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Can Truck Drivers Be Held Liable for Weather-related Crashes?

Driving in Indiana in the winter can be scary. It’s best to stay off the roads during inclement weather unless you have to travel. Rain, snow, ice, and wind affect everything from visibility to maneuverability. Freezing rain, sleet, and snow can make large trucks harder to control and significantly increase stopping distances. If an accident does occur – especially one that involves another vehicle – the damages and injuries can be significant.

The liability for a weather-related Indiana truck crash must be analyzed on a case-by-case basis. Was the truck driver speeding or driving too fast for existing road conditions? Truck drivers are trained to drive in all types of weather conditions. They should reduce their speed to take into account deteriorating existing road and weather conditions. Truck drivers and trucking companies can be held liable if their negligence contributed to an accident.

Driving in Indiana More Risky During the Wintertime

There is no doubt that navigating Indiana roads in winter is more treacherous than during other seasons. The traffic data reflects that. Indiana Crash Facts reports that in 2014, January had the highest number of crashes reported in a single month, with 11 percent of all collisions in the state occurring in January.

Between 2010 and 2014, the winter months of December and January had the highest incidence of total collisions in Indiana. More crashes occur during the months when the weather conditions are the worst. The months of December, January, and February had the highest number of speed-related collisions in Indiana. Speed is a factor that is commonly associated with accident severity.

How Weather Affects a Truck Driver’s Ability to Control Their Vehicle

There are a number of ways that adverse weather conditions affect a truck driver’s ability to maneuver or control their vehicle. Keep in mind that large trucks can weigh 20 times as much as a standard passenger car, which affects the driver’s control of the vehicle. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation – Federal Highway Administration, the effects of adverse weather include:

  • Wind speed – affects visibility, lane obstruction, traffic speed, and vehicle performance;
  • Precipitation – affects pavement friction, visibility, lane obstruction, traffic speed, vehicle performance, and driver behavior;
  • Fog – affects traffic speed, visibility distance, driver capabilities and behavior, and accident risk; and
  • Water level – can lead to standing water on roads, lane submersion, and affect access control, accident risk, and traffic speed.

Who Is Liable for a Truck Accident Caused by Bad Weather in Indiana?

Whenever a truck accident occurs in bad weather, the tendency is to blame the weather. While weather can certainly contribute to an accident, and be part of the reason that a crash occurs, truck drivers are tasked with the duty of responding reasonably to weather conditions, and operating their vehicles in a responsible manner. An interstate posted with a 65 mile per hour speed limit may be unsafe to drive at that speed if the traffic lanes have standing water or are covered with snow or freezing rain.

For truck drivers who have to drive in ice, sleet, or snow in Indiana, a reasonable response to adverse weather conditions is to drive at a slower speed, allow for more room between their vehicle and the vehicles ahead of them, and to take other reasonable precautions – including getting off the road if conditions become treacherous.

Safety should always be a priority. When a truck driver fails to act with a reasonable level of care behind the wheel, and this failure leads to an accident with damages and injuries, the truck driver may be held liable.

When Indiana Truck Drivers Have Deadlines

It some cases, truck drivers may disregard the need to reduce speed when weather conditions dictate because of pressure by a trucking company to make a delivery by a certain deadline. While this pressure is very real, nothing is worth sacrificing the safety and well being of others. If a truck driver driver operates a semi at unsafe speeds in adverse weather, and this causes an accident, the driver may be held liable. The trucking company also may be held liable for their drivers’ negligent actions when those actions are in the course of employment. It is wise for trucking companies to encourage their drivers to take time and prioritize safety, even if it means missing a delivery deadline.

Keeping Everyone Safe on the Roads this Winter in Indiana

Winter is here. As you travel the roads of Indiana, please keep in mind that the risk of an accident is greater in the winter. By paying attention and putting away distractions, avoiding driving while impaired, and slowing down when conditions demand it, you can reduce your risk of an accident.

If you are involved in a crash this winter caused by another motorist in Indiana, our knowledgeable accident lawyers are ready to help. A trucking accident can be devastating if you have suffered serious injuries, or if you have lost a loved one. Please call our talented Indiana truck accident lawyers at the law offices of Craig, Kelley & Faultless LLC. We will help you to prove that the truck driver or trucking company involved should be held liable for damages, regardless of weather conditions. You can reach us online by filling out a contact form, and a representative from our office will get in touch with your shortly.

Since 1999 the Indianapolis legal team at Craig, Kelley & Faultless, LLC have been dedicated to helping individuals and their families who have been injured or have lost a loved one as the result of someone’s carelessness. The firm was founded by three attorneys, David Craig, William ‘BJ’ Kelley II and Scott Faultless, since then they have added attorneys and legal professionals to the team and opened four additional office locations to better serve their clients.