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Accidents on icy roads are responsible for an average of 1,835 deaths and 136,309 injuries each year, more than 3.6 times the toll from all other severe weather hazards combined, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.
Black ice can even be more dangerous because it’s hard to spot. The blacktop commonly used on residential roadways forms black ice when moisture freezes in a thin layer. Even vehicles with all-wheel drive or four-wheel drive can lose traction and crash on this surface.
If you are in accident due to icy conditions, you may feel you’re not at fault, but the law says otherwise. The law holds drivers responsible when an accident occurs because they should have been aware of the dangers of driving in winter weather conditions.
Unless the ice is considered “unexpected,” the person who caused the accident can be held responsible. A reasonable person, according to the law, would know that if the roads are icy, they should take extra care by driving slower and not following another vehicle too closely. A reasonable person would know if their vehicle is not equipped to be driven safely and whether they have the kind of driving experience needed to safely navigate icy conditions.
There are situations in which someone or an entity could have done something. If a roadway was not designed or maintained properly, and water is allowed to drain and freeze, a municipality or organization may be held liable for an accident. Also, if the roadway was not salted or cleared, thereby allowing black ice to form, the maintenance company could be found at fault.
Under the law, a so-called “Act of God” defense, also called “Force Majeure” clauses, relates to events outside human control, like flash floods or other natural disasters. Generally, they can eliminate or limit liability for injuries or other losses resulting from such events.
The key issue in determining fault or liability for a car accident is negligence. No matter what the weather, drivers in an accident should ask themselves if they were acting in accordance with the standards of care that a reasonable person would follow in similar circumstances.
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