Who Is at Fault for a Car Accident Caused by Snow or Ice?

ice and snow accident who's at fault

What you’ll learn reading this article:

  1. Snow and ice create dangerous driving conditions that affect roadways as well as visibility.
  2. There are several steps Hoosier drivers can take to prepare their vehicles and themselves for safer winter driving. 
  3. Indiana is an at-fault state, which means that even if weather conditions contribute to an accident, at least one person will always be found liable. 

One of the benefits of living in Indiana is getting to experience all four seasons. Unlike some regions of the country, Indiana enjoys several months each year of ideal spring, summer, fall, and winter weather.

While this can be exciting and refreshing when it comes to activities, recreation, and scenery, the effects can be less than perfect when it comes to travel and transportation.

While Indianapolis and its surrounding areas have much to offer for native Hoosiers and visitors alike, public transportation is not yet at the top of the list. Because of this, most Hoosiers own and operate their own vehicles. This means that every Hoosier should know how to properly drive in winter weather.

How Snow and Ice Affect Driving

When temperatures drop, snow and ice can’t be too far behind. Both snow and ice can affect not only the roadways but also your vehicle, and it is important to prepare yourself and your vehicle for winter driving.

Drivers have what is referred to as a “duty of care” to make smart decisions when behind the wheel. This means that when weather and road conditions are not ideal (clear and sunny), that the driver adjusts their driving in order to better meet the conditions safely.

Driving in Winter Weather

The following are some tips for safer winter driving.

Before You Leave:

  • Clear your vehicle of snow and ice.

Make sure before you get behind the wheel that your vehicle is clear of all ice and snow. Clearing only the windows and windshields may not be enough, as when you drive snow on your vehicle’s roof can become dislodged and obstruct your view while driving, creating dangerous visibility issues while you’re in motion.

  • Keep your car outfitted with some winter supplies.

In case of an accident or stalling, it is important to keep a few items on hand in your vehicle. A blanket, a pair of gloves, and a hat are all important items to have on hand should you become stranded or have to wait for emergency services. Additionally, keeping a small shovel, an ice scraper, a snow brush, a flashlight, and a first aid kit are important items to have on hand. Some drivers like to keep sand or kitty litter in their vehicle in case of getting stuck, while others may prefer having a set of chains or rope on hand.

  • Keep your car well-gassed.

In cold temperatures, it’s important to keep your gas tank full. When the tank gets below ¼ full in cold weather, the possibility of the gasoline blend separating becomes higher, as does the possibility of condensation within the tank, which can freeze and cause problems. Additionally, because of the dangers of exposure during the winter, keeping your car fueled helps ensure you won’t become stranded somewhere due to an empty tank.

While On the Road:

  • Don’t Speed.

Roads are slicker, and your tires are more likely to lose traction during the winter. Speeding invites trouble and it is important to remember that the speed limit is for ideal conditions, not snow and ice.

  • Don’t Tailgate.

It takes longer and more space to brake on ice and snow than it does in ideal weather. Because of this, you should increase your following distance to other cars.

  • Avoid Cruise Control.

It is important to keep your foot on the gas (or brake) and hands on the wheel at all times when driving on ice or snow.

  • Beware of Black Ice.

Black ice is ice on the roadways or pavement that is difficult or impossible to see. It can be incredibly dangerous, especially as it will often form after other, visible ice has thawed. Be especially careful on ramps, bridges, and intersections where black ice can be especially treacherous and easily formed.

Employing these common winter driving safety tips showcase the driver’s acknowledgment of their duty of care.

Determining Fault

If a driver fails to adhere to their duty of care while driving in winter weather and causes an accident, they cannot simply blame the weather. Indiana is an at-fault state, which means that at least one individual will always be found responsible for an accident. That said, winter weather can get the best of even the most prudent driver.

Indiana’s negligence system is a modified “comparative fault” system, which means that one or more persons involved in an accident may be found liable, and that those who are less than 51% responsible for the accident may be able to recover compensation. So, if you are involved in an accident due to snow or ice, your driving behavior and that of the other drivers involved will be examined.

This is why it is important to follow winter driving safety tips and remain vigilant when driving in winter conditions.

Knowing Your Options

If you’ve been injured in an Indiana car accident involving ice or snow, contact a qualified car accident attorney to discuss your case and explore the options you have moving forward. PBAR offers a free case review to help you better understand your next move.

Poynter & Bucheri Accident Recovery—Indianapolis Personal Injury Attorneys

If you or a loved one has been injured physically or mentally by a person, product or company, you need to know your legal rights. Our personal injury attorneys are experienced with cases like yours and can evaluate what your case may be worth. We will ensure that you are protected and compensated for your injuries and losses.

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