Many of us have experienced the anxiety of driving in a late-night snow-storm with limited visibility, or a rainstorm that seems to never stop. It’s nerve-wracking. Now, what happens if an accident occurs due to extremely bad weather. From a legal perspective, who is responsible?
The moment you get behind the wheel of a car and drive off you are held responsible to what’s called a “duty of reasonable care”. This means there is an expectation that you drive safely and in a way that avoids injury or harm to other people. Bad weather does not affect that standard of reasonable care. This means you are responsible to adjust to weather conditions to avoid causing an accident.
One example of this would be slowing down when there is ice present on the road. Ice on the road can affect a car’s ability to brake and a reasonable person would slow down to ensure they are not endangering themselves or others.
Negligence is the legal standard for determining liability for a car accident. If you acted in a careless manner and did not follow your duty to the other drivers on the road, then you can be held responsible for an accident. Negligence also means you caused the harm. In a car accident case, this could be a collision between your car and another car, which caused the damage or injury the plaintiff is claiming.
In most cases, liability can be found for an accident where the weather is a contributing factor. Occasionally, a defense known as the “act of God” defense can be used to avoid liability. However, this applies in limited circumstances. The key is that an “act of God” is unavoidable and unforeseeable.
One can prepare for rain on the road, but might not be able to prepare for the highway collapsing due to a large earthquake. If the weather is the sole contributing factor to the accident, an “act of God” defense may stand up in court.
Weather does affect driving conditions, but that does not mean that no one is responsible for accidents that occur in bad weather. Whenever you drive, you are assuming a responsibility to other drivers to drive safely and not cause harm to others. If you cannot perform that duty due to the weather, then you should not drive. It is okay to pull over safely in bad weather conditions.
In some extreme cases, bad weather is out of your control and completely unforeseeable and an “act of God” defense can be used in court.
If you are ever involved in a car crash, reach out to our Houston area lawyers for a free case review. Give us a call at (888) 273-1045.
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