Who is Liable in a Car Crash Due to Winter Weather in North Carolina?

June 8, 2023
By admin

Winter weather brings snow, ice, and other hazards for North Carolinian drivers. When winter driving conditions become harsh, accidents are more frequent. Because of North Carolina’s contributory negligence law, having even a small amount of liability for an accident can be disastrous. It can completely bar you from getting any compensation! This is why it is so important to have a hardworking, dedicated attorney put together a strong argument– advocating on your behalf.

The Wilmington personal injury attorneys at the Rhine Law Firm have won compensation for car accidents for years, navigating the complications of the legal system on behalf of our clients. Your injury demands compensation so you can rebuild your life. Schedule a free consultation to discuss your rights today.

What constitutes negligence for car crashes during a snowstorm

Broken black car on road in winter; crash accident.

The negligence doctrine measures conduct, such as driving, according to a subjective “reasonable person standard.”  So, while no one is expected to be a “perfect” driver, we do expect that reasonable motorists will drive safely, obey traffic laws, keep their eyes on the road, and apply appropriate caution when the weather or road conditions are unsafe.

For example, even the most diligent driver on the road is susceptible to a run-in with black ice or a pothole covered with snow. Other drivers may also be a factor, such as a negligent driver swerving on the road for fun or even a reasonable one swerving on the road to avoid a hazard that was only visible at the last second. After an accident, the circumstances leading to it and the reasonability of the driver’s actions will be examined

Generally speaking, because there are more hazards on the road in winter that can harm even the most diligent of drivers, there are more opportunities for them to be injured–while not bearing any fault. In these cases, the driver will not be liable for their accident and should be able to recover their damages.

Who May Be Liable for a Winter Car Crash?

While nobody is at fault for the weather, poor conditions will make accidents more likely by reducing margins for error–applying the brakes at the last second is more likely to work on a clear road than one with ice. While the margins of error are smaller in winter, an investigation may still illustrate the unreasonable actions of one of the drivers, who would then be liable.

Additionally, if the road was poorly maintained and contributed to the accident, the agency responsible for maintaining it may bear liability. If the vehicle that caused the accident was a delivery truck or another vehicle driven by an employee, their employer might be liable. Finally, a manufacturer may be responsible if a defective product causes an accident.

Causes of Winter Weather Car Crashes

Some of the most common causes of winter car crashes include:

  • Failure to maintain  the greater braking distance required on roads with snow or ice.
  • Tires with insufficient traction, i.e., worn, or shallow treads, that slip more on wet, icy, or snowy roads.
  • Sun reflected from the snow affecting drivers’ vision.
  • Extreme weather conditions like snowstorms affecting visibility and depth perception.
  • Fewer hours of light mean motorists have to drive in low-light conditions.
  • Thin layers of ice that are difficult to see which are often termed “black ice.”

“Pure” Contributory Negligence

North Carolina is one of a few states with a “pure” contributory negligence jurisdiction. It is a fairly unforgiving standard, as anyone who has contributed to their injury may  not be able to recover anything their damages. This means that if a court finds that you are even 1% at fault for your accident, you will not be able to recover any compensation.

With such a low threshold, it is essential to have an attorney arguing your case—because any small amount of doubt created by the evidence or a good, unanswered argument from the opposing attorney could leave you with nothing. Speaking with a Wilmington car accident attorney can help you to formulate strategies to get around this very strict standard.

How an Attorney from The Rhine Law Firm Can Help

Winter is a more dangerous time to drive, and the accidents resulting from bad weather can be severe. The specter of partial liability for a driver can put all of their damages into question in North Carolina’s pure contributory negligence jurisdiction. Our attorneys can help you to gather evidence, present and negotiate your case with insurance companies, and litigate your case if necessary. Schedule a free consultation to discuss your injury and options to move forward with our attorneys.

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