How Liability Works for Bad Weather Accidents
Inclement weather can pose a severe risk to every motorist, regardless of whether they have to contend with poor visibility, slippery roads, driving winds, or all of these things at once. If you get into an Arizona auto accident as a result of the weather, it can be difficult to know who’s liable, if anyone, and how the weather will affect your overall ability to recover. Many insurance companies wrongly use the weather as a tool to deny claims in bad faith, which, while grounded in case precedent, oftentimes isn’t the full story.
Comparative Fault and Negligence
Liability in a bad weather accident is based on whether or not a driver acted negligently, which is generally up for debate due to the nature of Arizona’s pure comparative fault system. All drivers owe a duty of care to other vehicles on the roadway, mandating that they do their best to avoid crashes and stay safe in all scenarios. In the context of bad weather, violating this duty of care usually manifests in predictable ways:
- Failing to maintain tires/ windshield wipers or otherwise failing to prepare a vehicle for rain and snow.
- Failing to use windshield wipers and headlights appropriately in low-visibility conditions.
- Choosing to drive while drowsy, impaired, or distracted despite bad weather.
- Ignoring traffic signage, signals, and weather advisories in the course of driving.
- Driving too quickly for roadway conditions, even if you didn’t technically exceed the speed limit.
- Driving beyond your ability in a non-emergency situation. If the weather is extremely poor, merely getting on the road can constitute negligence.
Since driving is always a choice outside of an emergency, the weather is almost never truly to blame for a crash, as its ability to influence motorists in the first place is based on their decision to get on the road and drive in a certain fashion. Driving slower, being better prepared, or simply staying off of the road could have prevented your crash, allowing you to potentially hold other drivers accountable for your damages.
Acts of God
Despite everything discussed above, the fact remains that, at times, an accident caused by poor weather might be truly unavoidable, even with due caution. These rare, oftentimes extreme incidents are legally referred to as “acts of God,” although religion plays no part in this determination. If your vehicle is struck by lightning, suddenly whisked away by a recently-formed tornado, or loses control on a patch of lingering, difficult to see ice that should have thawed long ago, then odds are high that such a crash will be treated as an act of God. Acts of God usually absolve all involved parties of liability if no particular recklessness or negligence was present, though do note that, in most insurance policies, specific scenarios will be described with no mention of the term “act of God” anywhere, due to its broadness.
Talk to an Arizona Accident Attorney
Determining liability after an accident is a complex affair, especially when insurance adjusters actively work to deny or minimize your claim. Talking to one of ELG’s Arizona auto accident attorneys is the best way to learn more about how bad weather can influence your case, so contact us today at (623) 877-3600 to schedule your free consultation. We’ll ensure that you get the compensation you deserve, safeguarding your claim from unfair accusations and dishonest insurance adjuster tactics in the process.