One of the biggest fears that people have before they speak with a car accident lawyer is that their claims will be rejected because there was bad weather during the incident. Although terrible weather during an accident is one argument a defendant might make, that defense has to hold up to legal scrutiny. Here are three factors a car accident attorney will examine when considering how weather fits into a case.
The Civil Standard of Proof
Auto accident claims are civil lawsuits, and that means they're governed by the civil standard of proof. The law states this standard as the preponderance of the evidence pointing toward the correctness of the plaintiff's story. Some refer to this as the 51-percent standard because the idea is that your version of events has to be just slightly more likely than not.
Weather and the Preponderance of the Evidence
Even if the weather was bad during an accident, that doesn't magically make a driver's responsibility to safely operate a vehicle go away. The car still has to have a reasonable amount of tread on it, and the brakes have to work, too. Likewise, the operator needs to travel an appropriate speed given the weather.
Negligence and Recklessness
It's not uncommon for these cases to boil down to how much was caused by the weather and how much was due to a motorist's negligence or recklessness. American law is focused on what the average person would think is reasonable. Even if you're just dealing with an insurance claim and not a lawsuit, the insurance company's primary motivation to settle is because a jury of reasonable people might hand down a massive judgment.
Suppose a driver let their ride's tires go bald over a summer of heavy driving. When the first bad weather in late fall hit, their car hit a wet patch, went out of control, and struck another vehicle. A reasonable person expects other people to replace their tires once they start balding. Failing to do so is negligent.
Similarly, reckless conduct can occur in bad weather. If someone is driving at a 55 mph speed limit in a total whiteout, for example, that's reckless. Continuing to drive at that speed opens a driver up to insurance claims if they hit another vehicle.
Claims adjusters and jurors have to balance these things out. Bad weather might shave a percentage off the claim if a reasonable person would call it a factor. However, poor weather is never an excuse for negligence or recklessness while driving.
Reach out to a car accident lawyer for more information.