Icy Weather – Snow Accidents

Icy Weather – Snow Accidents

 

As the bad weather continues to wreak havoc on our roads, Watson Woodhouse have been looking at whether the Beast from the East and Storm Emma really have any effect on your claim if you have been involved in an accident and more importantly are you insured to drive on a red weather warning?

Overnight hundreds of motorist found themselves stranded in their vehicles as the snow continued to fall across the country, the snow matched with plummeting temperatures and high winds meant that even a small journey was taking people hours. Schools today remain closed and although the red warnings have been lifted, amber and yellow warnings persist in the entire UK.

The Met Office again today warned to only drive if ‘absolutely necessary’ but where does that leave those of us who can’t work from home, or those who find themselves in an emergency. This is certainly the case for the couple who went into labour on the side of the A66 yesterday when they could not reach the hospital in time due to the weather conditions. #A66SnowBaby! It appears that apart from the few ingenious hacks that have been circulating their way round Facebook such as skiing or bobsledding to work, the rest of us have just had to brave the snow and drive. So what does this mean if you get in an accident?

Firstly lets squash the rumour that your insurance is void if you travel in red weather warnings. Kevin Pratt the Kevin Pratt, consumer affairs expert at MoneySuperMarket says;

“Your insurance cover should remain valid whatever the weather, but don’t take that as a green flag to drive without giving heed to the red alert for snow. Simply knowing you’re going to get a pay-out shouldn’t mean you take undue risks. If your insurance company can prove contributory negligence on your part, your claim might be questioned, and any pay-out reduced. For example, if you drove into a swollen ford where there was a warning in place and your car stalled and was ruined by water, your claim might not be paid. You might not even be entitled to recovery by your roadside rescue policy because you had recklessly got yourself into trouble. Same would apply if you went down a road in contravention of official road closure signs and were subsequently involved in an accident. Your home buildings insurance should cover you for the ravages of the storm, whatever its intensity.”

What this means for drivers is pretty simple, your insurance is not void or null, however the amount recoverable could be limited if you were proven to be a contributing factor to the accident or if you were reckless in your driving. It should be noted that this is case for any claim, not just snow claims, contributory negligence can be found in any weather or circumstance but it is more common in snow to somehow be at fault too. For example, if you are driving along the road and your car slides out of control and hits the car in front, but the car in front is wheel spinning in the ice and cannot move it is possible that they could be contributory at fault because they were blocking the road.

What to do if you are involved in a snow or ice accident claim?

If you are involved in any car accident then your first thought should be to Don’t Panic, Make it Right”

  • Details – Make sure you note down all the details of the other driver. Including registration number, drivers contact details and the insurer of the other party if you can.
  • Police – Notify the police if you think it is necessary. Especially in the snow with reduced visibility nearly all accidents should be reported to the police.
  • Medical Attention – It may be that you do not require medical attention at the scene. However some symptoms may not develop until a few days after. If this is the case then seek medical attention when your symptoms start to arise.
  • Record – It is helpful if you record all expenses occurred directly due to your accident. This may include taxis to work etc. Keep a record of all your receipts as when we come to claim compensation this may be taken into consideration.

How do you determine who is at fault?  

Sometimes it is very clear cut to determine who is at fault for a car accident. However, sometimes this can be tricky and not as clear cut as people think, especially in icy conditions. We have put together a rough guide on what solicitors, insurers and the courts take into consideration when looking at who is at fault for a car accident.

  1. Has a driving error occurred?
    We refer to this term as negligence and this will be looking at what the driver was or was not doing to cause that crash. Examples could be the driver failed to clear the snow properly from his mirrors and moved over to your lane causing a crash. Or, the driver didn’t take notice of your brake lights and went into the back of your vehicle. This is the first step and there need to be a driving error which has occurred.
  2. Was this error in conflict with the highway code?
    More often than not if there has been a driving error it will be in conflict with the highway code. In driving in ice or snow conditions the highway codes states you should keep well back from the road user in front as stopping distances can be ten times greater than on dry roads. Also, it states you should drive at a slow speed in as high a gear as possible; accelerate and brake very gently.
  3. Could their negligence cause injury to someone else?
    We refer to this term as foreseeability. What you the insurers will ask is, is it foreseeable that through the driving error there may be a risk if injury to someone else. For example, in snow conditions if you drive very close to the car in front and do not allow yourself enough braking distance and go into the back of their car, could this cause injury to someone else? Yes.
  4. Did the driving error cause your injury?
    This may seem similar to the above question but what it is asking is did your specific injury arise from the driving error. This part of the test aims to rule out existing injuries. However it does not only apply to injuries, it may also apply to mental disorders. For example if you are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and then are involved in an accident, you cannot claim for the PTSD as this was already present before the accident and therefore the driving error did not cause this.

Here at Watson Woodhouse we hope you enjoy the snow, we certainly are with a snowman on the roof of our headquarters in Middlesbrough. However, please take extra care when driving and keep yourself up to date with the weather conditions as we head into the weekend. If you do find yourself in an accident then contact one of our specialists today who can give you some free and confidential advice on your options.