Who is at Fault for Accidents Caused by Weather in Massachusetts?

Being involved in a crash caused by someone else’s traffic violations or unsafe driving is frustrating, but at least you know who to blame.  When it comes to accidents caused by inclement weather, getting compensation can seem more daunting because it is difficult to know who was at fault for the crash.

In many accident cases involving inclement weather, there is still a particular driver who was at fault.  Often, crashes are caused by drivers who fail to adjust their driving to rain or snow and continue to speed or violate other traffic laws instead of being more cautious during bad weather.  In some cases, the accident is unavoidable and there is no one to blame, but you could still be entitled to compensation.

For a free review of your car accident case, call the Massachusetts personal injury lawyers at the Law Office of John J. Sheehan.  Call (617) 925-6407.

Is it Illegal to Drive in Bad Weather in Massachusetts?

When the weather is bad, it is usually a good idea to stay home.  Going out on the road in severe rain or snow can be dangerous, especially if your roads have not been properly treated for ice or snow or the snowplows haven’t come through yet.  However, it generally is not illegal to drive in bad weather.

Most drivers in Massachusetts have experience driving in mild or moderate rain or snow, and the weather might not be an impediment to their safe driving.  However, it is always important to take your skills, experience, and vehicle condition into account when driving in bad weather.  If you don’t think you can handle the weather, staying home is likely safer.

While driving in the rain or snow might usually be okay, it does become illegal if there is a local order against driving.  During weather emergencies, city and state governments might shut down the road, and you can be ticketed or fined for driving, even if no crash results.

Determining Fault in Bad Weather Accidents in Massachusetts

Since it is typically perfectly legal to drive in bad weather, that means that being out on the road during a storm typically is not enough to prove that you were at fault for the crash.  Generally, if a driver commits a traffic violation while driving in bad weather, that can supply fault in the same way it would during good weather.  However, driving during bad weather typically requires drivers to take additional steps to keep themselves and others safe.  Failing to adjust to the conditions at hand could actually make someone at fault for a bad-weather car crash, even if they were doing something that would have been legal in better weather.

Normal Traffic Violations

If you were hit while driving in bad weather, our Massachusetts car accident lawyers will first look for traffic violations and dangerous driving habits that can show the other driver is at fault.  Often, drivers will do unsafe things during bad weather that would have also been illegal in good weather.  This can include driving over the speed limit, driving drunk, texting and driving, or rolling through stop signs and red lights.  If a driver committed a traffic violation that led to your crash, they could be held liable for the crash as normal; the fact that the weather was bad might not play into your case.

Bad Weather Traffic Laws

In other situations, the at-fault driver’s actions would have been legal during better weather, but the fact that the weather is bad makes those actions illegal.  For example, Mass. Gen. Laws Ch. 90, § 17 is the speed limit statute in Massachusetts.  In normal weather, our Danvers car accident lawyers can use this statute to show that a driver who was exceeding a posted speed limit was doing something illegal.  However, the statute also says that drivers must reduce speed if there is a “special hazard” or if the weather or road conditions require it.  If the driver’s speed was above what is “reasonable and proper,” they can be found in violation of this statute, even if they were still under the posted speed limit.

Often, drivers need to reduce speed to avoid slipping on straightaways or turn if the road is wet, snowy, or icy.  Even in strong wind, it might be unsafe to maintain a high speed if it causes your car to sway or blow to the sides.

It is important to consider all factors when trying to claim that a driver was going too fast for the current weather conditions.  For example, a car with four-wheel drive capabilities, antilock brakes, and all-weather tires might be better and stopping and turning in the snow than a rear-wheel drive car with worn-out tires.  Details like this might factor into a court’s decision about what is “reasonable” in your case.  If the court finds that you were actually being unsafe as well, whether due to your driving or your vehicle’s current condition, that could make you partially at fault for the crash.

Getting Compensation for Massachusetts Bad Weather Accidents Where No One is at Fault

Sometimes the weather gets bad fast and it is impossible to react.  If your crash was caused solely by dangerous weather and no one could have prevented the crash, you might not be able to sue anyone else for the crash.  However, Massachusetts is a no-fault insurance state, so your insurance should still be able to cover your injuries anyway.

Although your damages might not be as high as in a case where you are permitted to sue the at-fault driver for damages, you could still get at least partial compensation for your injuries from your personal injury protection (PIP) insurance.  Talk to our Boston car accident lawyers about filing a no-fault claim for bad weather crashes.

Call Our Massachusetts Car Accident Attorneys Today

If you were involved in a crash caused by bad weather, call our Cambridge car accident lawyers at the Law Office of John J. Sheehan today.  Our number is (617) 925-6407.