While it has historically been a hot state, Texas has seen a significant increase in ice and snow over the last several years. Being unaccustomed to winter driver conditions, accidents involving ice and snow have been on the rise.
The fact that ice and snow might contribute to a car accident does not absolve the driver who injured you of responsibility. In many cases, the negligent driver will try to blame the winter conditions for why the accident occurred. However, our team can help show that the driver’s unreasonable behavior under the circumstances ultimately led to your injuries. Drivers are expected to adjust to the situation to maintain their safety and others. If they fail to adapt to the dangers snow and ice present, they should be held liable.
For a free case review with our Dallas car accident lawyers, contact The Queenan Law Firm, P.C. at (817) 476-1797.
Safe Driving Tips to Avoid Liability in Texas’s Winter Weather
Winter weather poses several challenges for drivers. Snow and ice can severely reduce visibility and make roads slippery, increasing the risk of accidents. Always remember to stay alert, drive defensively, and adjust your driving to the conditions. If the worst occurs and another person injures you during winter weather, our Texas car accident attorneys can help you hold them accountable. By following the safe tips below, you can reduce your risk of accidents and the potential legal liability that could result.
Preparing Your Vehicle for Winter Weather
Before setting out in winter weather, make sure your vehicle is prepared. This includes checking your tires for adequate tread depth and proper inflation, ensuring your windshield wipers are in good condition, and confirming that your defrosting and heating systems are working correctly. Proper vehicle maintenance can enhance your vehicle’s performance in winter weather and reduce the risk of breakdowns.
Adjusting Your Driving Habits
Adjusting your driving habits is crucial when driving in snowy or icy conditions. This includes reducing your speed, increasing the distance between your vehicle and the one in front of you, and avoiding sudden braking or steering. Remember, speed limits are designed for ideal conditions, so driving below the speed limit in adverse weather conditions is perfectly acceptable and advisable.
Be Aware of Black Ice
Black ice is a thin layer of ice that forms on the road surface. It’s called “black” ice because it takes on the color of the roadway, making it difficult to see. Black ice is particularly dangerous because drivers often do not realize it is there until they are on it. If you are driving in conditions where black ice might form, such as when the temperature is near or below freezing and there has been recent precipitation, be extra cautious.
Knowing What to Do if You Start to Skid
If your vehicle starts to skid on snow or ice, knowing how to react can prevent an accident. If your vehicle has anti-lock brakes, apply firm, continuous pressure to the brakes. If your vehicle does not have anti-lock brakes, pump the brakes gently. Always steer in the direction you want the vehicle to go.
Distracted driving is always dangerous but particularly risky in winter weather conditions. Avoid using your phone, eating, or other activities that distract you from the road. Keeping your full attention on the road can help you react more quickly to any hazards.
Knowing When Not to Drive
Sometimes, the safest option is not to drive at all. If the weather is severe, consider postponing your trip until conditions improve. If you must drive, try to stick to main roads, which are more likely to be plowed and treated with salt or sand.
Navigating Liability Issues in Texas Winter Car Accident Cases
In Texas, the driver who is at fault or negligent in causing the accident is typically liable for damages. Negligence refers to failing to act with reasonable care under the circumstances. In the context of driving during winter weather, this means not driving with the same care as a reasonably prudent person would do under similar conditions. The following are some of the issues affecting liability in winter car accident claims:
How Winter Weather Complicates Liability
Winter weather can complicate the determination of liability in car accidents greatly. Snow and ice can make roads slippery, reduce visibility, and affect a vehicle’s performance. Therefore, a driver might argue that they were not negligent but that adverse weather conditions instead caused the accident. However, drivers are expected to adapt their driving to suit the weather conditions. Failure to do so could still result in a finding of negligence.
The Duty to Drive Safely in Winter Conditions
While winter weather can create challenging driving conditions, it does not absolve drivers of their duty to drive safely. Drivers are expected to adjust their driving practices in response to the weather, including reducing speed, maintaining a safe distance from other vehicles, using headlights appropriately, and ensuring their vehicle is in good working order. Failure to take these precautions could be deemed negligent and result in liability if an accident occurs in winter conditions.
Proving Negligence in Winter Car Accidents
Proving negligence in winter car accidents often involves demonstrating that the at-fault driver failed to adjust their driving to the weather conditions. Evidence can include witness testimony, photographs of the accident scene, police reports, and expert testimony. For example, an accident reconstruction expert might testify how the accident could have been avoided if the at-fault driver had reduced their speed or maintained a safer following distance during a snowstorm.
Understanding Texas’s At-Fault System in Snowy Weather Car Accidents
In Texas, the driver who causes a car accident is typically responsible for compensating any other parties involved for their injuries and property damage. This is known as the “at-fault” or “tort” system. The at-fault driver’s insurance company usually pays these costs up to the limits of the driver’s policy. However, this system also allows injured parties to pursue compensation through a lawsuit, whether insurance is insufficient to cover your costs or the company is unwilling to pay.
