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Determining Fault for Car Accidents Caused by Ice and Snow in Tennessee

Determining who is at fault for a car accident under almost any conditions is usually a difficult endeavor. When winter weather conditions include snow and ice on the road, fault might be even harder to decipher. An attorney might be able to help.

A driver in a crash on snow or icy roads is generally held to the same standards as drivers on any other day. However, winter weather conditions might affect how we determine fault. Liability for such accidents is typically based on negligence, and negligence might be different when the weather is bad. You can avoid winter accidents by avoiding driving in the snow or ice, equipping your vehicle with specialized gear, and driving extra defensively. Snow and ice tend to come up in arguments based on comparative negligence, as drivers are expected to exercise greater caution under these conditions. Auto insurance claims may be similarly complicated. Liability might not stem from an actual crash but from snow and ice you did not clear from the top of your vehicle. 

For a free review of your case after a winter weather-related accident, call our Tennessee car accident lawyers of Howe Law at (844) 876-4357.

Who is At Fault for Car Accidents in Tennessee in Snow or Icy Weather

The question of fault comes up in almost every auto accident case, regardless of road and weather conditions. The fact that your accident happened in snowy weather or on icy roads might make the issue a little more complicated to figure out.

While snow and ice can make driving a lot more dangerous, many drivers are quick to argue that they cannot be held responsible for the weather. While it is true that drivers cannot be held liable for poor weather conditions, they can be held liable for how they drove in such conditions.

Drivers should be extra defensive on snowy or icy roads. If they are not, they might be liable for an accident. Perhaps you were in an accident on an icy road, but the other driver insists they did nothing wrong. While their driving might have been considered reasonable on a warm, sunny day, it might be a different story in snow and ice. More caution should be exercised under these conditions. If drivers do nothing to be safer (e.g., drive slower, use headlights, signal turns sooner), they might be deemed negligent.

Negligence is usually based on whatever is considered reasonable driving under the circumstances. The more severe the road conditions are, the more care and caution drivers should exercise. Expectations of safe driving are usually higher under circumstances involving snow and ice.

What Does Negligence Look Like in Tennessee Car Crashes Involving Ice and Snow

Liability in car accident cases is often based on negligence. This is far more than just a general sense of recklessness or carelessness. Negligence is a legal concept that includes four distinct elements: duty, breach, causation, and damages. When ice and snow are involved in an accident, proving each element of negligence might be different.

The first element of negligence is duty. This represents the legal obligation the defendant owed the plaintiff at the time of the accident. In car accident cases, this is usually the duty to drive with reasonable safety under the circumstances and obey the traffic laws. When snow and ice are on the roads, this duty changes. What might be considered reasonable on a bright, sunny day might be entirely unreasonable and dangerous when snow and ice are on the roads.

The second element is breach. This represents what the defendant did or neglected to do that caused the accident. Examples include speeding, failing to signal, or driving without proper headlights or taillights. Again, what constitutes a breach on icy roads may differ from normal circumstances. For example, the ordinary speed limit on a summer day might be dangerously fast on a snowy day.

The third element is causation. Essentially, the defendant’s breach must be the direct and proximate cause of the accident. Defendants often blame the weather for the accident. While the weather plays a role, defendants may still be held liable for how they behaved under those conditions.

Finally, our Knoxville car accident lawyers need evidence that your damages are real. Medical injuries, vehicle damage, and other losses need proof.

How to Avoid Car Accidents in Snowy or Icy Conditions in Tennessee

It is important to take certain safety steps to avoid collisions on icy roads. Taking precautions can help you avoid being injured in a crash and avoid legal liability for an accident. Even if you exercise these precautions and are still unfortunately in an accident, the fact that you exercised heightened caution might help you diminish or avoid liability.

First, you should check your local news outlets for details about possible road closures. Certain roads might be extremely risky in the ice and snow. For example, roads on steep inclines might be incredibly dangerous when covered in ice. Check to see if these roads are closed. Even if they are open, exercise caution and avoid them if you can.

Make sure your car is equipped for snow and ice. If snow is thick on the road, avoid driving unless you have four-wheel drive. You should also make sure your tires are in good condition and not bald or close to it. You might also want to bring tire chains, just in case. Pack flares or reflectors just in case you are in an accident so other drivers can see you and avoid running into you.

Adjust your speed. The speed limit on your normal route to work might be 50 mph. If it is snowing or the roads are icy, slow down. If traffic is heavy, slow down enough to allow extra space between your car and the car in front of you. Just make sure to leave early so you get to your destination on time.

