Weather Conditions
A red car has slid on the icy road. Concept of Who Is Liable for a Car Accident Due to Weather Conditions

Who Is Liable When Bad Weather Causes an Accident?

Weather is a contributing factor in thousands of motor vehicle crashes each year. The Federal Highway Administration reports that about 21% of vehicle accidents that happen every year are weather-related. These weather-related crashes injure more than 418,000 people and kill nearly 5,000 yearly.

Weather-related accidents are those that occur in adverse weather conditions. Illinois is considered one of the most dangerous states for winter driving. Weather conditions that present significant challenges to drivers in Peoria, Chicago, and across the state include:

  • Rain
  • Snow
  • Sleet
  • Fog
  • Strong winds

Drivers are expected to take reasonable care to drive safely and avoid accidents in all weather conditions. When weather conditions are bad, and driving conditions are poor, drivers are expected to adapt their driving behavior to the existing conditions. In many accidents that occur in poor weather conditions, a driver would likely be liable even if weather was a factor. That’s because there are actions that drivers can take to prevent weather-related crashes from occurring.

The driver who loses control of his or her vehicle is usually considered the responsible party. If multiple cars lose control simultaneously in weather-related crashes, the drivers will likely share some degree of fault. In some cases, the entity responsible for road maintenance could also be liable for the accident. Each accident usually has its own unique circumstances, and it's important to know how to prove you are not at fault in a car accident.

Insurance companies, lawyers, and courts usually consider certain factors to determine and assign fault fairly.

Factors That Determine Liability in a Car Accident Due to Weather Conditions in Peoria

Here are the potential factors that may be examined to determine liability in weather-related accidents.

Negligence

Negligence of the driver is a significant factor in determining liability in bad weather accidents. Drivers can be found negligent regardless of the driving conditions. Negligence occurs when drivers don’t exercise reasonable caution in dangerous weather conditions. If the other driver acted negligently by failing to utilize proper precautions, you could hold him or her accountable for your injuries and losses with the help of a car accident lawyer.

Driver actions that could qualify as negligence include:

Driving at Speeds Too Fast for the Current Weather Conditions

In inclement weather, drivers should reduce their speeds to even below the posted speed limits. Even the speed limits can be too fast. Tire traction and visibility are reduced in that kind of weather. Drivers must lower their speeds to have full control of their cars. Traveling too fast can cause a car to skid and collide with another vehicle or leave the road.

Driving at unsafe speeds that don’t reflect road conditions is considered driver negligence. If the driver were consequently to be involved in an accident, he or she would be held liable.

Failure to Leave Enough Distance When Driving Behind Other Vehicles

When driving in adverse weather, drivers should keep a further distance between their vehicle and the vehicle in front of them. Snow and ice reduce tire traction. Consequently, a car takes longer to stop. Increasing the following distance lets a driver stop the vehicle in time in case of a red light or if the car ahead is making a turn.

Drivers who don’t increase their following distance and slide or skid into the vehicles ahead may be held responsible for those accidents.

Not Using Headlights When Visibility Is Poor

Illinois law requires drivers to use their headlights during poor visibility conditions or when operating their windshield wipers. Failure to turn on the vehicle’s headlights in poor weather qualifies as driver negligence. The driver would have a hard time seeing other vehicles, and other motorists would equally struggle to see the driver’s car. Headlights also help drivers see shiny spots that could be black ice.

Poor Maintenance

A driver can be held liable for an accident in bad weather conditions for failing to keep a car properly maintained. Examples of poor maintenance that could be considered driver negligence include:

  • Worn or bald tires
  • Malfunctioning headlights or windshield wipers
  • Snow-covered windshield
  • Weak brakes

There are several other instances where a driver could be considered to have acted negligently, such as taking a turn at high speed, driving distracted, impaired, or fatigued, and failing to obey road signs or traffic signals.

Were the Weather Conditions Known in Advance or Unexpected?

