Weather plays a significant role in driving conditions and contributes to many car accidents per year. While many people likely think ice and snow cause the most collisions, statistically, rain is accountable for the most weather-related car accidents. Weather alters the road’s surface, and snow, ice, or rain creates a slick barrier between the road and vehicle tires, hindering their ability to maintain traction.
The tires can no longer grip the road when traction is lost and slide across the wet surface instead. As this occurs, the driver loses the ability to control the tires. The car hydroplanes, sliding across lanes or into oncoming traffic, causing an accident with one or multiple vehicles. Weather-related car accidents are often severe and frequently result in severe injuries.
Another significant contributor to rain-related accidents is the behavior of other motorists. Out of all weather conditions that negatively affect driving, rain is the one many drivers are least concerned about and often do not alter their method of driving. Drivers who do not reduce speed, continue to speed, do not turn on headlights, dart in and out of traffic, travel too closely to other cars, and create hazards for all those around them with their risky behavior.
Additionally, drivers who do not keep up with regular car maintenance pose an accident risk. Bald or worn tires quickly have minor traction to the road and hydroplane. Broken or missing windshield wipers decrease the driver’s visibility. Broken or nonfunctioning headlights and running lights make it difficult for other drivers to see the car. These conditions increase the risk of that driver causing an accident.
How Can I Avoid an Accident During a Rainstorm?
There are measures you can take for the safety of yourself and others while driving in rainy conditions, such as:
- Stay alert: Direct all your focus on the road in front of you but be aware of your surroundings and others near you. If you spot another driver darting in and out of traffic, stopping suddenly, or traveling too closely, keep your eye on them or let them pass if you are able.
- Slow down: Reduce your speed while driving in the rain to help your tires keep traction and reduce your chances of hydroplaning. Slower speeds also allow you better stopping time.
- Light your way: Turn on your headlights automatically if they are not already on. This allows you increased visibility and enable other motorists to see you. State laws require headlights to be turned on when windshield wipers are used. When rain is heavy enough to require wiper use, you know to turn on your headlights.
- Reduce distance: Due to slick surfaces, stopping your vehicle takes more time during the rain. Increase the distance between you and the car ahead of you to allow you enough time to stop, especially if that vehicle brakes suddenly.
- Eliminate distractions: Driving while distracted by something else, such as a cellphone, a child, or eating, is dangerous under the best of conditions. Distractions while driving in rainy weather can be deadly. Ignore your cellphone, turn off the radio, do not eat, or engage in any activity other than remaining focused and alert.
- Switch lanes: If you notice one lane has an abundance of standing water or puddles, switch lanes to avoid them.
- Park: If you are having difficulty seeing clearly in heavy rain or feel nervous about driving, then stop driving until it passes if you are able. Find a parking lot or rest stop to ride out the storm, pull off the road if you can find a safe place, or stay inside and avoid driving until the rain quits or conditions improve enough to feel comfortable driving.
Can Rain Affect My Car Accident Claim?
Out of all weather conditions, rain is responsible for the majority of all weather-related accidents. While the rain can be considered a factor for certain aspects of the accident, legally speaking, weather cannot be responsible for the accident itself.
Weather conditions can make driving more dangerous, but ultimately drivers are held accountable for their actions while driving in any weather condition. Drivers have a duty of care to maintain control of the vehicle in any condition to avoid causing an accident, viewed for legal purposes as “reasonable behavior.” In other words, the driver’s actions under specific needs are or are not what any reasonable person would do.
The expectation of reasonable behavior differs in poor weather conditions. For instance, driving the speed limit on a sunny day is reasonable, while driving the same speed limit during a thunderstorm is not wise. Any reasonable driver should take all measures to drive safely to avoid causing an accident. If not, the duty of care could be considered breached, and the driver would be found negligent for causing an accident.
What Should I Do to Show Rain Contributed to My Accident?
Even though the weather cannot be responsible for car accidents, there are situations where the weather conditions can be considered a contributing factor. If you were involved in a car accident during rainy weather, you should document the scene to establish a record of the weather and road conditions at the time of the accident.
Take photos or video of the scene, including the surface of the road and vehicle and property damage. If it is actively raining and windy, take a video to demonstrate the weather conditions and visibility at the accident. In violent storms, photograph any signage or traffic lights knocked down or non-functioning due to the weather.
Additional ways you can prove rainy conditions caused an accident include:
- Police report: Officers responding to the accident scene will make a report of the accident, including weather conditions at the time. You can request a copy from one of the officers or ask how to obtain the information from the station at a later time.
- Weather report: A quick internet search for weather conditions on the day and time of the accident will return several sources to retrieve the information. Use reputable sources, such as news organizations, television stations, or meteorology agencies. Print records to include with your insurance claim.
- Witness statements: At the scene, ask witnesses for names and contact information and write down or record an idea of what they saw during the accident. Ask them to share any photos or videos they may have taken of the accident with you.
- Cameras: Take note of any traffic cameras or security cameras on nearby buildings that may have recorded the accident. You or your lawyer can request footage later to help demonstrate weather conditions at the time of the accident.
Determining Fault in Pennsylvania
In any car accident, determining which driver is at fault is crucial for recovering compensation for injuries, medical bills, lost wages, and property damage. The laws regarding negligence in car accidents vary by state. Pennsylvania utilizes modified comparative negligence, allowing the injured party to recover compensation even if they are partially responsible for the accident.
Under modified comparative negligence, each driver is assigned a percentage of fault based on the degree of action or inaction contributed to the accident. Pennsylvania regulations follow the 51 percent rule, meaning the plaintiff can only collect damages if they are less than 51 percent at fault for the accident.
The amount of compensation may be limited. The degree of fault in Pennsylvania correlates to the amount of payment the plaintiff can collect. For instance, if you are found to have shown 30 percent responsibility for the accident, the maximum compensation you are entitled to would be 70 percent of the total award.
Philadelphia Car Accident Lawyers at McCann Dillon Jaffe & Lamb, LLC Represent Clients Injured in Weather-Related Car Accidents
While weather cannot be directly responsible for a car accident, it may be considered a factor in determining the at-fault driver’s responsibility. If you have been hurt in a weather-related collision, one of our seasoned Philadelphia car accident lawyers at McCann Dillon Jaffe & Lamb, LLC can help you recover compensation to which you may be entitled. Call us at 215-569-8488 or contact us online for a free consultation. Located in Philadelphia, Abington, Media, Pennsylvania, and Wilmington, Delaware, we serve clients throughout the surrounding areas.