Dangerous weather can lead to car accidents. Poor visibility from rain, snow, fog, ice or sleet can make highways and rural roads dangerous even during the day. With winter almost here, drivers must be aware of these dangers – including the risk of “black ice” on the road.
Black ice earned its nickname because it is so clear that the asphalt on a road shows through it. Virginia is no stranger to black ice; last December, a 75-car pileup on I-64 in York County was blamed on one driver skidding out on a patch of black ice.
No matter the weather conditions, every driver in the state of Virginia is obligated to obey the rules of the road. Those rules include the duty to use ordinary care “to operate [one’s] vehicle at a reasonable speed under the existing conditions.” A reasonable speed is governed by existing conditions and not necessarily by the posted speed limit. Kimberlin v. PM Transp., Inc., 264 Va. 261 267 (2002). Inclement weather may create a duty to drive significantly slower than the posted speed limit. A driver who ignores changes in weather conditions, including disregarding the hazards of driving in black ice conditions, can be held liable for a car accident he or she causes.
Liability of the other driver in black ice conditions
The state of Virginia restricts the scenarios in which a liable driver can point to the weather for an excuse for causing an accident. The Supreme Court of Virginia addressed this issue in 2009. It held that judges in these cases should not instruct jurors that certain accidents can simply not be avoided. Hancock-Underwood v. Knight, 277 Va. 127 (2009). According to the Court, a situation in which a foreseeable road condition is involved – something that a driver may reasonably expect in the roadway at the time of the crash – cannot be defined as a sudden emergency.
If a driver can reasonably expect that a roadway may have snow or ice on it, or that visibility is poor, then that driver cannot claim a sudden emergency. Even a responsible driver who hits a patch of black ice can still be liable for any damages caused by an ensuing crash if he or she was going too fast for the conditions. It is important that you not accept his or her denial of responsibility at face value.
If you have sustained injuries in a car accident caused by another driver or party, we can help. The Richmond car accident attorneys at Phelan Petty are your trusted advocates in Virginia. We strive to obtain the compensation you need and deserve for your injuries. To arrange a free case evaluation, call us today at 804.980.7100 or complete our contact form.