Chances Are, It Was Not the Weather—It Was Another Driver’s Negligence
We are well-known in Atlanta for not knowing how to handle inclement weather. In some ways, it is not their fault because ice and snow come so rarely in Atlanta. However, icy road conditions do not excuse a driver from negligence if they hurt someone else in an accident. If you or a loved one were injured in an accident when the roads are slippery, you may still receive financial compensation.
Atlanta Winter Weather Can Present Challenging Conditions
Even though Atlanta is in the Deep South, it is not immune from the hazards of winter weather. It may come as a surprise, but Atlanta actually has an average of 48 days each year when the weather drops below freezing. Although the city draws less than three inches of snow annually, even a small amount can send drivers into a panic.
Many people still vividly remember the absolute horror of the 2014 ice storm that shut down Atlanta roads for over 16 hours. The memory of Chipper Jones rescuing Freddie Freeman on his snowmobile has become part of the city’s legend. That account has permanently etched fear into Atlantans about driving in winter weather. Urban history contains many stories of major pile-ups and road closures after ice-snarled city traffic. Atlanta’s highways are challenging enough in perfect weather, but they became extremely dangerous in winter weather.
It seems as if news headlines announce that GDOT is preparing for winter weather and icy conditions several times each year. The Atlanta area completely shuts down, even when the city gets a dusting of snow.
While Georgia is at low risk for icy roads, there still is at least some risk for drivers. All it takes is one significant ice event in a year to cause serious injuries and even death. There are 156,000 accidents nationally due to icy roads. Many of these occur in areas like Georgia that are generally warmer but have drivers that do not know how to drive in the conditions.
Black Ice Is a Risk in Georgia
One of the major dangers in Atlanta is black ice. Black ice occurs when the road appears wet or there is no change in the roadway surface’s appearance. Drivers are not anticipating ice, so they are taken by surprise when they go into a skid.
The further north you get from the City of Atlanta, the worse the weather conditions can get. The far northern suburbs are at the foothills of the North Georgia mountains, and they are more likely to experience inclement weather.
Many Atlanta Drivers Do Not Know How to Drive in Snow and Ice
Because Atlanta does not have severe weather patterns, most drivers are simply not trained to drive in snow and ice. While many residents of the city have come to Atlanta from northern areas and have inclement weather driving skills, native Georgians are far more likely to struggle in bad weather. Even if you are well-trained to drive in icy conditions, you cannot control what other drivers do in this weather. All it takes is for one driver to make a mistake or lose control, and they can come barreling into you through no fault of your own.
Of course, the first piece of advice that we can give is to stay at home during rough weather. These days, many people can work from home and do not need to be on the roads. However, not everyone has that luxury, as many people need to go into their physical place of work. They shouldn’t need to face injury because others drive too fast for conditions.
Five Tips for Driving in the Ice in Atlanta
If you have to go out, here are some tips to make sure that you drive safely in icy weather:
- Make sure to check the treads on your tires before you leave the house.
- Always maintain a safe following distance between you and other cars. In icy weather, you should increase the amount of space between you and the car in front of you. Of course, you cannot control what someone behind you is doing.
- Travel at an extra slow speed. There is absolutely nothing wrong with taking longer to reach your destination. It is better to arrive safely than to end up hurt in an accident.
- Take extra caution on bridges and ramps. These are the surfaces that freeze before the rest of the roadway. Many accidents happen because drivers spin out and lose control of cars getting off the highway.
- Make sure that your phone has a full charge before you leave the house and that you have a car charger with you. The worst thing is to get stranded or not have a way to make a phone call after you have been in an accident.
How the Rules of Negligence Apply to Crashes on Icy Roads
The same rules of negligence in any traffic crash apply when you sustain injuries on icy roads.
The four elements that prove a driver was negligent in a car crash are:
- Duty of care – Someone else must owe you a duty to use ordinary care. Usually, when you get behind the wheel of a car, you owe a duty of care to everyone else on the road, including other drivers and their passengers.
- Breach of duty – This is a key element of the negligence test. You must prove that someone else breached the duty of care by their actions. Drivers have a responsibility to act as a reasonable driver would under the circumstances. This element would involve comparing what the driver in your case did to what an average would do. You can prove the breach took place by providing evidence of what happened.
- Injury – You need to show that you suffered some type of damage from the accident, whether it is physical or harm to your property, that needs financial compensation.
