Does bad weather excuse a motor vehicle accident?

Sometimes, negligence is apparent when it comes to a motor vehicle accident. A person may blow through a stop sign or a traffic signal without ever slowing down. A driver may cause an accident while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. But what happens if weather conditions make driving more difficult? Can a driver still be considered negligent if poor weather contributed to a vehicle crash?

A duty of care

All drivers owe a duty of care to other vehicles on the road. This obligation can change depending on the weather. For example, speed limits are set under the presumption of dry roads and clear visibility. It would be difficult for a driver to argue that going 70 mph is perfectly reasonable during a blizzard. Other adjustments a driver may have to make during inclement weather include:

  • Using windshield wipers
  • Using headlights
  • Ensuring tires are properly-suited to road conditions

Failing to take precautions does not automatically make a driver negligent. However, it can be a factor when determining liability.

Is the weather ever at fault?

The weather can change swiftly on the Great Plains. Sunny skies can turn into an ice storm a few miles down the road. It’s possible that a driver could claim that bad weather came out of nowhere, giving them no time to adjust their driving habits. However, it’s expected that a driver will avoid a collision whenever possible. It’s unlikely that a change in the weather would be so sudden that a driver couldn’t take adequate precautions.