Winter Storms and Pile-Ups Go Hand-in-Hand on the Highways

Highway pile-ups have become a daily occurrence over the last several months, with severe winter weather causing ice-slicked roads and low-visibility snow squalls.
In fact, a recent report by USA Today indicated that between Dec. 1, 2013 and Jan. 31, 2013, there had been at least one highway pile-up per day somewhere in the country. In all of last year, there were nearly 110, with the majority of those triggered by inclement weather, mostly snow or ice, but also rain, fog and dust storms.

With North Carolina experiencing record-breaking winter conditions this year, our Asheville car accident lawyers urge motorists to exercise extreme caution, particularly as conditions can change rather rapidly and officials may not be adequately prepared to clear the roads.

It’s important to note that while we talk about these chain-reaction crashes being “caused” by winter storms, the reality is that people cause the crashes. The weather is simply a factor.

Most officials who have ever had to investigate a pile-up will tell you that it can be tough to establish fault (and therefore liability), but almost always, these crashes occur because someone or several people were traveling too fast for the conditions.

Most of these wrecks occur on highways, which makes sense when you consider these are the thoroughfares that contain the most traffic, with the majority of vehicles traveling at a relatively rapid rate of speed.

A horrific chain reaction crash on the Virginia-North Carolina border in the Fancy Gap Mountain region in April of last year involved 95 vehicles, 25 injuries and three deaths. Although message boards placed along the interstate highway warned of severe fog, some vehicles continued to travel at the posted speed – disregarding the fact that posted speed limits are created with optimal road conditions in mind.

The problem is that visibility may be fine one moment, and suddenly change the next. This is true both in fog conditions and in winter weather-related conditions.

In some ways, winter weather may be even more dangerous for those in North Carolina, as opposed to up north, because many drivers aren’t experienced in navigating in snowy, icy conditions.

All it takes is one driver to make a judgment error and within seconds, dozens of other motorists are affected by that error.

Assigning fault, however, can be a tough task. There are often dozens of witnesses, road markings, photographic evidence and vehicle damage indications to sift through. Insurance agents will often conduct investigations subsequent to law enforcement investigations, taking into account the official findings.

On average, a critically-injured auto accident victim will incur roughly $1.5 million in costs, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Association. For these individuals and their loved ones, accurate crash investigation findings are extremely important in order to ensure adequate compensation.

In some cases, it may be impossible to determine fault. That’s what happened in Ohio’s worst-ever pileup in January of last year, which involved 86 vehicles and resulted in the death of a 12-year-old. Following months of investigation, officials released hundreds of pages of findings. In the end, however, they concluded “it wasn’t possible” to figure out who was at fault.

In these situations, injured motorists and passengers will most likely be negotiating with their own insurance company for benefits.

No matter what the scenario, our experienced injury lawyers can help.

If you have been injured in an Asheville car accident, contact the Carolina injury lawyers at the Lee Law Offices today by calling 800-887-1965.

Additional Resources:
Harsh winter bringing huge toll of highway pileups, Jan. 30, 2014, By Larry Copeland and Paul Overberg, USA Today

More Blog Entries:
Third-Party Liability in South Carolina DUI Cases, Jan. 27, 2014, Asheville Car Accident Lawyer Blog

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