- Causation – Your injuries would not have happened had it not been for the negligent conduct of someone else. In legal terms, they must have been the proximate cause for your injuries.
Ice Changes the Considerations About What Is Reasonable
The very important words in the breach of duty element are that the driver’s conduct must have been reasonable under the circumstances. Icy roads impose an entirely different set of circumstances when it comes to judging the actions of the other driver. What may be reasonable under one set of circumstances is unreasonable under another.
For example, you would ordinarily not think that a driver traveling at the speed limit acted negligently in an accident. Adhering to speed limits is normally what drivers do, and in normal weather, there is nothing wrong with it. However, when the weather is icy outside, traveling at the speed limit is exactly what drivers should not do. Instead, they need to drive slowly to stay safe. Barreling down a road at 35 miles per hour can be reckless in icy conditions, and it could make the driver at fault for your injuries.
Drivers Must Adapt to Icy Conditions
Stated another way, if a driver insists on being out when it is icy, they must adapt to the conditions. The same duty holds true whether or not they have specific training to drive in the snow and ice. Drivers must change their driving habits to add an extra level of safety to match the road conditions. If they treat an icy road the same as they would drive on I-85 in the winter, that in itself can be negligent.
Sliding on the ice is not a defense to negligence. The driver who initiates contact is likely to be the one found responsible for the accident, even if they went into a skid. The only way that a driver who initiated contact would not be found responsible for the accident is if someone crashed into them first.
Sliding on the Ice Is Not an Excuse for a Crash
The law does not give much understanding to drivers who crash into other drivers, even if they swear that it was not their fault because of the ice. However, other drivers should receive financial compensation for their injuries when they simply tried their best to make it to their destination safely.
One major difficulty when there are icy roads is that there tend to be many multi-car pile-ups. When one car loses control, it often starts a chain reaction that can collect numerous cars in the crash. This scary and dangerous scenario happens most often on major highways in icy conditions. Multiple-vehicle crashes can involve dozens of cars in a worst-case scenario.
Determining Fault Can Be Difficult
Determining who was at fault in a multi-car crash is often very difficult. Without an Atlanta car accident attorney on your side to help tell your story, you may face difficulties in recovering from your injuries and damages from a multi-car crash in icy conditions. These investigations often take weeks before authorities know the cause of the crash. While one care may have struck you, it may be the driver of a completely different motor vehicle who is at fault.
Even if you did not have an outright accident with a car, you might still hold the driver of another vehicle responsible for your injuries. For example, if a chunk of ice flew off their car and shattered your windshield, causing an accident, you can sue the motorist for failing to clear their car.
In addition, if someone else loses control of their car, and it causes you to lose control of yours, they may also be negligent. There does not have to be an actual crash between two cars for there to be a finding of negligence. Someone else could be responsible even if you had a one-car accident.
The Government Could Be Liable if They Failed to Treat the Roads
You can also possibly sue the City of Atlanta or the state of Georgia if they failed to take the appropriate action to keep the roadway safe. However, these lawsuits have different rules than other lawsuits, and it is not always easy to prove that the government was negligent in how they did or did not keep the roadway.
The government would presumably have an obligation to salt the road before any known major ice storm. Once the storm passes, it should promptly clear the ice since it knows roads are slick. However, black ice is not always knowable ahead of time, and that may be a more difficult circumstance in which to prove that the government was negligent.
Georgia officials do have an obligation to keep the roadways in safe conditions. While government officials cannot be sued under the Georgia Tort Claims Act for discretionary decisions, cleaning the roads is a ministerial act for which an individual may sue them. In other words, state officials do not need to use any judgment when it comes to cleaning the roads. They simply need to just do their job.
When You Have Been in an Accident on an Icy Road, You Need an Atlanta Car Accident Attorney
As you can see, car crashes on icy roads may introduce an entirely different set of factors that may not be present in a regular accident. Even when the motor vehicle of someone else hit you, it may be tough to find out who was responsible for the crash. In addition, while the negligence test is the same, there are different considerations based on the weather conditions.
While the liability of an accident seems clear-cut on the service, often the details make proving fault a much greater challenge. You need a car accident attorney to help you file your compensation claim. Unless the insurance company assigns liability to someone else, you may not qualify for compensation. You need to contact an experienced Atlanta car crash lawyer who can investigate the facts of your accident and could stand ready to file a lawsuit on your behalf if necessary.