Prepare for the Winter Driving Ahead
Winter can throw any number of dangerous driving conditions your way, and the better prepared you are, the safer you will be this holiday season. The fact is that motorists are held to the strict responsibility of driving safely in relation to the road’s condition, which includes factoring in the effects of bad weather. If another driver’s negligence in this regard leaves you injured, do not delay consulting with an experienced Killeen car accident attorney. Obtaining the compensation to which you are entitled can mean the difference between reaching your fullest recovery and not doing so.
Weather Plays a Significant Role
The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration reports on the effects of bad weather on our roadways, and the news is sobering. In fact, weather is determined to affect safety on our roads in all the following ways:
Decreased vehicle performance, such as diminished traction, stability, and maneuverability
Decreased pavement friction
Diminished driver capabilities (in relation to high winds, precipitation, and temperature extremes)
Additionally, bad weather can affect the infrastructure of the roadway itself over time, can increase crash risk, can influence traffic flow, and can play a role in drivers’ operational decisions (for better or worse).
Consider the following two important weather-related accident statistics:
There are close to 6,000,000 traffic accidents in the United States every year, and almost 1,235,000 (about 21 percent) of these accidents are related to the weather.
Each year, there are about 418,000 injury-causing traffic accidents and about 5,000 traffic fatalities that are weather-related.
The kind of weather conditions incorporated in these sobering statistics include:
Wet, icy, or snowy/slushy pavement
Rain, sleet, snow, and fog
High winds and/or severe crosswinds
Blowing sand, snow, or debris
It is important to note that most weather-related traffic accidents are caused by wet pavement and by rainfall itself, which makes proceeding with caution during and after rainfall very well advised.
Your Car’s Safety Kit
You never know when bad weather will strike, and while we do not get a lot of snow here in Texas, we do see our share of rain, and our roads do slick up. The time to think about a winter safety kit is prior to an emergency happening, and the National Weather Service suggests that yours include the following:
A spare tire
A tow rope
Flares and/or warning triangles
A heavy-duty flashlight
Sand or kitty litter (to help you gain traction on mud, soft ground, or ice)
A well-stocked first-aid kit
Comfortable, well-fitting boots
Water and snacks
It’s also important to keep your vehicle in good working order and to keep your gas tank topped off when you head out during the winter months.
The Duty of Care Owed
Motorists owe one another a duty of care, which amounts to driving safely in relation to whatever obstacles the road presents. This means that drivers are responsible for taking winter weather into consideration behind the wheel. Because most car accidents are ultimately caused by driver negligence, it makes taking winter weather under advisement that much more important. In fact, failure to do so can lead to disaster.
Winter Weather and Driver Negligence
Driver negligence is behind far too many of the life-threatening accidents on our roadways, and bad weather can exacerbate the effects of every form of driver negligence.
When drivers choose to drive too fast in relation to either the speed limit (which is set for ideal conditions) or in relation to the road’s condition, they make accidents far more likely, and they increase the chances that the accidents they cause will prove deadly. If there is ever a good time to slow one’s speed, it’s when winter weather is afoot.
Distracted drivers fail to pay adequate attention to what is happening all around them, and this can include failing to pay adequate attention to the effects of bad weather. Texting is the deadliest distraction of all – based on its ability to merge all three categories of distraction into one incredibly dangerous activity, including:
Distractions that engage one’s hands
Distractions that engage one’s thoughts
Distractions that engage one’s vision
A common point of reference is that it takes about 5 seconds to compose or read a text and that, when driving at highway speeds, this translates to traveling about the length of a football field without paying attention to the road. While this is wildly dangerous in the best circumstances, bad weather turns things up a notch.
Drivers who are impaired by alcohol and/or drugs are dangerous drivers under the best conditions, but when inclement weather rears its ugly head, the physical, cognitive, and sensory impairments that drunk drivers experience are rendered that much more dangerous.
Drowsy drivers are less capable of maneuvering through traffic safely, and because they suffer some of the same impairments that drunk drivers do, they shouldn’t be on the road, to begin with.
Driving safely in relation to bad weather calls for a concerted effort that goes beyond keeping your car in safe working order. Keep all of the following in mind:
Adjust your speed according to whatever is happening on the road
Allow extra space between your car and the forward vehicle
Proceed with the utmost caution (other motorists may not be as safety conscious as you are)
Allow plenty of time to get where you need to be (winter driving can slow you down)
Your Car Accident Claim
If a driver’s negligence in response to winter weather causes you to be injured in a car accident, the elements necessary to bring a successful car accident claim include:
The driver owed you a duty of care, which every driver owes everyone else on the road and which includes safely accounting for the effects of bad weather
The driver breached the duty of care owed to you. This means that he or she failed to live up to the responsibility of driving safely. For example, if the driver refused to slow down in response to high winds and rain, he or she breached the duty of care owed to you.
