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Does Bad Weather Excuse Poor Driving Behavior?

By Hardwick & Pendergast, P.S. on December 9, 2020

Washington is known for its cloudy skylines and stormy seasons, which tend to make our roadways damp, if not outright dangerous. While some drivers know how to adapt to adverse weather conditions, others choose to drive recklessly and put other drivers in serious danger. Drivers should always put safety first, especially during a rainstorm, fog, or icy spell, because failure to do so can make them liable for any accidents they cause.

Holding Reckless Drivers Accountable

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) estimates that 15% of all fatal car accidents and 19% of accidents involving injuries are related to poor weather. The Administration notes that wet pavement is the biggest cause of crashes, followed by rain, snow, sleet, ice, and fog. But, as deadly as Washington roadways can become due to poor weather, liability still remains with vehicle operators.

Drivers make a choice when they hop on the road during rain or fog, which means they hold a certain level of responsibility to keep others safe. This is legally referred to as a duty of care, and drivers are expected to extend that duty to anyone else on the road: other drivers, motorcyclists, and pedestrians. During adverse weather, drivers should always default to their training and DMV guidelines. Whether this means adjusting their lights, turning on windshield wipers, and lowering their speed, drivers can choose to act as safely as possible in a storm.

Unfortunately, many choose the opposite, often leading to traumatic auto accidents. We have all seen drivers speed down I-5 during torrential rains and worried that they may hydroplane into another lane or rear-end a slower driver. Even if the weather makes it difficult for them to control their vehicles, there are still responsible for any injuries they caused due to their reckless actions.

Actions that can make a driver liable for a collision in a rainstorm or on a foggy day include:

  • Failing to lower their speed
  • Failing to turn their windshield wipers on
  • Failure to adjust their lights
  • Driving while distracted
  • Driving while intoxicated
  • Driving while fatigued
  • Ignoring traffic signs or signals
  • Making unsafe lane changes or merges
  • Not respecting other drivers’ right of way
  • Not performing routine maintenance on their vehicle

While he may try to make excuses, if a reckless driver hit you during poor weather, you are still eligible to pursue an auto accident claim against his insurance policy.

What If the Accident Was Unavoidable?

Although rare, there are instances where the design of a highway or a poor road conditions contributed to an accident. As drivers are required to follow all traffic laws, government agencies should respond accordingly to dangerous road conditions. These can include potholes, blind turns, a lack of traffic signs, and unsafe speed limits.

Dangerous road condition cases are a bit more complicated than your standard auto accident case. For one, you will need to clearly show how the design of the road or unsafe conditions contributed to your injuries. This may require reviewing street designs, city codes, and previous accident reports. If you can show that the roadway is dangerous, you will have to prove that a state or local government agency, such as the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) or Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT), is liable for your injuries in a government tort claim.

For a government tort claim, you have six months from the date of your accident to file the paperwork. However, these claims are rarely successful without the aid of an experienced Seattle car accident attorney, especially if you are still dealing with your injuries. Instead of going it alone, you should reach out to Hardwick & Pendergast, P.S. With more than four decades of experience, our team of skilled lawyers has secured hundreds of millions of dollars on behalf of accident victims. We can review your claim and advocate for the maximum compensation from the at-fault party, whether it was a negligent driver or a government agency. We offer every potential client a free consultation, so there is no cost to call us at (425) 228-3860 or toll-free at (888) 228-3860.

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