Who is Liable When Car Accidents Happen in Extreme Weather?
September 3, 2021
Serious car accidents can happen anytime. When a collision occurs, it is often the case that one driver is clearly more at fault than the other. However, in heavy rain or other types of extreme weather, determining liability may be more difficult. Accidents that happen during storms cannot always be blamed on the weather. One or more parties may be deemed at fault. An experienced lawyer can provide sound legal guidance to individuals who are injured in car accidents that happen under inclement weather conditions.
Extreme Weather Conditions are On the Rise
Residents of Pennsylvania may not be accustomed to worrying about tornadoes, hurricanes, and severe flooding. However, studies show that extreme weather conditions are on the rise.
- Nine tornadoes were recorded in Pennsylvania during the first seven months of 2021; the annual average is only five.
- Between 30 and 35 severe thunderstorms happen yearly in the Philadelphia area, and that number is expected to increase.
- Severe weather increases the risk of flash floods.
An EF-3 tornado was spotted in Bensalem in July 2021, with damaging winds exceeding 140 miles per hour. Stronger tornadoes have been recorded in central Pennsylvania.
Drivers can expect more extreme weather in the future, according to a report commissioned by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP):
- Within the next 30 years, the average annual temperature statewide is expected to increase by 5.9°F.
- Extreme rainfall events will increase in magnitude, frequency, and intensity.
- Flooding is expected to increase in the Delaware Valley.
- Flooding may cause landslides blocking major roadways.
- There will be more frequent and intense extreme heat events.
The report goes on to say that coastal storm surges may cause significant harm to Pennsylvania’s infrastructure and transportation systems, particularly in the Philadelphia region. Bridges are especially vulnerable to damage from high winds and flooding.
How can Drivers Prepare for Extreme Weather Events?
The best way that drivers can prepare for extreme weather events is by listening to forecasts and staying off the road when storm warnings are broadcast. However, tornadoes, thunderstorms, and other types of severe weather can also arise unexpectedly. It is not always possible for motorists to avoid dangerous situations.
It is important for drivers should know about the dangers of flash floods. More people die from storm flooding than high winds, lightening, or hail, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
Drivers who are caught in a flash flood should follow these guidelines:
- Do not try to drive through a flooded road. Instead, back up and try a higher route.
- If the car has stalled, get out and go to higher ground.
- If stranded in a building or a tree, wait for rescuers. Do not attempt to walk in rushing flood waters.
Drivers who receive a flash flood warning on their phone should seek higher ground immediately. There may be only a few seconds to avoid the flood. Depending on a car’s clearance, a vehicle may stall out in as little as 6 inches of water.
What Should Drivers Do After Weather-Related Car Accidents?
During severe weather, it is important for motorists to take their time and drive slowly, leaving plenty of room between them and the car in front. If drivers do get into an accident, here is what they should do:
- Do not panic.
- If pain or any injury is felt immediately after the accident, request the 911 dispatcher to call an ambulance
- Do not leave the car unless there is immediate danger of being carried away by flooding.
- If it is safe to do so, take photographs of the accident, and exchange insurance and contact details with the other driver.
- Contact the insurance company.
- Call a lawyer.
Never make any comments to police or anyone else about fault or say that the accident was caused by bad weather. Any statements to this effect may jeopardize the ability to obtain full recovery of damages for injuries sustained in the accident. Insurance companies may use statements to deny or minimize settlement amounts.
How Do Insurance Companies Describe Extreme Weather Accidents?
Insurance companies often use the term “Act of God” to describe an accident that is caused by extreme weather conditions. The purpose of this term is to show that another human being or entity is not at fault. A tree falling on a car during a storm or lightening striking a house are two scenarios in which insurance companies may apply this term.
However, insurance companies may also use the Act of God clause to deny liability for a car accident that was caused by a policyholder. Drivers who are injured in a car accident during severe weather should remember the following:
- Insurers may attempt to manipulate facts to prove an accident was purely an Act of God.
- An at-fault driver can still be held liable for an accident, even in bad weather.
- Personal injury claims involving car accidents in extreme weather can be complex.
Injured car accident victims should not hesitate to contact a lawyer with experience in handling complex personal injury cases. A skilled lawyer knows that, regardless of an insurer’s attempts to manipulate facts, a driver can still be held liable damages incurred because of a bad weather accident.
How Does a Lawyer Determine Liability in a Bad Weather Accident?
Our legal team at Galfand Berger LLP has deep experience investigating accidents that occur under all types of weather conditions. Two examples include the following:
- $1.75 million settlement for turnpike workers injured by truck driving too fast during inclement weather. The workers were attempting to help a stranded motorist during a snowstorm when they were seriously injured by a skidding truck traveling about 55 miles per hour. Another truck driver was interviewed in the area who was traveling in the same direction prior to the accident and had reduced his speed to 40 miles per hour because of the snow and hail. Our lawyers argued that, as a professional truck driver, the defendant was liable because he should have altered his driving habits to accommodate the road conditions.
- $590,000 settlement for accident on icy road. The passenger of a car was ejected into a ravine after the vehicle hit an icy patch. Our lawyers proved negligence on the part of the driver, the vehicle owner, and the state agency, which was responsible for the poor roadway design that allowed water to collect at the accident site.
In all circumstances, it is important for accident victims to contact a lawyer before accepting any type of settlement offer from an insurance company. Injuries sustained in a collision may cause pain and suffering that can result in financial ruin.
Philadelphia Car Accident Lawyers at Galfand Berger LLP Help Injured Individuals Determine Liability in Weather-Related Collisions
If you have been seriously injured in a car accident during a bad storm, do not make the mistake of assuming that bad weather was entirely to blame. Our Philadelphia car accident lawyers at Galfand Berger LLP will help you prove your case. Contact us online or call us at 800-222-USWA (8792) for a free consultation. Located in Philadelphia, Bethlehem, Lancaster, and Reading, Pennsylvania, we proudly serve clients throughout New Jersey and Pennsylvania, including Allentown and Harrisburg.