What Maryland Crash Victims Should Know About Liability For Wintertime Crashes

Posted on behalf of Peter T. Nicholl in Car Accidents Published on February 8, 2024 and updated on February 20, 2024.

man driving car during wintertimeMid-January saw some treacherous road conditions across the Maryland, Viriginia and Washington DC areas. Winter weather conditions can be so dangerous that some drivers may think they can blame a crash on these conditions.

Below, the experienced Maryland auto accident lawyers at The Law Offices of Peter T. Nicholl discuss liability for crashes during this time of year. We also explain the risks of driving during the wintertime and what drivers can do to lower the chances of an accident.

If you or a loved one were injured in a crash in winter weather, we may be able to assist you with the legal process.

No upfront costs. Call today to discuss your situation: 410-297-0271.

Why Driving in Snow and Other Winter Conditions Can Be Risky

Winter weather brings a unique set of challenges for drivers. The roads can be slippery due to ice and snow. Snowfall and fog can also impair visibility, making it harder to see danger up ahead.

You also do not know how other drivers are going to react to these perilous conditions. Some drivers become increasingly cautious and drive much more slowly. Others may not change their driving behaviors at all, making it more likely they will cause a dangerous collision.

Snow, ice, fog and other winter weather demand heightened awareness and precautions from all road users in Maryland.

Crashes That May be More Likely To Happen in the Wintertime

The weather in December, January and February can increase the risk of several types of accidents:

  • Rear-end collisions: Slick roads make it so that cars need more time to stop. When drivers speed or follow other cars too closely in the winter, they have a higher risk of causing rear-end collisions.
  • Slide-offs: Vehicles can lose traction and slide off the road, especially on curves or slopes.
  • Intersection crashes: Icy intersections are hotspots for crashes because it is more difficult to stop.
  • Multi-vehicle pileups: Reduced visibility and slippery roads can lead to chain-reaction crashes involving multiple vehicles. This is particularly true in high-traffic areas.

Liability for Winter Weather Collisions

Every time you get behind the wheel, you have a duty of care to operate your vehicle safely. For example, you need to follow all Maryland traffic laws, such as speed limits and right-of-way laws.

Drivers also have a duty to adapt to the weather and road conditions, even if changes in weather or road conditions are unexpected. If drivers fail to take extra precautions and they cause an accident, they cannot blame the weather. They can be held liable for any damages caused by the crash.

Bad weather is certainly a contributing factor to car crashes, but it does not excuse negligent driving. You also cannot file a legal claim against the weather.

There are numerous reasons why another driver could be held liable for a crash in the winter months:

  • Speeding (even if the other driver was obeying the speed limit, he or she may have needed to slow down because of the weather)
  • Not maintaining a safe following distance – drivers should leave more space than usual in the winter
  • Not using headlights in the snow, rain or fog
  • Fatigued or drowsy driving
  • Impaired driving
  • Driving on old, worn tires or with brakes or windshield wipers that do not work as they should
  • Driving with broken taillights
  • Distracted driving
  • Failing to remove snow or ice from the windshield before driving; Maryland does not have a law about this, but failing to remove ice or snow could contribute to a collision
  • Taking a turn too fast, causing the car to spin out and crash

When evaluating liability for a wintertime car crash, the question is what a reasonable person would do under similar circumstances. For example, if it was reasonable to expect another driver to slow down and he or she did not, that driver could be held liable for damages from the crash.

Evidence of Liability for a Winter Collision

Crash victims must prove liability to recover compensation. Here are key types of evidence that can help determine liability in winter weather crashes:

Police Reports

The responding officer’s report often includes crucial details about the accident, road conditions and any citations issued.

Photographic Evidence

Pictures of the accident scene, including skid marks, vehicle positions, road conditions and damage to all vehicles involved are invaluable. Photos that capture weather conditions at the time of the accident can also be crucial.

Witness Statements

Testimonies from people who witnessed the crash can provide an independent perspective on the events leading up to the accident.

Surveillance or Dashcam Footage

If the accident was captured by nearby surveillance cameras or dashcams, this footage could be pivotal in showing exactly what happened.

Weather Reports

Documentation of weather conditions at the time of the accident, from reliable sources, can corroborate claims about the impact of weather on road conditions.

Vehicle Maintenance Records

These can show if the vehicles involved were adequately prepared for winter conditions, such as having proper tires and functioning headlights.

Medical Records

Documentation of injuries sustained in the crash provides evidence of the accident’s impact and helps link injuries directly to the collision.

Expert Testimony

Sometimes, accident reconstruction experts or meteorologists can provide professional opinions on how the accident occurred or how weather conditions may have contributed to the crash.

Gathering evidence of a winter weather crash can be challenging, especially when you are dealing with injuries. Our experienced team at The Law Offices of Peter T. Nicholl understands these challenges and is prepared to assist in compiling and analyzing evidence to establish liability.

What Steps Can I Take To Reduce the Risk of a Wintertime Auto Accident?

There are many steps drivers can take to help lower the risk of a wintertime car crash:

  • Slow down to give yourself more time to react and stop. You need to account for the fact that your tires are going to have more trouble maintaining traction. You are not going to be able to stop as quickly as you would during other times of the year.
  • Leave more space between your car and the one in front of you to allow more space and time to slow down to avoid a rear-end collision.
  • Use your headlights whenever there is fog or snowfall, even during daylight hours.
  • Avoid slamming on the brakes or jerking your steering wheel. Brake gently and do your best to steer smoothly.
  • Make sure your vehicle is prepared for winter weather. Do your windshield wipers work as they should? Do you need new tires? Do your tires need more air? Are your brakes not working as well as they usually do?
  • Check the weather forecast before you go out. You need to know what to expect. Sometimes that trip to the store or to run another errand can wait because the weather is too dangerous for driving.

Taking these steps can not only help prevent a collision, but also reduce the chances of you being held partially liable for any crashes that occur. Maryland has a harsh contributory negligence law that bars anyone who is even one percent at fault from seeking compensation from the other driver.

What Should I Do After a Winter Weather Car Accident?

If you find yourself in a winter car accident, there are critical steps to follow for your safety and the safety of others involved. There are also steps you can take to protect your legal rights:

  • When possible, move your car away from traffic and to a safe place.
  • Call 9-1-1 for medical help and police assistance. You might not think you are injured, but crash victims sometimes do not notice injuries until later.
  • Check yourself and others involved for injuries and provide first aid if possible.
  • Sometimes it is best to stay in your vehicle until help arrives, especially if it is severely cold or slippery. If you get out of your car, you could be putting yourself in harm’s way.
  • Take pictures of the scene and write down what you remember, if possible.
  • Collect contact and insurance information from all parties involved.
  • Contact an experienced attorney to discuss legal options after the crash. If it was caused by a negligent driver, you have the right to seek compensation for your losses and damages.

Call The Law Offices of Peter T. Nicholl After a Crash

At The Law Offices of Peter T. Nicholl, we are committed to helping victims of winter weather accidents secure full compensation for damages.

If you or a loved one has been involved in a winter crash in Maryland, do not hesitate to reach out to us to see if we can assist you and your family. We have been advocating for injured victims in this state for decades and have secured millions for our clients.

You do not need to go through the legal process alone. Our experienced attorneys help victims every step of the way.

You can call us at 410-297-0271 or complete a Free Case Evaluation form.