As Alaskans, we aren’t strangers to bad weather. Anchorage averages nearly seven feet of snowfall per year, and temperatures in the winter can consistently remain well below freezing. Snowdrifts can be hazards for drivers and pedestrians, and storms can reduce visibility to near zero.
So, are these excuses for people to drive poorly in bad weather? If someone hits you during a snowstorm, are they (and their insurance company) off the hook when it comes to covering your medical expenses and other losses?
In a word, “No.”
Seeking Financial Compensation After a Weather-Related Accident
Regardless of the weather, all drivers in Alaska have a legal duty to drive safely. When the weather is bad, this is not the time to take chances. We all know that driving on slick roads and with limited visibility requires extra care and attention; and yet, far too often, drivers ignore the risks and put themselves and others in harm’s way.
Certainly, there are some situations in which accidents will be unavoidable. If someone drives around a bend and is suddenly confronted with an icy patch or snowdrift, there may simply be nothing that a person can do to avoid a crash. But, in our experience, these types of scenarios tend to be the exception. Far more often, bad-weather accidents result from driving mistakes that could – and should – have been avoided.
6 Common Driving Mistakes that Lead to Bad Weather Accidents
All types of driving mistakes can cause serious accidents; and, when the weather turns, the chances of someone being severely injured increase dramatically. A study recently reported by the Washington Post found that falling precipitation (rain or snow) increases the risk of fatal car accidents by more than one third.
While we all know that we should drive more carefully when the weather is bad. Unfortunately, far too few people put this knowledge into practice. As a result, we regularly see bad-weather accidents resulting from driving mistakes including:
- Distracted Driving – Far, far too many people drive distracted. From locals talking on the phone and texting to out-of-towners attempting to follow directions, distracted drivers account for approximately 25 percent of all fatal vehicle collisions, and four in five drivers admit to engaging in “blatantly hazardous behavior” behind the wheel. When the weather is bad, drivers have even more to worry about and even less time to respond; and, if they are looking at their phones, they aren’t going to be able to stop in time to avoid a collision.
- Driving Too Fast for Weather or Road Conditions – The posted speed limit is supposed to represent the maximum speed that drivers can safely travel under the ideal road and weather conditions. When the road is covered in ice and snow and precipitation is still coming down, the maximum safe speed of travel is much, much while exceeding the speed limit is considered negligence per se (essentially meaning that it is presumed to be dangerous), driving below the speed limit but above the safe rate of travel for current road and weather conditions can constitute negligence as well.
- Following Too Closely – Tailgating is risky under the best of conditions, and in bad weather, it can be extraordinarily dangerous. When it takes longer to stop due to hazardous conditions on the road, drivers need to leave more than the standard two to three-second buffer. Even following at a normal distance can be considered negligent if it does not allow sufficient time to brake in order to avoid a collision.
- Merging or Changing Lanes Suddenly – Merging without warning and suddenly changing lanes are also common driving mistakes that can be even more dangerous in bad weather. If someone cuts you off leaving you with no place to go or forcing you to make an evasive maneuver that results in loss of traction, then he or she should absolutely be held responsible for your accident-related losses.
- Running Red Lights and Stop Signs – For some inexplicable reason, when the weather turns, some people seem to think that the normal rules of the road no longer apply. All they can think about is getting to work or getting home, and so they run red lights and stop signs without regard for the obvious and extreme dangers involved.
- Driving Beyond Personal Limits – Some people simply do not have the skills needed to drive safely in bad weather. If someone cannot operate his or her vehicle safely under the current weather conditions, then he or she should not be on the road.
This list is not exhaustive. In bad weather, even minor mistakes that would typically have minimal consequences (if any) under normal conditions can lead to devastating accidents. As a result, regardless of what happened, if you were injured in a weather-related accident you should contact an attorney promptly (and take the other steps necessary to preserve your claim for just compensation).
Dealing with the Insurance Companies After an Accident in Bad Weather
Of course, the fact that you may be entitled to a financial recovery does not mean that the process of recovering just compensation is going to be easy. The insurance companies will blame the weather, and they may even blame you for putting yourself in a dangerous situation. However, as an accident victim, it is imperative that you not give in to these tactics. Your losses could be substantial, and obtaining payment from the insurance companies could be your only option for recouping the financial and non-financial costs of your injuries.
In short, Alaskans should treat weather-related accidents similarly to accidents occurring under normal conditions: Seek medical treatment, take care of yourself, and hire an experienced personal injury attorney to make sure you receive the compensation you deserve.
Contact Attorney Eric Derleth for a Free Initial Consultation
Were you injured in a bad-weather accident in Anchorage, Soldotna, or the surrounding areas of Alaska? If so, I encourage you to contact my office to discuss your personal injury claim in confidence. For a free, no-obligation consultation, call 907-262-9164 now.