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Who is at Fault When Hydroplaning Causes a Car Accident?

It’s raining. The roads are slick. It’s only “an accident waiting to happen” until, all of a sudden, it does happen! Your car loses control and hydroplanes into another, causing an accident. Unfortunately, blaming the weather is unlikely to be an effective defense. Instead, the driver of the vehicle that has hydroplaned is typically held responsible… but is that always the case?

What is Hydroplaning?

Hydroplaning is a driving condition that occurs when water causes a car’s tires to lose contact with the road surface beneath, resulting in a loss of control. Essentially, the car begins to “ride” the standing water beneath it, impacting the ability of the driver to brake or steer the vehicle effectively. The driver is merely “along for the ride” at that point.

Can you Prevent Hydroplaning?

While we cannot control mother nature or the weather, certain practical steps can be taken to make our vehicles less susceptible to hydroplaning and, therefore, less likely to be involved in this type of accident. Some helpful methods include:

– Regularly inspecting your tires to ensure they have the proper air, tread, and traction

– Slowing down and driving below the speed limit during poor weather conditions

– Balancing and rotating your tires every 7,000-10,000 miles

– Avoiding the use of cruise control while it is raining to maintain better control of the vehicle

– Never breaking when driving over a puddle of water

– Minimizing sharp turns to the greatest extent possible

Is the driver always liable for their Hydroplaning Accident?

As stated earlier, it is typically the driver of the hydroplaning vehicle who is deemed responsible for an accident that occurs in connection with this loss of control. However, there may be occasional exceptions when other parties may be held accountable, potentially including:

City or State Government: It is challenging to prove, but the municipality responsible for the upkeep and maintenance of the road may be held at fault for the accident if the road is in poor condition. Suppose road defects, improper maintenance, or other hazards that weren’t warned through proper signage played a role in the accident. In that case, it may be possible to argue that a particular governmental jurisdiction is at fault.

Vehicle Manufacturer or Autobody Shop: It is possible that the manufacturer of the vehicle involved in the crash could be found at fault if your tires or brakes failed due to faulty equipment. Additionally, if an auto body shop knowingly sold tires with inadequate tread, they could be held responsible.

What happens after a Hydroplaning Accident?

While hydroplaning tends to be recognized as an at-fault collision, it is still possible to obtain coverage for automobile damages through your insurance, depending on your policy. It is important to contact them as soon as possible to discuss the options. Additionally, suppose you have collision insurance, an optional coverage. In that case, the insurance company must pay to repair or replace your vehicle minus the deductible, even if you are at fault.

Medical bills can accumulate quickly in hydroplaning accidents, as with any auto crash. If you have a Personal Injury Protection policy (PIP), you may receive some coverage for medical expenses. Additionally, this type of policy can also cover lost wages due to the result of the accident. A PIP policy will protect you regardless of who is determined to have been at fault. While they are not mandatory in Maryland, it is something highly recommended considering such a policy can save significant expenses in times of emergency.

Be prepared and stay safe

Remember, there are several ways you can reduce your chances of being involved in an accident caused by hydroplaning. First, always remember not to hit your brakes hard should you encounter a water covered area of pavement. However, if you begin to hydroplane, turn your steering wheel in the same direction your car is going. While this can be tricky because it goes against our instincts to try to turn the car to correct the direction, it is an effective method of regaining control.

Hydroplaning can happen in any precipitation, not only during heavy rains. Even a light sprinkle, or the period just after it rains, can generate ripe conditions for this type of accident. It is essential to stay aware of your surroundings and the conditions on the road. While we cannot control climate, it is a driver’s responsibility to maintain control of their vehicle and use appropriate levels of caution while driving in adverse weather conditions.

Should you encounter a weather-related issue and become involved in a hydroplaning accident, you should immediately contact the experienced lawyers at Krum, Gergely & Oates to investigate who should be held liable. It may not be you!