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Who is Liable When Inclement Weather Causes a DuPage County Car Accident?

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DuPage County car accident attorney, DuPage County car accident, car accident case, car crash, driver negligenceThe weather in Lombard and throughout the Chicago area has been especially cold. Indeed, in late December, a report from ABC News 7 indicated that wind chills were pushing temperatures in and around the city well below zero, causing “dangerously cold” temperatures. When it snows in the winter, and when the temperatures drop rapidly, roads and highways throughout DuPage County can become especially hazardous.

An article from The Weather Channel emphasizes that black ice—which is a thin coat of ice on the road that is usually transparent—can appear, causing cars to slip and crash into one another. When inclement weather, from black ice to a snowstorm, causes a car crash in DuPage County, who is liable?

Negligence and Inclement Weather

If a car hits a patch of black ice and crashes into another vehicle, is the driver in that car (the car that hit the black ice) responsible for the crash? Liability in winter weather accidents in Illinois depends largely upon whether the driver was negligent. The Illinois Pattern Jury Instructions define negligence as “the failure to do something which a reasonably careful person would do, or the doing of something which a reasonably careful person would not, under circumstances similar to those shown by the evidence.” In other words, if a person does not act reasonably in winter weather, he or she could be liable for a resulting car accident.

What does reasonable mean when there is a snowstorm? Or what does reasonable mean when news agencies have been reporting threats of black ice on DuPage County roads? While there is no strict definition of what a reasonably careful person might do in these situations, it is surely possible to assume that a reasonably careful person would drive in a manner that is different from—and more careful than—how he or she might drive in good weather. For example, a reasonably careful person likely would not drive at or just below the posted maximum speed limit in a snowstorm given visibility limitations and the possibility of slick roads. Similarly, a reasonably careful person would probably leave a greater following distance between his or her car and others if he or she knows there is a risk of black ice on the road.

In short, a reasonably careful person would likely abide by winter driving tips. Slowing down or leaving a greater following distance will not always limit a driver’s liability, but it can help to show that the other driver involved in the crash may also bear some responsibility. Additionally, in some cases, especially careful behavior in a winter weather crash might greatly limit the driver’s liability. 

Winter Driving Tips

The Illinois Emergency Management Agency provides the following winter driving safety tips:

  • Always buckle your seat belt;
  • Be prepared to stop your car or turn around if conditions get too bad;
  • Keep your windows free from snow and ice;
  • Do not drive until your windshield is defrosted;
  • Driver slower and increase your following distance;
  • Do not use a cell phone, even hands-free;
  • Watch for slick spots on the roadways;
  • Brake gently on roads that have a snow or ice covering; and
  • Pass snow plows, trucks, and other vehicles with particular care.

Contact a Lombard Auto Accident Lawyer

Do you have questions about filing a claim for a motor vehicle collision that occurred during winter weather? A passionate DuPage County car accident attorney can assist you. Contact Mevorah Law Offices LLC to learn more about how we can help.

Sources:

https://weather.com/science/weather-explainers/news/black-ice-winter-weather-explainer

http://www.illinoiscourts.gov/CircuitCourt/CivilJuryInstructions/10.00.pdf

http://abc7chicago.com/weather/wind-chills-push-temperatures-well-below-zero/2829775/

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