In light of the recent ice and snow storms here on the east coast, I thought it might be worthwhile to discuss what your rights are if you are injured in an car accident that happens because of hazardous road conditions.
In general, it is the duty of any driver of a car to operate his or her car with reasonable care taking into account the actual and potential the actual and potential dangers existing from weather, road, traffic, and others conditions. Each driver is under a duty to maintain a reasonably safe rate of speed, to have his or her vehicle under a reasonable degree of control, to keep a proper lookout under the circumstances, and to use reasonable care to avoid an accident. So what does all of this stuff mean to you if you are injured in an accident ?
First, anyone who drives a vehicle has to operate it safely. If you are operating a vehicle in the course of a storm or when there are snow and ice conditions, you need to take those conditions into consideration. Slow down. Take it easy and allow yourself extra time to get to your destination. If you are injured in an accident and you are a passenger in a vehicle you can make out a valid claim if the vehicle you are in goes out of control. The loss of control of a vehicle applies when there is a rear end accident, when there is a head on collision, when a vehicles skids out of control, when the brakes fail, or when a vehicle runs off the road onto a shoulder.
So what do you do if you are injured in a car accident due to snow and ice ? First, you need to get medical attention. Do not refuse medical treatment at the scene of an accident if you think you may have been hurt in an accident. If you refuse treatment, the insurance carrier and the defense attorney are going to question whether you were actually injured in the accident. They will look for any possible alternative explanation for your injuries other than their insured/client's negligence. They could also argue to a jury that there is a possibility that you were injured in a different manner after the claimed accident and you are wrongfully accusing their client of causing your injuries.
In addition, many people who are seriously injured in auto accidents do not always realize it due to the shock of the accident. Quite frequently, clients who come in to consult with me will tell me that they felt fine at the scene of an accident and they went home, went to sleep, and the next morning they woke up and could barely get out of bed because of the pain in their lower back. Then the go to the emergency room, get x-rays, then go for an MRI and they have herniated discs that cause sever nerve pain and they need surgery. The moral of the story, get medical treatment as soon as possible after an accident.
Next, if you are involved in a car accident, make sure you call the police to the scene of the accident. Why, you ask ? The police generate accident reports. The accident reports list a great deal of information about how the accident occurred and the police officer can testify to those factual observations at the time of trial. That police officer, who is a professional witness and is regularly trained to testify, will make an excellent witness for you at the time of trial should your case need to go to trial. The accident report will also contain information about the other vehicle operator including their address and their insurance information. Your attorney will need the negligent driver's address to serve them with a summons and complaint if that is necessary, and your attorney will need the driver's insurance information so your attorney can place that insurance carrier on notice of the accident and attempt to negotiate a settlement for you prior to placing the case into litigation. Often times we attorneys have to file suit because the insurance carrier will take the position like everyone has herniated discs, and they will offer you a dollar for your injuries. I exaggerate a little, but I have heard an adjuster say to me that everyone has herniated discs and I had to laugh. In any event, you need to call the police and have them generate a report and then you need to provide that report to your counsel.
The next step in your car accident case for you is, if you or someone with you is able, to take pictures of the scene and the vehicles BEFORE you leave the scene. A picture is always worth 1,000 words and this expression is truly applicable in this situation. The road conditions at the time, the damage to the vehicles, the paint exchange between the vehicles, the traffic control devices at the scene, the roadway markings are all important pieces of information for your attorney if you make a claim against the negligent driver. Nearly everyone has a camera on their phone in this day and age, so please take a few photos or ask someone else to take photos at the scene. I love nothing more than to put one of your photos on a large piece of poster board in front of the jury, especially if it shows the damage to your vehicle and to the defendants vehicle. Nothing shows your accident to a jury better than a photo of your vehicle showing the damage that was caused by the defendant. Even more important, is to show the weather conditions at the scene of your accident when the accident happened. If the defendant was operating his vehicle at a rate of speed that was too fast for the weather conditions, photos of the weather conditions will certainly help show this to a jury and to an insurance adjuster. Take pictures please.
Last, but not least, follow your doctor's advice and make sure that you receive the appropriate medical treatment. Get a copy of your medical chart and schedule an appointment with us for a free consultation. I will be in a much better position to get your case moving if you bring your medical chart and a police accident report with you to a consultation. I can get the documents off to the defendant's insurance carrier and get an answer out of them quickly so we can place the case into litigation if the carrier is not going to negotiate in good faith, which is often the case. Remember, insurance carriers do not make money if they pay out large sums of money to accident victims all the time. Please also keep in mind that, if you have not retained an attorney after an accident and you are thinking about doing so, do not have a long chat with the other person's insurance carrier. Insurance carriers always call to find out how you are doing and to talk to you about what happened BEFORE you speak to an attorney. They want you to provide them with information that will harm your case and chances for recovery. They will often record your conversations with them and occasionally, it will be without your knowledge. Remember, the insurance carrier for the other driver is not your friend and is not there to help you. Their job is to minimize the amount of damages they pay to you if you are making a claim against their insured/client. It is best to retain an attorney and let your attorney discuss it with the carrier.
Well, on this evening when there has been freezing rain that snarled traffic, closed schools, and delayed everyone's travel plans, I hope this information contained herein without the need for our services. I know that will not be the case, so I will let our readers know that if you or someone you know has been injured in a car accident due to snow, ice and/or freezing rain, give us a call at 1.888.900.6204 for a free consultation. We have over 150 combined years of litigation experience to put to work for you and we will fight for you.