What You Should Know About Winter Driving Accidents
Wisconsin winters can be harsh – and driving conditions can be treacherous. Following all safety precautions is essential when there’s winter weather in the air and on the ground. However, even the most experienced and cautious drivers can end up in an accident. It is crucial to be aware of your rights after a car accident caused by winter weather.
Navigating the legal system can be difficult when the case is straightforward, but when winter weather is involved, it can become even more complicated. Working with a proficient personal injury attorney can help you make the right decisions to secure the best outcome for you. At my firm, The Paul Benson Law Firm, I bring two decades of experience and knowledge of insurance law, personal injury law, and extensive trial background. I proudly represent clients in Janesville, Wisconsin, Beloit, and Rock County, Wisconsin.
Wisconsin is a Fault State
Each state has its own laws regarding who must pay for the damages caused by an accident. In Wisconsin, an at-fault state, the person or entity who was at fault for the accident is responsible for paying for the damages. Usually, this payment is made through their insurance policy.
Wisconsin is also a comparative fault state. Under this rule, if you are 51% or more at fault for the accident, then you cannot seek compensation. However, if you are less than 50% at fault for the accident, then the percentage that the accident was your fault will be deducted from your compensation. For example, if you were going to receive an award of $10,000, but you were found to be 10% at fault for the accident, then you would only receive $9,000.
Liability for Weather-Related Negligence
Who is liable for an accident caused by snow? What about an accident caused by ice or winter weather? The answers to these vital questions depend on the facts of your particular case. The court will take into account your driving behavior before the accident. The following three winter weather driving practices can affect how liability is determined.
When there’s snow or ice on the ground, drivers need to slow down. Driving at the speed limit may not be safe, and driving over the speed limit in winter weather conditions is almost certainly dangerous. If the driver who caused the accident was speeding in winter conditions, it may be easier to prove liability.
Reckless and Careless Driving
Similarly, driving recklessly is more likely to cause an accident during the winter. Not using the turn signal, not coming to a complete stop, or otherwise violating traffic laws is especially dangerous during the winter. If the driver who caused the accident was driving carelessly, it may be simpler to show that they should be liable.
Following Too Closely
Following the driver in front of you too closely in good weather can cause problems, so it’s clear how dangerous it is in winter weather. Make sure you leave enough space between your vehicle and the one in front of you because it takes longer to stop in winter conditions. If the driver who caused the accident was following you or another vehicle too closely, proving liability can be more straightforward.
Wisconsin Car Safety Laws
In addition to following winter weather driving best practices, it’s critical to be aware of Wisconsin’s safety laws.
Wisconsin drivers are allowed to use tire chains to gain traction on slippery roads. However, those chains must be of reasonable proportions (and they must not be so large that they damage the road). Signage will indicate where tire chains are needed and required on rads with higher elevations.
Minimum Tire Tread
Driving without adequate tire tread could lead to an accident. The tread depth of both front and rear tires must be at least 2/32 inches.
Tips for Driving in the Winter
Take action to protect yourself and prevent accidents when you need to drive in winter weather. Follow these winter weather driving tips:
Keep an eye out for emergency vehicles and snowplows on the road.
Drive at a reasonable speed and slow down whenever you are unsure of road conditions.
Keep your headlights turned on in snowy conditions.
Give yourself plenty of time and space to brake.
Maintain your vehicle in proper condition. Check that it is in compliance with all Wisconsin laws, including your tire treads.
Leave plenty of space between your vehicle and the vehicles in front of you.
Turn to Trusted Legal Assistance
While you can take all the necessary steps to protect yourself, that doesn’t stop another driver from acting recklessly. A careless driver’s behavior can lead to a serious accident, expensive medical bills, and losing income due to missed time at work. Take steps to seek the compensation you need after a car accident due to winter weather.
I can help you decide on the best course of action. I bring my decades of legal experience, aggressive advocacy style, and knowledge of insurance law to each of my client's cases. My firm -- The Paul Benson Law Firm -- proudly represents clients in Janesville, Wisconsin, Beloit, Wisconsin, and throughout Rock County. Contact me today to request a consultation.