Who is responsible for an accident during icy conditions?

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The icy conditions in the area can lead to all kinds of accidents and injuries. But, these icy conditions can cause confusion as to who is responsible and insurance companies can use this confusion to their advantage.

The first thing to remember is that not all car wrecks are the result of negligence – this is rare but is a reality. As a result, insurance companies can use this to their advantage. You may hear such phrases as “natural accumulation,” “act of God,” or “unavoidable accident” from the insurance company trying to down play or even deny your claim. While these are legitimate defenses in rare cases, don’t just take the word of the insurance adjuster – they are not on your side!

“Act of God” – this defense refers to a natural but unavoidable occurrence that interferes with the normal course of events. Acts of God include snow, ice, earthquakes, flood, fire, or a hurricane to name a few. For example, imagine that you are driving in Austin on a day where rain and ice have caused the road to be slick. A car approaches from you from behind. You slow down due to traffic or a stop light. The car behind you hits their brakes and slides into the back of you.

Now, under normal conditions most people would know that the other driver is at fault. But, in icy conditions, their insurance carrier will likely try to claim that the accident was caused by an act of God. They will essentially state that because their insured driver has no control over the weather, they would have no control over the driving conditions and therefore not responsible for the accident.

In reality, however, the accident wasn’t caused by the ice, it was caused by the defendant driving too fast in the icy conditions. Thus, your claim is valid and you should be compensated. However, insurance companies have little interest in the truth. They will latch onto the act of God defense and argue it in an attempt to avoid liability

“Unavoidable Accident” – this defense is based on the theory that there is no negligence or misconduct that was involved in the accident by you or the other driver. There were forces beyond anyone’s control that caused the accident to occur. This usually comes up when there is some type of medical emergency. Like the accident described above, another driver traveling too fast in icy conditions is not unavoidable. Drivers have a duty to drive reasonably under the circumstances taking into consideration the road and weather conditions.

“Natural Accumulation” – this is a general rule applicable to a slip and fall incident. Texas follows the natural accumulation rule which generally states that a property owner has no duty to remove or warn of the dangers of natural accumulations of snow, ice and freezing rain, and he or she is not liable for injuries caused by natural accumulations of snow, ice and freezing rain. Of course, there are exceptions.

Insurance companies will use every reason to try and reduce or deny your claim. They have been trained to look for these loopholes and defenses and they will try to use your lack of expertise to their advantage. To level the playing field, contact an attorney that represents you and your best interests.

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