Finally, staying home is the most surefire way to avoid a crash on icy roads. If you can, call out of work or try to work from home if that is a possibility. Adjust plans or appointments, so you do not have to be on the road until they are clear. If you cannot avoid driving, use the precautions mentioned above and be as safe as possible.

How Comparative Fault Rules Apply to Car Accident Cases in Tennessee Involving Snow or Icy Roads

If a defendant in a car accident case argues that the plaintiff caused the accident and their injuries, whether entirely or partially, the court may consider their arguments according to the rules of comparative negligence. The State of Tennessee adopted a rule of comparative negligence when the Supreme Court of Tennessee ruled in the case of McIntyre v. Balentine.

Under this rule, if a plaintiff is found by the court to be at fault for their injuries, their damages and compensation may be reduced in proportion to their share of the blame. If you are deemed 20% responsible for the accident on an icy road, your damages may be diminished by 20%. However, if you are found to be at least 50% responsible, you may lose your right to recover any damages.

Arguments of comparative fault in a car accident case involving harsh winter weather could revolve around whether the plaintiff was negligent in being on the road. The defendant could argue that your car skidded on some ice and crashed into them and that they cannot be held responsible for your actions.

This can be tricky to refute. Perhaps you did skid on the ice, but that does not mean you are at fault for the crash. Perhaps the defendant’s taillights were out, and you could not see them in the snowy weather and, therefore, could not avoid hitting them when you skidded.

Talk about the possibility of comparative negligence with your attorney. It is a somewhat common defense tactic, and you should be prepared to refute these kinds of claims in court.

Auto Insurance Claims for Winter Car Accidents in Tennessee

What You Need to Know: Guide readers through the process of filing insurance claims for accidents in winter conditions, including how to document weather-related factors.

Many auto accidents are quickly followed by insurance claims. While you might have other legal options, such as a lawsuit, there is a good chance that insurance will be the first course of action. In Tennessee, auto insurance laws enforce a fault-based system. Injured drivers usually have to file claims with the other driver’s insurance and prove that the other driver is at fault for the crash. If the insurance company believes your claims, they may pay for your damages up to the limits of the other driver’s insurance policy.

The fact that your car accident occurred on an icy road or in snowy conditions might make it trickier to prove your claims to an insurance company. Remember, the insurance company will look for any excuse to reduce your compensation or deny your claim. The fact that snow and ice played a role in the accident might make it easier for the insurance company to question your version of events. As such, you should talk to our Tennessee car accident attorneys about what kind of evidence you should present to the insurance company.

Legal Consequences of Not Clearing Snow and Ice from Your Vehicle in Tennessee

While drivers in winter weather are often concerned with snow and ice on the roads, they sometimes forget about the snow and ice on their vehicles. Of course, drivers usually clear their windshields so they can see while driving, but that might not be everything. Snow and ice left on the hood or roof of your vehicle might fly off and strike another car, causing a serious accident.

When snow or ice flies off a vehicle and gets in the way of another, the driver who neglected to clear the snow and ice from their car might be liable for the crash. Snow can fly from one vehicle and land right on the windshield of a vehicle behind it, making it impossible for the other driver to see.

Avoid these kinds of accidents by storing your vehicle in a covered garage during snowy weather or keeping tools in your vehicle that you can use to clear the ice and snow from your car. If you are the victim of this kind of accident, try to quickly note the other car’s license plate, make, and model. The police can use this info to track down the other driver if they do not stop to help you after the crash.

What to Do After a Car Crash in Snowy or Icy Weather in Tennessee

If you find yourself in an accident on icy or snowy roads, the first thing you should do is call for help. When the roads are bad, it might take longer for emergency services to respond to your accident. It is best to call for help immediately. While waiting for help, place flares or reflectors around your accident so other drivers can see. If the weather is bad and visibility is low, other drivers might crash into your vehicle.

Next, exchange details with other drivers at the scene. Since there tend to be fewer drivers on the road in icy weather, the only other person at the scene might be the driver who caused the accident. If others stopped to help, get their information as well, as they might make good witnesses.

While waiting for help, try to take pictures of the accident. This is especially important if it is snowing, as details about the accident might be quickly covered up and lost. If you take photos quickly, we might see things like tire tracks in the snow that can help us determine how the accident occurred.

Set up flares or reflectors so other drivers can see the accident on the road and avoid you. This might be crucial depending on the weather. If you do not have flares or reflectors, turn on the flashers.

Call Our Tennessee Car Accidents if You Were Injured in a Crash Involving Ice and Snow

For a free review of your case after a winter weather-related accident, call our Nashville car accident lawyers of Howe Law at (844) 876-4357.

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