In early January, Connecticut drivers were faced with dangerous driving conditions after rain and subsequent flash-freezing caused black ice to form on the roads. According to a FOX61 article, the police responded to 726 calls for help of which 285 involved car accidents. 30 of those accidents also involved injuries. Even more winter car accident statistics make it clear that driving in the cold can be treacherous.
Accidents involving black ice can lead to severe injuries, multi-car collisions, and even a personal injury lawsuit. Below, we will discuss driving tips as well as who can be held liable in the event of a black ice-related crash.
What Is Black Ice?
Black ice (or clear ice) is a thin layer of transparent ice that can cover the road:
- after rainfall and the temperature drops below freezing
- because of light freezing rain
- because of snow or ice melting and refreezing
Black ice is often more prevalent in areas that do not get a lot of sunlight (i.e. tunnels) as well as on elevated roads (i.e. bridges or overpasses).
Because the road is still visible and can be seen through the ice, black ice can be especially dangerous as drivers cannot see it and the road is slick. If your vehicle hits black ice, you may:
- Spin-out of control as you lose traction
- Lose complete control of your vehicle
- Hit another car or nearby objects
Tips for Driving Safely When Black Ice May Be on the Road
If temperatures are below freezing (32º) overnight or in the early morning, you should prepare for the possibility of black ice and driving more cautiously. Meaning you should consider:
- Driving under the speed limit. Traveling at high speeds can limit your control if you encounter a patch of ice. Also, if a car in front of you skids, you will have less time to react. Driving slowly can also allow you to look out for patches of the road that look shiny or glossy as this can be evidence of black ice.
- Distancing yourself from other vehicles if possible. Ensuring there is space between your car and others can also give you more time to react if another vehicle skids. If you lose control of your vehicle and skid, you will also struggle to come to a stop, and leaving space can help you to avoid involving another car in the crash.
- Maintaining your tires. If your tires are worn or have low pressure, your tires may not have enough grip or traction to help you avoid an accident or try to correct your vehicle if you slide on any ice.
- Avoiding using cruise control. While this is a convenient feature in many cars, you should maintain control of your vehicle’s course and speed at all times.
- Avoiding making sharp turns or sudden lane changes. You may lose even more traction or slide further if oversteer or make sudden turns or lane changes.
In the event you hit a patch of black ice, don’t immediately slam on the breaks. If you start to slide, you should not panic. Take your foot off the gas, and if the front of your car is skidding, turn your wheel in the opposite direction you are skidding. If the rear is skidding, turn your wheel in the same direction. If possible, aim to pull over where you can avoid other cars or objects and catch your breath.
What to Do If You Are Involved in an Accident
Skidding and losing control of your vehicle is horrifying, especially if you end up colliding with another vehicle. If you have been in an accident, you should take the following actions if possible. However, your wellbeing always takes precedence and if you are seriously injured, please prioritize getting medical attention.
- Move to safety if possible. If you slid to the middle of the road or are in a precarious position, you should try to move your vehicle to a safe location or vacate the vehicle.
- Call 911 even if there are no visible injuries. Notifying the authorities of an accident is very important. Drivers are required to call and report any vehicle accidents no matter how minor the crash is, and regardless of the severity of the accident or skidding, you should see a doctor.
- Get medical treatment. Because you are in shock, you may not even realize you are injured or hurting, and sometimes pain and symptoms are delayed for days. However, you should be seen by a doctor to ensure that you are alright. If you are seriously injured, having your injured included in your medical charts and treated is very important for your healing and a possible personal injury claim. If you didn’t get any help, the other party may question the severity or causation of your injuries.
- Obtain the names, phone numbers, license plate numbers, vehicle descriptions, and insurance information of anyone involved. You will need this information when you report the accident to your insurer. In the event any party files a personal injury claim, this information will also be needed and helpful. If there are witnesses present, their names and a statement are also valuable.
- Take photographs of any injuries, the accident scene, and property damage. weather conditions are constantly in flux, which is why pictures of the scene as close to the time of the accident are important. Photos of injuries and damages are also important pieces of evidence.
- Reach out to our experienced personal injury attorneys. At Action Law Group, our attorneys can help you navigate a claim if negligence was a factor in your accident. We are equipped to help you file a claim, take photos of the scene, negotiate a settlement, litigate, and more. The sooner you contact us, the sooner we can get to work.
Who Can Be Held Liable for Accidents Caused by Black Ice?
To successfully file a personal injury claim, you will need to prove that someone acted negligently. Specifically, it must be proven that:
- The party at fault owed you a duty of care (i.e. was obligated to take precautions to ensure your safety on the road).
- They breached that duty of care by acting or behaving recklessly.
- The filing party suffered damages that were a direct result of the breach.
With car accidents involving black ice, there can be a host of parties who may be liable for damages, including but not limited to:
- Other drivers who were not driving with due care
- Property owners who allowed snow or water to build up on their sidewalk or driveway
- Government agencies who are responsible for salting and/or maintaining the road
It is also important to note that you may also be held liable for the accident if another party can prove that your negligent actions contributed to the accident (i.e. speeding, texting while driving, etc.). Under Connecticut General Statute § 52-572h, you can still file a claim and receive damages even if you are partially at fault for the accident. However, depending on the percentage of fault you are assigned, your damages will be reduced. For instance, if you are owed $10,000 of damages but found to be 20% at -fault, you will only receive $8,000.
Determining who is liable and proving negligence can be complex, which is why you should consult with an attorney. They will have a firm understanding of the laws and will be able to work with you to investigate the circumstances of the accident. An experienced attorney can also help you develop a strategy to limit your liability and maximize your damages.
If you’ve been injured in a car accident due to someone else’s negligence, you should be able to focus on healing. Let our legal team at Action Law Group help you determine if someone can be held liable for the accident and how to proceed with a lawsuit. For an initial case consultation, reach out to us online today or call (203) 439-3143.