What You Should Know About Winter Driving Accidents
Virginia winters are becoming more and more unpredictable. Severe snowstorms may not grace our state as frequently as they do our northern neighbors. In many ways, this could be seen as advantageous, but there is a dark side to lighter winters.
Less snow means less experience with snow. So when harsh conditions do come, we aren’t as ready to respond to them, especially when they come out of nowhere.
Many remember the winter storm the first week of 2022 — a forecasted few inches of snow unexpectedly transformed into over a foot, just as thousands on the East Coast were preparing to head home from their New Year and other holiday celebrations. This combo snowballed into a 48-mile stretch of stranded drivers on Interstate 95, and Virginia State Police troopers responded to more than 1,000 vehicle accidents — many involving critical injuries to drivers and passengers.
But how does “winter weather” fit into a car accident injury claim? Simply put: it’s complicated.
If you’ve been in a car accident caused by black ice, snow-covered roads, or other winter weather conditions, you have the right to explore your options for pursuing compensation. Read on or reach out to us at Blaszkow Legal, PLLC in Alexandria, Virginia for more information on winter driving accidents.
Who Is Liable for an Accident Caused by Weather?
Virginia is an at-fault state in car accidents. This means that the driver who caused the accident is liable for the cost of the accident, and their insurance will pay for the damages — for everyone involved.
Knowing this can help prepare you for what to expect when you go to file your car accident claim because, depending on the details of your accident, you may be the one deemed liable. For example, say your car slid on some black ice while you were driving and caused a collision with another driver — there’s a likelihood you’ll be held responsible, even if you didn’t do anything technically wrong.
Sometimes, just being on the road in unideal weather conditions is enough to prove your liability for an accident. In the example above, the insurance company’s lawyers will look for evidence of you driving at unsafe speeds and likely argue that the accident would not have happened if you had simply chosen not to drive.
Another important element to understand is Virginia’s contributory negligence rule. This rule holds that you cannot recover monetary damages if you contributed to the cause of the accident in any way, meaning that even if the jury decides that the other driver in your case was mostly responsible for the accident, but you share a slight bit of the blame, you can't collect compensation.
While Virginia’s laws and rules may seem tough, they shouldn’t prevent you from pursuing justice after an accident. Being held liable for a car accident can have major consequences, so be sure to consult an experienced lawyer before filing your claim. Our personal injury attorneys have decades of experience defending the rights of accident victims and would be happy to discuss your case with you today.
Virginia’s Statute of Limitations for Car Accidents
A statute of limitations is a state law that sets a time limit on your right to file a lawsuit. They vary by state and area of law, and in Virginia, there are at least three different statutes of limitations that may come into play after a weather-related car accident:
For Vehicle Damage: 5 years (including diminished value)
If your lawsuit is over damage to your vehicle or other property due to a car accident in Virginia, you must file it within five years of the date of the accident.
For Car Accident Injuries: 2 years
If you were injured in a car accident and want to file a lawsuit against the responsible party, you must file it with Virginia’s civil court system within two years of the accident date.
For Car Accident Deaths: 2 years
If you lost a loved one in a car accident, and are seeking justice by bringing a wrongful death lawsuit to court, your filing deadline is two years from the date of their passing.
Statutes of limitations for car accidents can get complex, which is why any injury or vehicle damage claim is best handled with the help of a skilled car accident attorney.
Winter Weather Safe Driving Tips
Like winter weather, car accidents can be unpredictable. Here are a few safety tips to keep in mind as we enter the winter season:
Prepare your vehicle for winter.
Keep your car safe year-round by seeking out the regular maintenance that it requires. Then in winter, pay extra attention to any system or part that takes some extra hits from snow, ice, and temperature drops, such as your car’s battery, wipers, coolant, and tires. Some Virginia drivers may consider switching to snow tires for some extra traction — if you use these, get them installed before any snow starts to fall.
Give yourself some extra time to get ready before driving to any events or appointments. You’ll feel less rushed and will be less likely to speed. Also, check the traffic and weather status before you go anywhere, and plan your route accordingly.
Exercise defensive driving.
Some of the most common liabilities for weather-related negligent driving are speeding and following other vehicles too closely, because it’s harder to control or stop your vehicle on a slick or snowy road. When you’re on the road during any of these conditions, remember to drive slowly and maintain a safe distance between you and other vehicles.
Remember that you can stay home.
Accidents can happen any time of the year, but the roads in winter are sometimes best left avoided. An influx of travelers, the excitement (and stress) of the holiday season, and the threat of hazardous weather can all be at play. Always use your best judgment and know that you have the option to stay home if the roads don’t seem safe.
Legal Support When You Need It Most
At Blaszkow Legal, PLLC, our car accident attorneys serve those in Alexandria, Virginia, and the neighboring areas of Fairfax, Woodbridge, Arlington, and Manassas. We also handle cases in Maryland and the District of Columbia. We understand the applicable injury and insurance laws and can help answer any questions you may have about the legalities surrounding car accidents caused by inclement weather.
If you’ve been in or lost a loved one in a car accident, you deserve a fair opportunity to seek justice and recover the damages you’ve endured. Schedule a consultation with our attorneys today to learn how they can put their knowledge and experience to work on your claim. We make the law work for you!