While snow days in Rock Hill, SC, and the surrounding areas are few and very far between, other weather-related hazards are common factors in accidents throughout South Carolina. From hurricanes and tropical storms to ordinary rain showers, fog, and even sun glare, weather conditions cause and contribute to numerous vehicle collisions, slips and falls, and other accidents every year.
If you were injured in a weather-related accident, how does the fact that weather conditions played a role impact your legal rights? Are you still entitled to seek just compensation? If so, what do you need to prove in order to secure a financial recovery? While every case requires a thorough investigation and a critical assessment of all of the factors involved, here is an overview of the basic information accident victims and their families need to know:
4 Key Facts about Compensation Claims Involving Weather-Related Accidents
1. Negligence is a Common Factor in Weather-Related Accidents.
When the weather plays a role in an accident, it is rarely the only factor involved. Negligence frequently plays a role as well, and South Carolina law makes clear that hazardous weather conditions are not an excuse for drivers and property owners to put others in harm’s way.
Let’s take the example of a car accident during a downpour. The rain made the road slick and it limited drivers’ visibility, but was the rain solely to blame? Or, was driver negligence a factor as well? In most cases, mistakes such as driving too fast, following too closely, and texting behind the wheel are the real culprits that prevent drivers from avoiding serious and fatal collisions in bad weather.
Now, let’s consider a different example involving a slip-and-fall accident. Let’s say you were going shopping and you slipped on a wet tile floor. Once again, was the rain the only factor? Or, should the store owner have taken more precautions to clean up or warn customers that the floor may be slippery? In many cases, this type of lack of care will justify a weather-related claim for just compensation.
2. It May Be Especially Important to Conduct a Prompt Investigation.
Weather is temporary; and, in many cases, this means that evidence of weather-related accidents is temporary as well. For this reason, it is often especially important to conduct a prompt investigation following a weather-related collision, slip, or fall.
In general, the sooner you can conduct an investigation after an accident, the better. Investigating promptly ensures that you will be able to collect as much evidence from the scene as possible, and this can significantly improve your chances of recovering full compensation for your injury-related losses. With regard to weather-related accidents, ideally, you would be able to conduct an investigation while the hazardous weather condition still exists (i.e. before the store cleans up the slippery floor). However, as a practical matter, this often simply is not possible. Fortunately, there are other ways to prove negligence within the context of weather-related accidents, and an experienced personal injury or wrongful death attorney will be able to utilize other sources of evidence to prove your claim for just compensation.
3. You May Need to Be Prepared for Allegations of Comparative Fault.
A common issue in cases involving weather-related vehicle collisions slips, and falls, and other accidents are what is known as “comparative fault”. Under South Carolina law, if an accident victim is partially to blame for his or her own injuries, this can reduce – or even eliminate – the amount he or she is entitled to recover.
In South Carolina, the most important aspect of comparative fault is that the victim’s percentage of negligence cannot exceed that of the other person or company involved in the accident. If you are deemed to be 51 percent or more at fault for your own injuries, then you are not entitled to any financial recovery. If you are 50 percent or less at fault, then the amount you are entitled to recover is reduced based on your percentage of fault. For example, if your losses are $100,000 and the evidence proves that you were 25 percent at fault, then your financial recovery would be reduced to $75,000.
During bad weather accident claims, insurance companies and their defense lawyers will often try to blame victims for their own injuries. For example, they may say that you should have been driving slower given the weather conditions, or they may try to argue that you should have seen and avoided the slippery floor. But, while these types of allegations are common, they are often merely used as a defense tactic to try to convince accident victims to settle for less than they deserve. In many cases, the evidence uncovered during an investigation will reveal that there was nothing the victim could have done to avoid suffering serious injuries.
4. The Fact that Weather was Involved Does Not Fundamentally Affect Your Right to Just Compensation.
Ultimately, the fact that weather was involved in your (or your loved one’s) accident does not fundamentally affect your right to just compensation. The weather is certainly a factor that needs to be considered, but it is just one factor among many others. If another individual or business was negligent and put you or your loved one in harm’s way, then that person or business is liable regardless of the weather conditions at the time of the accident. This is true for forms of negligence including:
- Drunk, distracted, and drowsy driving
- Reckless and aggressive driving
- Speeding and tailgating (including driving too fast or following too closely given the weather conditions)
- Failure to clean, maintain, and repair interior and exterior walking surfaces
- Failure to warn of slippery floors and other hazards
Speak with a Rock Hill, SC Personal Injury or Wrongful Death Lawyer for Free
If you have been injured or a loved one has been killed in a weather-related accident in South Carolina, we urge you to contact us promptly for a free consultation about your legal rights. To speak with a personal injury lawyer or wrongful death lawyer in Rock Hill, SC for free, call 803-327-1103 or request an appointment online now.