February 9th, 2024

Navigating Slippery Slope of Winter Accidents

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Author: Nindiya G. Ramchandani

With winter in full swing, and slick road abounding, here are a few things to keep in mind before you hit the road.

MD/VA/DC are all a “contributory negligence” states. This means that in order for you to recover for an accident-related injury, you must be 100% free from fault. In other states, you can have some percentage of fault, and still recover if you’re injured. But here, 1% fault prevents you from recovering any money if you’re injured. Frequently, with slip-and-slide accidents, it is difficult to show who is at fault. How can you claim that someone else is responsible for your injuries, if you, yourself, were slipping and sliding on the roads?

Accident claims are based in negligence law: there must be a duty, breach and causation before you can look at damages. Duty means that all drivers owe a responsibility to be a safe and cautious driver to all others on the road. That duty is breached when someone acts negligently by doing something, or failing to do something they should have done, and those actions cause an accident. Meeting these standards can be challenging in slip-and-slide accidents where both drivers are sliding. If an accident is solely due to unavoidable road conditions, rather than a driver’s negligence, there is no breach, and no way to seek compensation.

Similar results are found with fallen trees and deer crossings, which can be considered “Acts of God”. However, if someone’s actions or inactions cause an accident and injury, then there may be a valid claim. An example might be that your neighbor failed to maintain the trees on his property and didn’t clear away dead trees. A storm comes and one of those dead and poorly-maintained trees then falls on your home or car, you may be eligible for compensation. With deer however, the last time I checked, deer do not have insurance. If you’re a passenger in a car that is traveling too fast for the conditions where deer may be expected to live and jump out into the roadway, and that car then hits a deer and loses control. If you suffer injuries in that situation, due not only to the deer, but also your driver’s negligence, then you may have a valid claim for your injuries.

Insurance coverages limits differ from state to state, but MD/VA and DC all have benefits that you can purchase on your own auto policy called “first party benefits.” These benefits, if paid for in advance of an accident, will provide you with coverage, irrespective of fault. MD and DC have Personal Injury Protection (PIP), VA has Medical Payment Coverage (MedPay). Since you never know what someone else’s insurance limits will be, be sure to check with our office for a review of your own auto insurance policy to make sure you and your family are adequately protected.

By reviewing and strategically obtaining your own auto insurance coverage, being careful, driving slowly, and giving yourself extra time to get to your destination, you can keep yourself and your family protected!