As we all know, the more adverse the weather, the greater chances of car crashes.
The U.S Department of Transportation has suggested that approximately 10% of motor vehicle crashes in the past five years have been caused by rain. More worrying is that 27% of accidents caused by light rainfall have been fatal, while the probability of fatal accidents due to heavy rain was approximately 34%.
To put this into context, rainfall contributes to car accidents by increasing the risk of vehicle hydroplaning. But what exactly is hydroplaning? Who is at fault for a car accident if a vehicle hydroplanes and can the victim file a claim for compensation?
Here’s what you need to know about your eligibility for potential compensation when you or another driver were involved in a hydroplaning accident.
What is Hydroplaning?
Hydroplaning happens when a vehicle’s tires lose contact with the road surface. Water remains between the car’s tires and the road surface, making it harder to brake. Typically hydroplaning occurs during heavy rainfall or flooding, but it can happen in light rain when oil in the road rises to the surface.
When a vehicle momentarily loses traction and control and leads to a collision, this is what’s known as a hydroplaning accident.
Who Can Be Held Liable in a Hydroplaning Accident?
Although adverse weather conditions may primarily cause a hydroplaning accident, fault can be assigned to a person or an entity.
Typically, three primary parties may be held responsible for the accident. These parties include:
In most cases, the driver involved in the accident is held liable for the accident. This is because the law imposes a duty of care on the driver, requiring them to drive carefully and be in control of the vehicle at all times. Following a hydroplaning accident, the driver can be deemed to have acted in breach of their duty.
A manufacturer can be assigned fault in a hydroplane accident. This is potentially the case if the car hydroplaned due to a defective car part rather than a lack of maintenance. Specifically, a manufacturer can be held responsible if it can be proven that they manufactured tires that were not up to standard, contributing to the accident.
However, establishing a manufacturer’s fault in a hydroplaning accident isn’t straightforward. This is because the law in some jurisdictions would require you to prove that there is a safer alternative to the design made by the at-fault manufacturer. While this is not always easy, you can seek help from a competent and qualified personal injury attorney.
Hydroplaning accidents can also occur if the road is poorly maintained. In these cases, the accident can become the municipality’s liability. While it’s possible to assign fault to the municipality, it is often difficult.
This is because the municipality can raise multiple defenses regarding its approach to ensuring that the roads are safe. For instance, the municipality might argue that they had warning signs on the roads. But does this preclude them from liability in a hydroplane accident? Again, it depends on how the case is argued.
As such, you will need an experienced attorney to navigate a claim process involving the municipality.
How is fault determined in a hydroplaning accident?
To succeed in your claim for compensation, you must determine who was at fault for the accident.
Typically this involves proving that the at-fault party was negligent for the accident. Equally important in a claim involving negligence is proving the existence of the four essential elements of negligence which are:
- The at-fault party owed you a duty of care
- There was a breach of the duty of care owed
- Causation, or a connection between the breach and the harm or injury sustained
- You suffered damages
Can You Obtain Compensation if You Were At-Fault in a Hydroplaning Accident?
The answer depends. This is because the compensation system varies depending on the jurisdiction where the accident happened.
Some jurisdictions like Florida utilize a pure comparative law system, meaning multiple parties can be held liable for a car accident. More importantly, the law holds that a party who is partially at-fault can still be eligible to receive compensation, which will be reduced in proportion to their degree of fault.
On the other hand, Alabama uses a contributory negligence rule in car injury cases. The rule isn’t plaintiff-friendly in that it prevents the claimant from recovering damages if they are found to be partly responsible for the accident. In other words, if you are found to have contributed slightly to the accident, you may not be eligible to receive compensation.
Despite the complexity of the compensation system in each jurisdiction, you may still be eligible to receive compensation. Don’t let the complex procedural and substantive rules prevent you from pursuing a claim for compensation. Talk to a competent and qualified personal injury attorney to help you.
Injured in a Hydroplaning Accident? Contact an Experienced Personal Injury Attorney
If you or your loved one sustained an injury due to a hydroplaning accident in Florida or Alabama, act promptly to safeguard the right to receive the compensation you deserve for your injury.
Independent claimants can have a hard time navigating the claim process and typically end up unsuccessful. The fact that multiple parties can be involved in the claim process compounds the difficulty.
For this reason, you need a competent and qualified personal injury attorney by your side. At Stevenson Klotz Injury Lawyers, we have experience handling personal injury claims in Florida and Alabama, and, at the same time, we understand the compensation system in both jurisdictions.
We will work hard to ensure that your rights and interests are safeguarded throughout the claim process.
Contact us today for a free case evaluation.
FAQs About Hydroplaning
How can you avoid hydroplaning car accidents?
Drivers are advised to exercise caution when driving on the road when it’s raining. To avoid hydroplaning, they should:
- Avoid making quick or sharp turns
- Slow down when driving in wet road conditions
- Avoid puddles and standing water
- Drive in a lower gear
- Rotate tires regularly