Driver Responsibility in Adverse Weather Crashes: Looking at Liability As First Responders Report High Accident Rate During Wet Holiday Weekend

Locals and tourists hoping to enjoy beach-bum days and fireworks-filled nights during the Fourth of July weekend instead found themselves trapped indoors by heavy rainfall. The storms derailed the plans of individuals and municipalities, while also proving a financial disappointment to many area businesses (with the exception, perhaps, of local movie theaters and indoor shopping centers) counting on the holiday crowds. The historic rainfall also proved hazardous on area roadways.

Our Panama City wet weather accident team knows that heavy rains can increase accident risk, turning a day of disappointing weather into a day of tragedy. Wet and/or flooded roads can prove challenging for any driver, but weather does not excuse negligent driving, and we are prepared to help victims injured due to a driver's failure to take appropriate steps ensure wet weather driving safety.

First Responders Kept Busy During Wet Holiday Weekend

In just one of the many article focusing on the recent weather, the Northwest Florida Daily News noted that first responders throughout the Panhandle region have been kept busy by the rash of roadway accidents related to the wet weather. In Destin alone, deputies from the Okaloosa County Sheriff's Office responded to two dozen traffic incidents in the first 48 hours of the holiday weekend, a number expected to continue growing throughout the holiday.

Michele Nicholson, a spokesperson for the office, cited the mix of traffic congestion and the inclement weather as factors influencing the increased accident numbers. The article made specific mention of two pedestrian accidents that happened along U.S. 98 on Thursday July 4. At 10:20 P.M., a female pedestrian was struck by a car in the road's westbound lanes in the vicinity of the Donut Hole. While she, thankfully, did not show signs of serious injury, responders still took her to a local hospital. Less than 30 minutes later, responders received another call when a man was spotted in a U.S. 98 median near the Waffle House.

He was bleeding from the head and authorities believe he had also been hit by a motor vehicle. A medical helicopter transported the man to Pensacola's Sacred Heart Hospital for treatment.

FHWA Statistics on Traffic Accidents During Adverse Weather Conditions

The Federal Highway Administration ("FHWA") examines the impact of weather conditions on roadway safety. Approximately 24% of the more than 6,000,000 vehicle crashes that occur each year are deemed weather-related, a label applied to all crashes that occur during adverse weather or on the slick pavement that can follow rain, ice, or other weather conditions.

These crashes claim an average of 7,130 lives annually and leave more than 629,000 people injured. Notably, 75% of weather-related crashes involve wet pavement and 47% occur during rainfall. This is much higher than the number of crashes occurring during "winter conditions."

Drivers Should Not Be Allowed to Blame Mother Nature for Their Own Negligence

Weather does not absolve drivers of responsibility. Drivers should not be allowed to just throw up their hands and blame accidents on Mother Nature.

Our experience suggests that even in adverse weather, most accidents can still be traced to a negligent, irresponsible driver. As evidence, note that the FHWA refers to "weather-related" collisions, not "collisions caused by bad weather." Drivers who fail to slow to an appropriate speed, adjust following distance, and otherwise account for weather in their driving decisions can and should be held liable for resulting accidents.

Failing to maintain one's vehicle, particularly maintaining appropriate tire tread depth, can also be a major factor in collisions during adverse weather. An accident reconstruction expert can help trace the precise cause of a collision and show how a driver's actions (or inaction) led to an accident. Attorney Pittman works with such experts to prove legal liability and obtain monetary compensation for accident victims.

If you believe another driver's failure to drive responsibly in inclement weather or on wet roadways led to your injuries, call our Panama City car accident liability team; we can help you prove it.

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