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Winter Chain-Reaction Crashes: 5 Legal Considerations

By Daniel Taylor, Esq. | Last updated on

With inclement winter weather comes increased odds of being involved in a multiple-vehicle chain-reaction crash.

A winter storm that created whiteout conditions and icy roadways led to one such chain-reaction pileup in Michigan last week. The crash involved a total of 193 vehicles, reports the Lansing State Journal, causing the death of a truck driver and more than two dozen injuries.

What should drivers know about these wild winter wrecks? Here are five legal considerations:

  1. Don't leave the scene. Even though it may be tempting to get out of the weather, not to mention the chaos of a pileup involving dozens of vehicles, it's important not to leave the scene of a car accident before exchanging information with drivers, talking to police, or doing what is required under your state's law. Failure to do so may be a crime.
  2. You may be able to recover for your injuries even if you were partially at fault. Even drivers whose own negligence may have been partially responsible for causing their injuries may under some circumstances recover from other drivers who were also negligent. Although laws vary by state, comparative negligence allows injured parties to recover based on the percentage of their injuries caused by another person's negligence, although this may be limited to drivers who are no more than 50 percent responsible for causing their own injuries.
  3. The regular speed limit may not apply. When conditions require lowering speeds, drivers who continue to drive at the posted speed limit may be found legally liable for causing accidents.
  4. Bad weather won't excuse negligence. Bad weather also won't excuse bad driving or lack of proper vehicle maintenance. In addition to driving at a safe speed for the conditions, drivers should also leave extra space between their car and other cars, clear windshields and headlights, replace windshield wipers, and have snow chains when conditions require them.
  5. Take pictures. It may be important for a future lawsuit or insurance claim to have pictures of the accident scene. These pictures may help you prove that the accident was caused by another driver or was due to the weather conditions at the time of the accident.

To learn more about motor vehicle crashes, check out FindLaw's section on Car Accidents. And if you are injured in a chain-reaction crash, an attorney can help you explore your legal options for recovery.

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