Weather-Related Car Accidents. Who Is At Fault?

Every day we check the local weather forecast. Outlooks of snow, sleet, storms, hurricanes, tornadoes, rain, etc., dictate our lives.  On bad weather days, we do less and stay inside. In comparison, on nice sunny days, we go out and have some fun. Unfortunately though most of us must work.  We therefore get into the car and head to our place of employment.  We are the proverbial mailman:  “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night will stay us from the completion of our daily trek”.

As Snowbirds, most of are either retired, on holiday, or taking extended vacations.  We are not bound by this mantra.  We by choice decide to drive southwards.  We also have the option of just hunkering down and waiting out the bad weather.  Unfortunately, while having the best intentions, we can still be caught in some harrowing weather related circumstances.  

According To The US Federal Highway Administration1:

• There is an average of over 5,891,000 vehicle crashes every year. Approximately 21% or nearly 1,235,000 of these crashes are weather-related.

• Weather-related crashes are defined as those crashes that occur in adverse weather conditions such as rain, sleet, snow, fog, severe crosswinds, or blowing snow/sand/debris, or on slick pavement, such as wet pavement, snowy/slushy pavement, or icy pavement. 

• On average, nearly 5,000 people are killed and over 418,000 people are injured in weather-related crashes every year.

• Most weather-related crashes happen during rainfall (46%) or on wet pavement (70%).

• 18% occur during snow or sleet, 13% occur on icy pavement, and 16% of weather-related crashes happen on slushy or snowy pavement. 

Main Reasons People Get Into Weather-Related Car Accidents

They drive too fast for the conditions.

 During bad weather, it becomes challenging to control your vehicle.  Think of it this way.  If it is raining, your car’s tires treads have been designed to whisk water away in order to allow the car to safely stay in contact with the road.  If it is a heavy rainfall and/or the condition of the treads on your tires are worn, your tires can experience hydroplaning.  In essence the car lifts off of the road, so that you lose contact. This affects your ability to steer and brake greatly increasing your risk of being in an accident.

Another critical factor in bad weather is your ability to see and adjust to road conditions.  For example visibility lessens at night, in heavy rain, fog, and snow.  As our ability to see is inhibited, so too is our ability to drive safely.  

Traction and visibility are key components.

In a car accident, traction and visibility are key determinants when making decisions as to fault. Road conditions are a factor, but they in no way absolve a car driver from their responsibility to drive safely regardless of the conditions. 

In a recent case, a gentleman from Florida drove north to visit some friends in Canada. When he crossed the border, he literally drove into a snowstorm. He did not have snow tires, nor had he ever driven on icy roads before.  Needless to say, he lost control of his car and found himself in a ditch, sitting in a badly damaged car.  Luckily he was not injured.  Regardless, no matter how he tried to explain things to his insurance company, they determined he was 100% at fault for the accident. They could forgive him for not having snow tires, but they simply decided that he was driving too fast for the conditions. Yes, his rates went up.

Weather-Related Accidents Are Still Your Fault

The moral of the story is this.  No matter how the weather conditions play into the scenario, it is your responsibility to adjust your driving to ensure the safety of you and those around you.

Slow down, stay alert, and make sure your car is equipped with proper seasonal safety measures such as snow tires and windshield fluid.  

Whenever possible, do not drive in bad weather. Wait for the weather to clear before continuing your journey.

How We Help Snowbirds Injured Across North America!

For 35 years, we have been assisting Canadians involved in car accidents and other personal injury accidents in the United States.

Every year, millions of snowbirds (Canadians and northern US residents) migrate south to escape harsh, cold winter weather. Unfortunately, some of these travellers are injured in car accidents, motorcycle accidents, pedestrian accidents, and more.

A serious personal injury can be life-changing. However, when they occur in a different country, these injuries can become extremely overwhelming and difficult to navigate.




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