Sometimes, it's obvious who is at fault in an automobile accident. A drunk driver who causes an accident is clearly negligent due to their decision to drink and drive; a person who runs through a red light is negligent in failing to follow the rules of the road. But what happens when it's the condition of the road that causes an accident?
There are a couple of ways in which someone might be negligent and found to be liable for an accident caused by bad weather conditions. The first would be a driver who was clearly not taking weather conditions into account while driving. All drivers know, or should know, that it takes longer to stop on icy roads; a driver who tailgates during icy conditions and ends up rear-ending another car could be considered negligent. A driver who decided to drive during rainy weather despite having broken windshield wipers could also be at fault for an accident.
The second possibility occurs when the roads are not maintained properly for poor weather. For example, roads are designed to allow water to drain away from them rather than pooling on the surface. An improperly designed road that did not allow for proper drainage could lead to standing water on the road, which could then lead to a car hydroplaning across this water and causing an accident.
This type of argument is more difficult to make because it involves technical issues. Was the road really negligently constructed – that is, did the engineers do a poor job designing the road when they should have known better? Or is it simply a case of unusually heavy rain that no one could have predicted? Without knowledge of engineering it's impossible to say, which is why an attorney may bring in an outside expert to consult and possibly testify in this type of case.
If a municipality has been lobbied to put up safety signs or knows that an area has a high accident rate but hasn't done anything about it, this is also a possible case of negligence. The key to this type of argument is knowledge; the argument rests on whether the municipality could have predicted that failing to put up signs would lead to an accident. That's why this type of case is strongest if the municipality has been asked to put up signs but has been slow in doing so (or refused to do so).
Like the engineering argument above, poor construction is another type of case that will likely involve consulting an outside expert. If the engineer or the construction company really did cut corners, then there may be a case for negligence; for example, if the company did not grade the road to the engineer's specifications, causing ice to build up on the road and leading to an accident, the company might be liable for that accident. Contact a local attorney, like Burgess & Perigard, with further questions.