Am I Negligent for an Accident During a Winter Storm?

McLario, Helm, Bertling, & Spiegel, S.C.

While we are currently enjoying a mild start to December 2017, snow and ice will most likely be a part of the Southeast Wisconsin winter weather forecast at some point to come. With the onset of inclement conditions comes an opportunity for perilous driving conditions. In addition to following standard traffic laws, when winter weather hits, drivers have other responsibilities as they travel the area the roadways. Failure to follow these driving rules could result in driver negligence.

  • Following distance – Wisconsin law states that “the operator of a motor vehicle shall not follow another vehicle more closely than is reasonable and prudent, having due regard for the speed of such vehicle and the traffic upon and the condition of the highway.” In ideal conditions, when traveling in a 30 mph speed zone, it is recommended a driver maintain at least four seconds between their vehicle and one they are following. This gap should be increased as the speed limit rises as well as when road conditions dictate.
  • Speed – Speed is often a factor in motor vehicle accidents. In addition to maintaining a safe following distance, it is important to monitor the road conditions and adjust your speed accordingly. This means that regardless of the posted speed limit you should operate your car at a speed that is appropriate given the circumstances. Wisconsin law states “No person shall drive a vehicle at a speed greater than is reasonable and prudent under the conditions and having regard for the actual and potential hazards then existing. The speed of a vehicle shall be so controlled as may be necessary to avoid colliding with any object, person, vehicle or other conveyance on or entering the highway in compliance with legal requirements and using due care.” Even if you are driving at the posted speed limit, it might be too fast for the weather conditions and you could be found at-fault if an accident occurs.
  •  Lights – While Wisconsin law does not require the use of daytime running lights for normal weather conditions, during severe weather it is required. A new law, which was enacted in 2016, states that lights are required to be on when driving any time that weather conditions limit visibility such that objects on a highway are not clearly discernible at 500 feet from the front of a vehicle.”

When inclement weather occurs, police officers take many factors into consideration to determine who, if anyone, is at-fault during an accident. They examine the road and weather conditions at the time of the crash and compare the reports given by each of the drivers in the accident and any witnesses. In addition, they assess the vehicle, the road markings and many other factors to determine if any negligence occurred. While police officers do their best to report the accident as they understand it, they are human and can make mistakes. If you believe you were wrongly charged with negligence, it is important to contact a qualified lawyer who can help you build your case.  And, if you or someone you know is injured as a result of a weather related car accident, contact the experts at McLario, Helm, Bertling & Spiegel to discuss your personal injury case.


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