While March brought the official start of spring, people in Philly know better than to expect the flowers to immediately bloom and the sun to start constantly shining. Pennsylvanians should not pack away their coats and winter weather gear right away, as the late spring months can still bring colder temperatures, rainy days, and even harsh snow and ice. Whether a late blizzard hits or a spring shower, the roads in and around Philadelphia can be dangerous.
Duty to Drive Safely
Every driver has the legal duty to drive their vehicle in a manner that is reasonably safe. This is duty is meant to prevent accidents and keep everyone safe from harm. “Reasonably safe” can involve complying with all traffic laws, avoiding distractions, not driving while impaired, and more. What is considered to be reasonably safe will also depend on the particular road and traffic conditions at a particular time, so driving behaviors should regularly be adjusted based on such conditions, which include adverse weather or slick roads.
Take speed limits, for example. When a road has a posted speed limit of 50 miles per hour, anyone exceeding that speed limit may be considered negligent and you may assume that as long as you are within that speed, you will not be liable for speeding. However, speed depends on more than just the posted speed limits—a safe speed should also take into account road and traffic conditions. If you are in heavy traffic, it would be unreasonable to expect to safely travel at 50 miles per hour. Similarly, a posted speed limit may not be reasonably safe if the roads are icy, or if visibility is poor due to a storm.
Every driver is expected to make judgment calls regarding what speed is safe in adverse weather. Unfortunately, too many drivers overestimate their driving ability or the reliability of their vehicles in dangerous weather conditions. Even if drivers stay under the posted speed limit, they may be responsible for causing an accident if they were driving too fast for conditions.
Truck Accidents in Adverse Weather
Commercial truck drivers are especially notorious for speeding past other cars when it is raining or snowing. Large semi-trucks can weigh up to 80,000 pounds with numerous axles, so they may have better traction on wet roads. For this reason, truck drivers may be overly confident and may drive faster than is reasonable.
In addition to speed limit compliance, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) prohibits commercial drivers from driving “too fast for conditions.” This includes slowing down in adverse road or weather conditions, as well as on curves, in construction zones, in intersections, and in heavy traffic. When a truck driver fails to slow down sufficiently to be safe in stormy weather and crashes, they may be found in violation of FMCSA regulations and liable for the injuries and losses caused by the accident.
Proving Negligence in Adverse Weather
If a driver was not exceeding the speed limit, how do you prove that they were traveling too fast for the road or weather conditions? Without a concrete threshold, it can be a subjective matter and the specific proof can vary from case to case. The following are some tools that an experienced attorney can use to help determine and prove negligence:
- Witness reports – In many cases, people who witness an accident will stop to render aid to accident victims and report the accident to the authorities. Witnesses may state that they believed a driver was going too fast or that they saw a driver fly by all the other cars on the road, which were traveling at a reasonable speed. This testimony can be important as it will corroborate your assertion that a driver was going too fast.
- Event data recorders – Commercial vehicles have event data recorders, which are similar to a “black box” on an airplane or train. This device will record the speed at which the truck was moving just before it crashed. This information can then be analyzed by trucking industry experts, who can testify whether this speed would be considered too fast for conditions.
- Video surveillance – Surveillance cameras are increasingly prevalent—on the outside of businesses, on traffic light poles, in parking lots, and more. If a camera caught an accident, the video can show whether a driver was going faster than others on the road at the time of the crash.
- Accident reconstruction experts – An accident reconstruction expert can analyze the circumstances of a crash and give their opinion on whether excessive speed or dangerous driving caused the accident. For example, if a car slid on the road, it may be evidence that the driver lost control because of excessive speed. An expert can then testify and give their opinion whether the driver was at fault.
Proving negligence when “spring” weather conditions result in an accident may be complicated. You should seek help from a law firm with the resources to investigate what happened and advise you of your rights and legal options. Your options can include filing an insurance claim or filing a personal injury lawsuit in civil court.
Find Out How a Philadelphia Car Accident Lawyer Can Help You
Sometimes, it may be obvious that a driver was negligent due to spring weather conditions. In other situations, careful investigation and legal analysis may be necessary to identify and prove that another driver breached their duty of care and acted negligently. In either case, The Levin Firm is here to help injured accident victims. Our firm regularly handles car accident cases that are relatively straightforward, as well as cases that are more complicated. If you are uncertain of your rights, the best step is to schedule an appointment so our experienced motor vehicle accident attorneys can evaluate your situation for free.
Timing is important in any legal case and car accident claims are no different. If you have been injured, please do not wait to call The Levin Firm at 215-825-5183 or contact us online today.