Snow, ice, freezing rain, and other types of inclement weather can wreak havoc on the roads, and winter weather greatly increases the chance of serious chain-reaction car accidents. These accidents involve multiple vehicles and often result in serious or even fatal injuries.
One such accident occurred in Maine earlier this month, in which 75 vehicles slid, spun, and slammed into each other before skidding off the snow-slickened Interstate 95. Vehicles were severely damages in the collisions that spanned nearly three miles, marking one of the worst highway accidents in recent history. Another incident occurred this month in Chicago, where heavy snow caused a 40-car chain-reaction crash that clogged two lanes of the Kennedy Expressway for most of the day.
Here are five legal tips to keep in mind if you are involved in a chain-reaction car accident:
- Stay at the scene. While staying out in the nasty, freezing weather may not make matters any better, leaving the scene will certainly make matters worse. It is extremely important not to leave the scene of the accident without exchanging information with other drivers and/or talking to police. Leaving the scene of the accident could open you up to hit-and-run charges, so it is in your best interest to stick around until everything is settled.
- Even if you were partially at fault, you could recover damages. Even if you contributed in some way to the accident, you could still be able to recover damages (depending on the circumstances of the crash). New Jersey’s “modified comparative negligence” system means that, as a plaintiff, you are not required to prove that the other driver was completely at fault in order to recover damages. Rather, you are only required to prove that the other driver was more than 50 percent at fault. Therefore, as long as you are not mostly at fault, you could still recover for injuries, property damage, and other expenses associated with the accident.
- The speed limit is lower in inclement weather. When weather conditions are bad and visibility is poor, the regular speed limit is often much too fast. Drivers who drive at the posted speed limit in poor driving conditions can be found legally liable if they contribute to an accident.
- Bad weather does not negate negligence. Winter weather is not a valid excuse for reckless or negligent driving. Drivers in inclement weather are expected to drive at a safe speed, clear headlights and windshields, leave extra space in front of their vehicle, and have snow chains or other precautions when necessary.
Get photo evidence. Having pictures of the accident scene will bolster your personal injury claim or insurance claim down the road. Taking pictures of the scene may help prove the cause of the accident, whether it was another driver or the poor road conditions.