Poor Weather Leading to Truck Accidents & Related Lawsuits
The risk of truck accidents increases in adverse weather, such as rain, snow, fog, or high winds. For example, drivers must cope with reduced visibility in rain, snow, or fog. Rain may lead to flooding and cause a truck to hydroplane, while snow or ice can make the road surface slippery and cause problems with braking in time. This is especially true because trucks have a longer stopping distance than passenger cars. Trucks that haul trailers, which are not aerodynamic, may face a rollover risk in high winds that tip the trailer, or they may jackknife due to the force of the wind.
However, a trucker is not automatically excused for accidents that occur during bad weather. These professional drivers are expected to take extra care to reduce the risks for everyone around them. Federal trucking regulations provide certain safety precautions, including:
Reducing speed when truckers lack normal traction and visibility
Using lights to help other drivers see them
Preparing to use brakes as quickly as possible
Driving defensively around other vehicles, even if the trucker is experienced in adverse weather
Stopping and waiting on the side of the road if the weather makes it impossible to drive safely
Unfortunately, the pressures of working in the trucking industry cause many drivers to throw caution aside in the interest of getting to their destination as quickly as possible. Many truckers are paid according to the miles that they drive, and trucking companies often impose tight deadlines.
Legal Claims Based on Truck Accidents in Poor Weather
After an accident involving rain, snow, fog, or another adverse weather condition, a victim can bring a personal injury claim against the trucker who was at fault. They also might have a claim against the trucking company based on vicarious liability. This holds an employer liable for careless actions by its employees in the course of their employment. Some trucking companies may try to avoid vicarious liability by designating their drivers as independent contractors. However, federal regulations limit the use of this tactic, and just because a company says that a worker is an independent contractor does not automatically mean that this is true.
A claim arising from an accident in poor weather usually would involve showing that the trucker was negligent. This means that they caused the crash because they failed to use reasonable care under the circumstances. Sometimes the evidence will suggest that the driver of the passenger car also failed to use reasonable care. For example, perhaps the trucker failed to reduce speed in a thunderstorm, but the driver of the passenger car did not turn on their lights. When this happens, fault may be divided between the two drivers. Only a few states categorically prevent a victim from recovering any damages if they were partly at fault. Most states allow a victim to recover damages in proportion to the trucker’s degree of fault, although they may be barred from recovering damages if they were at least 50 or 51 percent at fault in many of these states.
Common Types of Damages
Costs of future treatment
Lost earning capacity
Pain and suffering
Truck accidents involving poor weather tend to be relatively complex because the cause of the crash and the precautions that should have been taken may not be immediately obvious. Therefore, a victim who has suffered catastrophic injuries in this type of accident should consult an experienced lawyer to investigate the case and pursue any claims on their behalf. Most truck accident attorneys handle their cases on a contingency fee basis, so a victim will not need to pay upfront fees for legal services. Instead, an attorney will collect a certain percentage of a compensation award as their fee.