New Orleans weather tends to be dramatic, unpredictable and somewhat dangerous. We are below sea level so our community fills up similar to a bowl of cereal into which milk is poured. If you are riding around town when the skies open up and get into an accident, you are probably wondering whether you can still be considered the at-fault driver. This is quite the interesting legal quandary to say the least.
Inclement weather is a factor in an increasing number of accidents, partially because the weather is becoming that much harsher and more unpredictable as the planet warms. Pinning blame on one or both drivers is challenging when it is raining cats and dogs. Every driver on the road is expected to take the necessary precautions for driving safely when bad weather arrives.
Let's consider an example of an inclement weather accident to shed light on liability. Imagine a situation in which a driver is approaching a stop sign while driving during a rainstorm. The driver's vehicle hydroplanes past the stop sign into the intersection, creating a multi-vehicle accident. The driver can be found liable for the accident, even if he or she was driving at a rate of speed below the posted limit.
Though it might seem unfair for drivers to be liable for accidents when bad weather strikes, it makes sense from a legal and insurance perspective. The law makes drivers responsible for adapting their behavior behind the wheel to the current weather conditions. After all, drivers are not forced to operate their vehicles in the midst of a rainstorm. Furthermore, those who take to the road must drive in a manner that compensates for the harsh weather. Personal injury law in the state of Louisiana as well as every other state makes it crystal clear each motor vehicle operator is legally required to take reasonable measures to avoid accidents on the road. Therefore, drivers are obligated to reduce their rate of speed when it is raining.
If visibility is compromised due to the weather, the speed limit is likely too high for the current conditions. It does not make sense to drive at or near the speed limit when the roads are slick. This is precisely why drivers are at-fault for accidents that occur on the roads during inclement weather. After all, God or another higher power will not manifest to take the blame for the collision. Though there have been a handful of situations in which it has been successfully argued an “act of God” caused the accident, these instances are quite rare. Someone has to pay. That someone is the negligent driver.
Even if you follow the rules of the road, reduce your speed and maintain several car lengths between your vehicle and the next, you can still be found liable for an accident in bad weather. Though it is your duty to take reasonable care to avoid accidents, simply taking the proper precautions does not let you off the hook in terms of liability.
The mere decision to hit the road when inclement weather is expected or occurring is enough to make someone liable for the accident. If bad weather is anticipated or if the skies open up, do not hit the road unless you absolutely have to. You really can do everything right while driving and still end up liable for an auto accident simply because you were in the wrong place at the wrong time.