The driver could have chosen to stay off the road due to the unsafe weather conditions and considered the suitability of his or her driving experience and vehicle’s condition for safely navigating the weather and road conditions. By choosing to drive in the conditions, the driver had to take full responsibility for himself or herself, the passengers, and the car, and take extra care while driving.

A driver may not be liable for an accident if the weather condition was unusual or unexpected. The driver couldn’t have taken any action to avoid the accident in such instances. For example, if a sudden tornado or flash flood forces a vehicle to crash into another one, the driver may not be held responsible for the crash.

Road Conditions

It’s possible for a driver to have driven responsibly, but the road conditions caused the accident. For example, potholes, shoulder drop-offs, or debris could have caused the accident. The municipality or entity in charge of maintenance could be liable for the accident. Additionally, the maintenance company could be held responsible if the maintenance team didn’t salt or clear the road, leading to the formation of black ice.

What to Do After a Weather Related Accident

If you’re injured in a weather-related accident, you may be entitled to claim damages from the other driver. Even if you were partially to blame for the crash, you could still bring a claim for damages against the other driver. The steps you take after the accident can boost or jeopardize your ability to recover compensation. Here’s what to do after a car accident in adverse weather conditions.

Don’t Overreact at the Scene

It’s important not to overreact at the accident scene. Don’t assign or admit fault. Avoid downplaying your injuries.

Take Pictures

Take photos of the accident scene, including any damage to your car, skid marks, road conditions, bodily injuries, and anything else that could be valuable to your case. You should also call the police and make a report.

Exchange Information With the Other Driver

You should exchange information like contact details, vehicle registration number, driver’s license info, and insurance information with the other driver.

Seek Medical Treatment

You should undergo a medical evaluation as soon as possible after the crash, even if you feel you’re not severely injured.

Report to Your Insurance Company

Report the crash to your insurance company. It’s best to avoid talking to the other driver’s insurance company before talking to a car accident attorney.

Contact a Lawyer

Proving negligence and liability in weather-related accident cases in Peoria can be challenging. A car accident lawyer can help you build the best possible case for compensation. Your lawyer will investigate the facts of your case and will know what to look for to determine liability.

With regard to when to get a lawyer after being involved in a car accident due to weather conditions, your best bet is to seek one as soon as you can following the crash. Your lawyer will need time to gather all the necessary evidence to prove liability. Therefore, the sooner the lawyer can begin collecting the evidence, the better your chances of showing the other driver failed to take proper precautions in those dangerous weather conditions.

How to Avoid an Accident in Bad Weather Conditions

You’ll need to take additional care before going onto the road and as you drive to avoid accidents during extreme weather conditions. Consider the useful tips below to reduce the chances of an accident:

  • Don’t drive if possible. Consider staying at home if the road conditions are bad. If a storm starts or visibility becomes reduced when you’re already out, pull over to a safe place to wait out the worst part of the weather.
  • Ensure your car is in excellent condition before you drive. Check that your car’s systems, such as tires, lights, windshield wipers, and brakes, are fully functioning. Use tire models appropriate for the weather conditions. Clear your vehicle of any snow or ice.
  • Drive slowly and increase the distance between your vehicle and the one in front of you. Remove the need to rush to your destination by leaving early.
  • Use your headlights. Drive with the headlights on, even in daylight hours, to make your vehicle more noticeable.
  • Avoid dangerous driving behaviors. Hazardous weather conditions, such as snow and icy weather, require your full attention. You should have both hands firmly on the wheel and eyes focused on the road. Avoid risky behaviors like drunk driving and distracted driving. Avoid using your phone, even with hands-free technology. Refrain from using cruise control.

Even after taking all safety precautions, you could still get involved in a car accident. When this happens, your careful driving behavior will significantly limit your liability for the crash, so you can seek compensation from any negligent party.

About The Author

Photo of Todd A. Strong
Illinois workers’ compensation and personal injury lawyer Todd A. Strong is the founder of Strong Law Offices in Peoria, Illinois. Todd brings considerable legal knowledge, experience, and skill to the table to ensure injured victims throughout the state are treated with respect, dignity, and fairness.