Ohio is one of the deadliest states for winter weather car accidents. From 2011 to 2015, more than 420 drivers were killed in winter weather driving crashes. Over that period, the state’s average of 86 deadly accidents per year was the highest in the United States, according to USA Today.
During winter in Ohio, it may seem as though the normal liability rules do not apply. After all, weather is outside of an individual’s control. Even if you are driving within the law, wintry conditions can set off a chain of events that lead to a car or truck accident. However, winter weather does not necessarily let a driver off the hook for a car accident. Drivers can still be considered negligent—in whole or in part—whether it’s snowing, sleeting, raining, icy, or foggy.
Slick Roads Are Not an Excuse
Ohio drivers know they can expect a full range of winter weather, and that conditions can change quickly. But they may not know that slick roadways don’t excuse them from following the rules of the road.
You are driving along a familiar road when a sudden snow squall throws your trip into disarray. The wind and snow create whiteout conditions. Visibility shrinks to just a few feet. Within a matter of minutes, a slippery layer covers the pavement. The traffic light turns red and you hit the brakes, but the car doesn’t stop. You slide across the intersection and are struck by an oncoming vehicle.
Technically, you didn’t run the red light and cause the accident, since winter weather was to blame—right?
The Ohio Supreme Court has ruled: “Skidding upon a wet or icy roadway due to bad road conditions alone does not excuse a driver from operating his vehicle upon the right side of the roadway,” as required by Ohio law. In other words, the Court ruled that the law requires drivers to obey all safety statutes and regulations, regardless of the road conditions. Those who do not can be held liable for causing a crash.
Furthermore, the Court held that, “Where a motorist unexpectedly comes upon a patch of ice on a dry and otherwise clear roadway which causes him to lose control of his car which skids left across the center line of the highway striking plaintiff’s car, the defense of sudden emergency is not available to such motorist.” That is, in Ohio, drivers cannot claim ice or snow constituted a sudden emergency which would allow the driver to avoid liability. If somebody slides through a red light or crosses the center line because of bad weather and causes an accident, that person is at fault.
Ohio Car Accidents, Winter Weather, and Comparative Negligence
Graham & Graham’s personal injury lawyers have previously written about the concept of comparative negligence. To summarize, comparative negligence (or comparative fault) allows somebody to recover compensation even if they are up to 50 percent at fault for an accident. Often, being at fault means taking some kind of careless action, such as speeding or driving while distracted. But comparative fault can also arise when winter weather impacts road conditions.
Again, winter weather is not an excuse for negligence. If anything, winter weather demands that drivers take extra precautions. For example, driving the speed limit may not be enough on snow-covered roads. At times of inclement weather, driving below the speed limit may be necessary for safety’s sake.
In addition to driving too fast for the weather conditions, actions that may be considered negligent during winter driving include:
- Not completely clearing the windshield, windows, and lights
- Driving without your lights on
- Improperly functioning windshield wipers
- Not leaving extra space between you and the next car
- Driving with tires not safe for slippery roads
Any of the above actions could make you partly at fault for a car accident—even if another driver is mostly to blame. But keep in mind that insurance companies sometimes use comparative fault against victims to reduce payment or avoid payment altogether. After any accident, you should avoid common missteps and immediately call or contact Graham & Graham’s experienced Ohio car accident lawyers.
Keep our number in your phone for whenever and wherever you need it: 1-800-621-8585. We can meet you at the accident site, hospital, your home, or our offices. And we charge no upfront fees until we recover your losses.