Each year, many accidents in Tampa are caused by bad weather. During some seasons, Tampa can see torrential tropical storm rains and roadways can become very slick because of all the oil that’s constantly leaked from vehicles.
It may not be noticeable when it’s dry, but during a heavy rainfall, this oil can float on top of the pavement and cause a hazardous driving condition known as “hydroplaning.” Rainy weather and wet road conditions are a perfect storm for high risk driving.
If you believe another person, company or entity contributed to your bad-weather accident, you may have the right to sue for negligence. However, proving that another party should be held liable for the accident can be difficult. Hiring an experienced attorney to represent you is strongly recommended to have the best possible chance of winning compensation for your medical bills, lost wages and other damages.
Learn more about your legal rights by completing our free case review form today.
The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) reports that out of nearly six million motor vehicle accidents that happen every year in the U.S., approximately 1 in 5 (or 1.32 million) are weather-related. Nearly 6,000 people are killed and another 445,000 injured due to accidents that occur during bad weather. A vast majority of weather-related crashes happen on wet pavement (70%) and during rainfall (46%).
State-specific rates of fatal crashes associated with adverse weather conditions per billion vehicle miles traveled (source: FARS, 1994-2012)
Sometimes, in Tampa, there is a momentary downpour and a person doesn’t have much notice when severe weather strikes. Hail, lightning, blinding rain, fog and other weather phenomenon can come out of nowhere and make transportation dangerous and sometimes deadly.
For instance, in March 2017, a pilot was flying a small plane from Brooksville to Cedar Key with his fiance and 17-year-old son, when the plane crashed into the Gulf of Mexico, killing all onboard. National Transportation Safety Board investigators said it was cloudy over the accident site at the time of the crash. Clouds and fog extended from below 500 feet to about 4,000 feet, they reported, which likely contributed to the crash.
In another story, a truck driver going south on River Road in North Port, Florida hydroplaned, sliding into the northbound lane where he collided with an oncoming vehicle. The truck driver walked away uninjured, but the other driver suffered critical injuries.
To avoid tragic accidents like this and the many more that are reported every year, drivers are required to operate their vehicle in a reasonable manner that reduces the risk to themselves and others. Florida law requires operators to change their driving pattern based on weather conditions. Even though a driver may be operating under the guidelines of the speed limits set forth for a particular area, if weather conditions make that speed unsafe, that person may be liable for damages or injury caused by an accident.
The best safety advice for driving in bad weather is simple: don’t. Drivers should take note of weather conditions and be prepared to either delay their travel or operate their vehicle in a manner that will allow them to travel without putting themselves or others at risk.
However, Mother Nature is unpredictable, meaning sometimes there’s nothing you can do to avoid an oncoming storm. While there’s no way to guarantee avoiding a weather-related accident, you can—and should—take some proper precautions when driving on wet roads by following these three common sense safe driving tips:
If a driver starts to hydroplane, it’s important to stay calm, ease your foot off the gas pedal, steer towards an open space and slowly press the brake pedal. If necessary, pull over and wait for conditions to improve.
In the event of a hurricane, you should avoid driving period unless you’ve been instructed by authorities to evacuate or it’s absolutely necessary. In a flood, drive toward higher ground.
Following an accident involving bad weather in Tampa, drivers should immediately contact local law enforcement to document the scene and the vehicle’s condition. If you can, take pictures of the accident scene and weather conditions, or get someone else to take photos and send them to you.
Also, seek the appropriate medical treatment as soon as possible. If you or a loved one have been injured, contact a personal injury attorney immediately to make sure that your rights are protected as you proceed through the claims process.
How do you tell who is at fault for a bad-weather accident? While you can’t sue Mother Nature, the key to establishing liability for a car accident in bad weather (as in all personal injury claims) is negligence. Were there any contributing factors to cause the accident such as malfunctioning headlights, a pothole or poor road conditions, a wandering pedestrian or stopped car, etc.?
Many single vehicle accidents are, in fact, caused by other drivers. Even if two cars don’t come into contact with each other, another person’s driving may cause a driver to have to maneuver their vehicle in a way that causes them to hit something else or careen off the road. In these cases, your personal injury attorney will work to determine whether someone other than you is liable for the accident and, if so, pursue damages from the responsible party.
Individuals injured in single-vehicle car accidents involving bad weather in Tampa have the right to recover for their medical bills, and they might have the right to recover their pain and suffering, lost wages, lost ability to earn income and potential consortium in the case of wrongful death.
Traffic cameras can capture evidence to be used when determining liability in car accidents where weather is a contributing factor in Tampa. There is also meteorological evidence that can be gathered at the local level. Oftentimes, when an accident occurs during severe weather, law enforcement that arrives at the scene will document it in their police report.
Just because poor weather or road conditions may have contributed to an accident doesn’t mean negligence didn’t also play a role in some form. If you or a loved one have suffered due to negligence, you should speak with a knowledgeable attorney about your legal rights and if you qualify for compensation.
At Tragos, Sartes & Tragos, we specialize in bad-weather accident cases in the Tampa, Florida area. We’ve been able to secure positive outcomes for past clients with similar cases:
Most cases have lower recoveries than the ones mentioned above. You shouldn’t assume that your case will get the same results. Instead, reach out to one of our Tampa auto accident lawyers to see how much your case is worth.