Michigan drivers have to deal with a lot of snow, ice and other bad winter weather. Road conditions at this time of year are especially dangerous. Unfortunately, despite a driver’s best efforts, a winter weather car crash may happen.
Who is liable for the damages? Can drivers blame the bad weather? Does it even matter since Michigan is a no-fault state?
Jay Trucks discusses the causes of crashes in winter, why fault still matters and who could be liable. If you have other legal questions after a crash, our Grand Rapids car crash lawyers are ready to help. Call our firm to set up a free case review to learn more.
Proven Results. 989-244-0356
Common Causes of Winter Weather Crashes
While snow and ice make driving more dangerous, most winter weather crashes are preventable. Typically, these incidents are the result of driver error or negligence.
Some of the leading causes of winter weather crashes include:
- Poor visibility: Snow, fog, freezing rain and other winter weather make it harder for drivers to see the road and other vehicles.
- Slippery roads: Black ice, slushy roads or even just wet roads may cause your vehicle to slide. Some drivers are unable to maintain control of their vehicles.
- Poor vehicle maintenance: Vehicles must be well maintained, including tires, brakes and wipers, to help avoid crashes.
- Ignoring road or weather conditions: When weather conditions are bad, drivers need to slow down, allow more distance from other vehicles and also add more travel time.
Who May Be Liable for Winter Weather Crashes
Drivers owe a duty of care despite how bad the roads are during the winter months. In winter weather crashes, drivers may be considered negligent if they:
- Failed to properly maintain or service their car for safe winter driving
- Neglected to adjust their driving to the weather conditions
- Drove recklessly or broke other traffic laws in addition to driving unsafe for the weather
Does Liability Matter in a No-Fault State?
Even though Michigan is a no-fault state, it is still necessary to determine liability for a crash. Some crash victims may not have enough personal injury protection coverage (PIP) to fully cover their medical costs. Others may suffer severe or permanent injuries which meet the state’s injury threshold. In that situation, liability also matters as the crash victim will need to file a lawsuit for excess damages.
Steps to Improve Your Road Safety in Winter
Staying home when snow and ice are at their worst is the best idea. However, if you must go out, these steps can help to keep you safer on winter roads.
Pack For a Possible Emergency
When driving in winter, you should not leave your house unprepared. Pack an emergency “go bag” with:
- Working flashlight and extra batteries
- Water and non-perishable snacks for all passengers and pets in the vehicle: Granola bars, tuna pouches, etc.
- Extra blankets, gloves and hat
- First aid kit
- Cellphone and car charger
- Basic tools and emergency warning kit: This could include road flares, reflectors, tire jack, etc.
- Jumper cables or a jump pack
- Traction aid, such as non-clumping kitty litter, salt or sand, to place behind tires if you get stuck
- Snow brush and ice scraper
If you do get stuck in a whiteout, call 9-1-1 to let them know where you are and stay in your vehicle. If you have to get out to clear your exhaust pipe or other reasons, do so with caution. If there is traffic, other drivers may be unable to see you because of the weather.
Prepare Your Vehicle
What you do to prepare your vehicle – and how you drive it – plays a huge role in avoiding a winter weather crash. Reasonable steps to ensure you are driving a safe vehicle include:
- Maintaining tires: Use the right tires for the weather, check the pressure often, rotate for even wear, and replace when worn.
- Repairing/replacing brakes: Have brakes inspected, maintained and replaced regularly.
- Installing winter windshield wipers and filling fluid tanks: A dirty windshield makes it harder to see hazards, such as black ice or a car with no headlights on.
- Slowing down on bridges and overpasses: These areas freeze first, especially between dusk and dawn.
- Allowing more room between your vehicle and others: Wet, icy and snowy roads require slower speeds and more time to stop.
- Keeping the gas tank filled: This helps to keep moisture out of the gas line (which can freeze). Additionally, if you get stuck in a whiteout or backed up traffic, you do not want to run out of gas.
- Using headlights: Headlights help other drivers see you and help you see potential hazards, such as ice patches on the road. Your headlights should remain on in low light and during bad weather, regardless of the time of day.
- Driving defensively: You should expect some drivers will not take precautions. For instance, if you see a driver swerving or speeding, hang back to put more distance between you and that vehicle. It is highly likely that, despite the weather, you will run into drivers who speed or drive impaired.
- Avoiding secondary roads: Since “backroads” are less traveled, they are usually not cleared as quickly as primary roads.
Call Our Law Firm for Legal Help After a Winter Weather Crash
Determining liability for a winter weather crash can be difficult. Visibility is often not great, so being able to explain exactly what happened may also be hard. Often the drivers in a crash will have different stories. Having an attorney to protect your interests and build a strong claim can help to give you peace of mind.
At Jay Trucks, we fight hard for our clients, and have been helping injured crash victims for decades. We have a strong history of proven results and are prepared to seek maximum compensation on your behalf. Contact our firm to get started today. There is no cost or obligation to learn about your legal options. If we represent you, there is nothing to pay up front. We do not get paid unless you do.
Millions Recovered for our Clients. 989-244-0356