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How do road conditions impact a truck accident case?

Trucking companies often like to downplay their liability by trying to blame a crash on road conditions, rather than their driver's negligence. Why do trucking companies try to blame road conditions? Well, put simply, they do so because don't want to compensate you for your injuries that their driver caused.

There are a number of defenses that trucking companies use to try and avoid liability. Blaming a driver's misconduct on road conditions is one of the more ridiculous tactics, but it is also one of the more common. In this article we'll discuss this strategy and how we effectively defeat it through evidence and argument.


Questions Answered in This Article

  • How do road conditions impact a truck accident case?
  • If roads are icy or covered in rain, will that hurt my case?
  • How do you verify road conditions in a truck accident case?

So, what are road conditions?

Put simply, road conditions are the status of the road you're driving on. For example, when there's a snow and ice storm, a meteorologist might advise viewers that road conditions are icy and that roads in the area should be avoided until the ice has melted? If a driver of a semi-truck decided to ignore such a warning to make sure their freight arrived on schedule, you could see how a crash might result. To avoid taking legal responsibility for the costs of that crash, the trucking company's defense attorneys would likely argue that bad road conditions were the cause of the accident and not their driver's negligence.

Why do Trucking Companies Make This Argument?

To put it plainly, trucking companies are trying to pay as little as they can in compensation for crashes. If they can attribute any percentage of blame on another circumstance, like road conditions, that saves them money, even if the argument itself is dubious.

Placing Blame on Road Conditions

There are several road conditions the defendants may attempt to use to skirt liability, placing the blame on someone or something else. Here are some of the common road conditions that we've seen defense attorneys use to shift blame away from the trucker:

  1. Construction Zones: These areas can honestly be a driver's worst nightmare, regardless of what vehicle they're in, but they can be especially challenging for large, long vehicles like 18-wheelers. The lanes are changing at various times and only temporarily, so you could be driving a road at the end of the day that will act completely different from the beginning of the day. Plus, this means there are crews on the road, there are road cones and signs, there are speed fluctuations, and even some areas that are off-limits (leading traffic to shift in dangerous ways). Trucking company attorneys will use these crews and their equipment as scapegoats for responsibility.
  2. Bad Weather: There's no denying that bad weather causes accidents. However, a light misting rain is not something that a defense attorney should be blaming your trucking accident on. There's regular weather (as well all know: rain, cloudiness, etc.) and then there's bad weather (thunderstorms, hail, ice and snow). We all know the difference, and yet some defendants will attempt to use this excuse, even when the weather had almost nothing to do with the crash. What's more, even when the weather is severe, a professional driver has an obligation to modify their speed and driving behavior for the weather conditions, or, if necessary, to pull over altogether. If they fail to do so and a crash results, their carelessness makes them and their employer liable.
  3. Debris: We've all been behind that one vehicle that has furniture or ladders stacked up high in their trunk or tailgate, with all of it barely tied down, if at all. Most of us probably get nervous, keep our distance, and hope something doesn't fall out. But we all know that sometimes it does. Consequently, debris in the road is a common occurrence. We tend to swerve around it, safely passing by, but that doesn't mean all other drivers are able to do the same. A truck driver may be distracted, and instead of swerving, hit the debris, which ends up sending him crashing into you. If your case is anything like all the other trucking accident cases we've handled, the insurance company and their legal team will attempt to use the poor securement of the vehicle that dropped the debris as their ultimate excuse.

There are also plenty of other excuses related to road conditions that a trucking company might try to argue in an accident case. They'll say the construction crew was to blame for misplacing signage, when actually their driver had a responsibility to keep their eyes open for the signs. They'll state that it was raining heavily, but weather reports from that day only mention a little rain. They'll say that there was debris in the road, when it may have just been a drive thru soda cup. We know this sounds exaggerated, but really, it's what they'll do. They want to lessen the payout they owe to you, any way that they can.

Example of This Argument in Action

We had a case in Arkansas where an 18-wheeler crashed into several cars that had slowed for traffic. Even though it came out that the truck driver was on drugs, speeding, and made no attempt to brake before impact, the trucking company still tried to argue that the surface of the roadway was not conducive to braking. It's all an attempt to lessen the amount they have to pay out at the end of the case.

Variations on This Argument

How are trucking companies legally allowed to make this defense? Everyone is provided the opportunity to defend themselves. That means their attorneys are entitled to suggest whatever alternative explanations they like for how the accident occurred, whether plausible or not.

There are two specific legal defenses that are permitted:

  1. Sudden emergency defense - One can argue that the negligence was simply an improper reaction to an emergency. Let's say a vehicle is driving along the roadway and a tornado drops from the sky. That's a legitimate emergency. And if a car swerves into another lanes striking another vehicle, it could be argued that this was simply an unavoidable reaction in response to the emergency.
  2. 3rd party defense - If there was a situation like another vehicle spilling sand onto the roadway, loose gravel on the roadway, etc., these create a possible 3rd party defense, or an argument that the crash would not have occurred absent the contributions of another person or entity. But this is often a defense that is exploited in an attempt to lessen the amount of compensation trucking company will owe to the plaintiff.

Grossman Law Offices Knows How To Counter The Road Conditions Defense

At Grossman Law Offices, we've seen and overcome these defenses time and time again. We've seen insurance companies flat out deny compensation, even when the road conditions they cite had little or nothing to do with a collision. Because of our 25 years of litigating truck accident cases, we know what they'll argue, and we know what to offer as a rebuttal. We seek out evidence (stop-light cameras, as an example) that will show there were no bad weather conditions. We hire accident reconstructionists to go to the scene, determining if there really was construction zone hazards or roadside debris. We know how to effectively combat this defense. Call us now at (855) 326-0000 for a free evaluation of your case.


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