The driver’s breached responsibility was the direct cause of your injury-causing accident. This means that if the driver’s excess speed, for example, caused him or her to hydroplane on the wet pavement and to smash into you as a result, this element is met.
As a result of the accident in question, you suffered damages or losses that are covered by the law.
Your Legal Damages
The losses you experience as covered by the law can be considerable.
Your Medical Costs
The physical injuries you suffer in a car accident are likely to be serious, and they may require ongoing medical attention and care. Consider the following common medical expenses:
Emergency care at and transportation from the scene of the accident
Surgery and follow-up care
Care from doctors, specialists, and other medical professionals
Medical treatments, procedures, and tests
Physical and/or occupational therapy
Home healthcare services
Adaptive physical devices
Lost Earnings on the Job
During your recovery, you are very likely to experience lost earnings – while your medical bills continue to mount. If your injuries preclude you from doing your job or from returning to work at full capacity, you could also be facing a diminished earning capacity. Further, the personal meaning you derive from your work can segue into job-related emotional damages.
Pain and Suffering
The physical and emotional pain and suffering you endure as a result of another driver’s negligence can be immense – even though it is more difficult to equate with a price tag. The emotional consequences that often bedevil victims of car accidents include:
Increased anxiety, which can lead to panic attacks
Bouts of depression
Sleep disturbances that can include insomnia and nightmares
Severe mood swings
Emotional lability that can include crying jags
Difficulty processing information
If you have been injured in a car accident that was caused by another driver's negligence in relation to winter weather, you very likely have questions, and the answers to the most frequently asked questions can help.
What should I do after a car accident?
The most important thing you can do to both protect your health and your claim after a car accident is to seek the medical attention that you need and carefully follow your medical team’s instructions and advice. Your health matters, and the insurance company is watching – if you do not take your injuries seriously, it will be sure to follow suit. The next step in the process is consulting with an experienced car accident attorney who will skillfully engage in all the following:
Gathering all the relevant evidence in his or her efforts to build your strongest claim
Diligently negotiating with the insurance company for a settlement that fairly addresses your damages in their entirety
Skillfully preparing for trial (in the event the insurance company refuses to negotiate in good faith)
Helping you make the right decisions for you throughout the claims process
Why can’t I count on the insurance company to fairly cover my losses?
It is only natural to assume that the insurance company – which is paid for the specific purpose of covering your losses – will do what it is paid to do, but this is not generally how it works. Insurance companies are in business for the primary purpose of turning a profit, and settling claims for less is their primary means of doing so. A few common tactics the insurance company may pull out of its bag of tricks in relation to your claim include the following:
Offering an early settlement offer that does not come anywhere near covering your complete damages
Artificially prolonging and/or complicating the claims process
Calling the extent of your covered damages into question
Calling fault in the matter into question
Denying your claim outright
Leaving negotiations with the insurance company in the capable hands of your car accident attorney is always in your best interest. While the insurance company will no doubt attempt to extract a statement from you (a statement that it can go on to bend to its own purposes and use against you in the settlement process), you are not required to provide a statement, and not doing so is in the best interest of your claim. Finally, the less you say about the accident in general, the better off you will be (the insurance company has its ear to the ground on the matter).
What should I do if I can’t afford an attorney?
You have been injured and are facing considerable medical costs coupled with lost earnings. It is no wonder that you are concerned about how you are going to pay for a car accident attorney. The happy truth of the matter is, however, that most reputable car accident attorneys will not charge you unless – and until – your case either settles or receives a court award. Your payment, in other words, is contingent upon your case prevailing – at which time, your attorney will receive a prearranged percentage of your settlement or court award.
What if I share fault for the injury-causing accident?
In the State of Texas, you are not barred from seeking compensation in a car accident claim unless you are deemed more than 50 percent responsible for the accident that leaves you injured. If you do share fault, your compensation will be reduced by the percentage of fault that is assigned to you by the court.
An Experienced Killeen Car Accident Attorney Can Help
Brett Pritchard at The Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard – proudly serving Killeen, Texas – is an accomplished car accident attorney who cares about you and your case. Mr. Pritchard takes immense pride in his impressive track record, and he is standing by to help you. To learn more, please do not hesitate to contact us online or call us at 254-501-4040 today.