The statistics are amazing. According to the US Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration, an average of 4,900 fatal car accidents occur on slippery roads each year. It was also found that icy roads caused an average of 1,800 deaths and 136,000 injuries per year over a ten-year period.
Such crashes can also lead to financial havoc. Those who are injured can expect thousands of dollars in medical bills, lost wages, and potentially long-term care expenses. For families who are already grieving the loss of a loved one in one car accident also faced with funeral expenses.
When pursuing a claim Injuries or unjust death It is a challenge to prove through a car accident or a truck accident on icy or slippery roads that the accident was caused by negligent or careless driving. Virginia law does not consider skidding by itself on a slippery road to be sufficient evidence that the driver was negligent. Rather, the injured party has to prove that the skid is due to careless behavior on the part of the driver, for example driving too fast for certain conditions.
The longtime law about skidding on slippery roads is set out in Virginia Model Jury’s Instruction No. 10,040 which states:
The fact that a vehicle is skidding on a slippery road is not enough to determine that the driver is negligent. If you believe that the greater weight of the evidence that the hurling was caused by the defendant’s failure to act as a reasonable person would have acted in the circumstances, then he was negligent. If you believe that the slippery condition of the road was the sole cause of the skidding, then the defendant was not negligent.
In a very practical sense, it is often difficult to provide evidence to meet the burden of proof of being hurled due to careless behavior. That said, the driver will often say that he or she drove carefully under the conditions or that he or she did not know the road was slippery.
Let’s take a look at a case of a skidding accident
An example of this type of crash and jury process is found in the 1992 Newport News case Edlow versus Arnold, 243 Va. 345, 415 SE2d 436 (1992). Catherine Edlow sued Alicia Arnold for $ 100,000 in damages for personal injury sustained in a collision. Edlow drove a car on an icy road and stopped to pick up a passenger on a back road. Alicia Arnold’s vehicle hit her vehicle from behind and caused back injuries.
When examining whether Arnold was negligently and legally responsible for causing the crash, the trial judge gave the jury the following instructions in part:
The mere evidence that a motor vehicle skidding on a slippery road does not constitute negligence on the part of the operator, but is a fact that must be taken into account together with all other evidence when determining whether negligence has been proven.
According to court records, Arnold testified that she was driving a cautious distance about five or six car lengths behind the Edlow car. As she braked, she hit the ice, causing her to slide into Edlow’s car. After hearing statements about the icy road conditions not only from the drivers themselves, but also from three eyewitnesses, they came to the conclusion that Arnold had behaved like this “… A normally prudent person would have done this under the circumstancesThe jury found that Arnold was not negligent, which was upheld on appeal from the Virginia Supreme Court.
In this way you avoid skidding in winter road conditions
While AAA encourages us to stay home in dangerous weather conditions, here are some tips for drivers who must drive on snowy or icy roads this winter:
- Drive slowly. Always adjust your speed to allow for less traction when driving on snow or ice.
- Accelerate and slow down slowly. Apply the throttle slowly to restore traction and brake gently to avoid slipping. Don’t try to move in a rush and take your time slowing down for a traffic light. Remember: it takes longer to slow down on icy roads.
- Increase your following interval to five to six seconds. This increased margin of safety provides the greater distance required if you have to stop.
- Know your brakes. Whether or not you have anti-lock brakes, keep the heel of your foot on the ground and use the ball of your foot to apply firm, even pressure on the brake pedal.
- Don’t stop if you can avoid it. There is a huge difference in the inertia it takes to move from one point versus the amount it takes to move while you are still rolling. If you can go slow enough to keep rolling until a traffic light changes, go for it.
- Don’t go up hills. If you apply extra gasoline on snow-covered roads, your wheels will spin. Try to get a little indolence going before you reach the hill and let that indolence carry you up. When you reach the top of the hill, decrease your speed and slowly go downhill.
- Don’t stop walking up a hill. There’s nothing worse than trying to get up a hill on an icy road. Get some indolence on a flat road before hitting the hill.
If you have a vehicle with anti-lock braking, test it in an empty parking lot at slow speed to feel the pedal pulsing so you don’t panic if this happens on a slippery road. That feeling is how the brakes are supposed to work.
If you or someone you know has been involved in an accident due to wintry road conditions, Curcio Law has the experience and resources to get the compensation you deserve. Give us a call or send us an email at 703-836-3366 firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.curciolaw.com.