21 Jan Can you be sued if icy road conditions cause an accident?
In the south, most people prefer to stay off the roads when any threat of wintery weather is in the forecast. But what if you have to travel? Can you be sued when an auto accident occurs in bad road conditions?
While blaming the weather may sound like a good defense, this argument is unlikely to hold up in court. In the case of Sobczak v. Vorholt,1 the defendant’s car slid across the center line on an icy road and ran into an approaching vehicle. At trial, the defendant attempted to argue that the accident was not his fault because he did not intentionally drive his car across the center line – the ice made him do it! The defendant actually won at trial with this defense, but the ruling was reversed on appeal.
On appeal, the court concluded that it is not a proper defense for the driver to claim he did not intend to cross the center line. A jury can still find fault if the driver was operating his or her vehicle at an unsafe speed given road conditions. The Court noted that the defendant in its case had notice about the icy conditions on the roadway and there was evidence to suggest he was driving too fast under those conditions.
The lesson here is that blaming the weather will usually not allow you to escape liability from an auto accident. Even driving below the speed limit is not a full-proof defense as the court can determine you should have been driving slower than normal given the dangerous road conditions.
If you are ever in a traffic accident and have a question about your legal rights, our auto accident attorneys offer free consultations.
1. Beverage Sys. of the Carolinas, LLC v. Associated Bev. Repair, LLC, 2016 N.C. LEXIS 177 (N.C. Mar. 18, 2016)