As mentioned, determining who is at fault in a car accident involves figuring out who was negligent or failed to exercise reasonable care under the circumstances. This typically means failing to adjust driving behavior to accommodate snow or ice on the roads in winter weather.
After a car accident, each driver’s insurance company will usually conduct an investigation to determine who was at fault. They will review the accident report, inspect the damage to the vehicles, interview witnesses, and possibly recreate the accident scene. The insurance adjuster will then assign fault, either fully to one driver or partially to both drivers.
After your accident, it is important to report the accident to your insurance company as soon as possible. Provide all the necessary information, but be careful about making statements that could be construed as admitting fault. It is also wise to consult with our team first. That way, you can avoid making any statements that could be used against you during negotiations. We can help protect your rights during the claims process while you focus on recovering.
Insurance Claims for Winter Car Accidents in Texas: What You Need to Know
Filing an insurance claim for a winter car accident in Texas can be a complex process. However, understanding what you need to know can make all the difference in the success of your car accident claim.
Report the Accident to Your Insurance Company
The first step after any car accident, including those caused in winter weather, is to report the accident to your insurance company. Be prepared to provide details about the accident, including when and where it happened, who was involved, and what the weather conditions were like. Be factual and concise, and, again, avoid speculating about who was at fault.
Get the Other Driver’s Information
You will also need to provide details about the driver who injured you. That is why getting their information at the scene is vital if you can. Important information your claim will require includes the driver’s name, address, insurance information, and information from their car, like the license plate number and VIN number. If the driver will let you, getting a photo of their license and insurance card with your phone would be ideal. If the driver refuses to cooperate with you, just wait for the police to arrive and conduct their investigation.
Document the Scene and Weather Conditions
Proper documentation of the scene can significantly impact the outcome of your insurance claim. This includes taking photos of the accident scene, the damage to your vehicle, and any injuries you sustained. If possible, take photos of your injuries as soon as you can so the severity can be preserved for your case later, after your injuries have had a chance to heal. We will be able to use before and after photos to show the difference after you have completed treatment to prove the extent of the damage.
You should also capture the weather conditions at the time of the accident. For example, you might take photos of snow or ice on the road or record the temperature and visibility conditions. This evidence can help establish how the weather contributed to the accident. If you are unable to take photos at the time, ask emergency medical personnel, the police, or willing witnesses for help taking them.
Get Medical Attention
Arguably, the most critical step following a car accident is seeking medical attention as soon as possible. The reason for this is two-fold. First, getting immediate medical attention can help you receive the treatment you need for any injuries you might have sustained. This can help prevent any long-term damage or complications that might arise from untreated injuries.
Secondly, seeking medical attention creates a record of your injuries in your medical history. This record is absolutely necessary for filing a successful insurance claim. It will help establish the severity of your injuries, your treatment, and the costs associated with your medical care. Without it, you might not have much other evidence of your harm.
How Texas’s Comparative Fault Rule Applies to Snow and Ice Accidents
In Texas, the comparative fault rule operates under a modified system. This means an injured party can recover damages even if they are partially at fault, but their percentage of fault will reduce their compensation. However, if a party is more than 50% at fault, they are barred from recovering any damages.
The fact that an accident occurred during adverse weather conditions does not automatically absolve a driver from responsibility. Even in challenging conditions, drivers are expected to exercise reasonable care.
For example, if a driver was speeding on a snowy road and injured you, they could be held liable as they failed to adjust their behavior according to the snow. However, if you were not using your headlights in low visibility, you might also be found to have borne some of the blame. If so, your compensation will be reduced by the percentage of liability you were found to share. If you were awarded $100,000 but found 30% liable, you would still be entitled to $70,000.
Legal Consequences of Not Clearing Snow and Ice from Your Vehicle in Texas
While Texas might not be renowned for heavy snowfall, the state does experience its fair share of winter weather. Because of this, a common oversight for many drivers is the failure to clear snow and ice from their vehicles before hitting the road. However, having an uncleared windshield or roof in Texas can lead to significant legal consequences, including both civil and criminal liability.
Unfortunately, Texas has no specific law requiring drivers to remove snow and ice from their vehicles. However, the law does require drivers to have a clear view of the road at all times, regardless of the reasons for the obstruction. Driving with a windshield obstructed by snow or ice can result in a traffic citation and, worse, severe accidents.
Beyond the risk of receiving a citation, failure to clear snow and ice from your car can result in losing out on any compensation or significantly reducing it. As discussed above, any negligence on your part, including driving with snow on your windshield or falling on the roof, can reduce the amount of damages you can recover by the amount of fault you share.
In extreme cases, failure to clear snow and ice from your car could lead to criminal liability. If your negligence results in serious injury or death, you could potentially face charges such as reckless driving or vehicular manslaughter. The best way to avoid these potential consequences is by simply taking the time to clear snow and ice from your vehicle thoroughly.
Our Texas Car Accident Attorneys Can Help You Recover Compensation if You Have Been Injured During Winter Weather
Call The Queenan Law Firm, P.C. today at (817) 476-1797 for a free case review with our Tyler, TX car accident attorneys.