[Page updated 3/22/2021] Believe it or not, annually, several thousand people suffer injuries from a wide range of weather-related vehicle collisions. Many drivers try to control the drastically increased risks of driving in bad weather, but an accident can still happen. Nationwide, approximately 22% of vehicular wrecks are due to weather conditions changes (See Federal Highway Administration statistics).
By far, the most significant cause of weather-related accidents in California is due to the oil rising from wet road surfaces immediately during and after a rainstorm. Nationwide, 46% of reported collisions occur during rainfall, and 73% of those traffic collisions involve wet, slick pavement.
Naturally, many people assume they have no way of getting money for a weather-related accident because you can’t sue Mother Nature for negligence. But there are many potential defendants in cases related to accidents caused by adverse weather. And this is because many accidents related to lousy weather happen during good weather, as discussed. Ehline Law Firm Personal Injury Attorneys, APLC is one of the highest-rated, top-notch boutique law firms serving wounded clients in California.
Our staff and dedicated team of legal experts have earned their fantastic reputation due to the trustworthiness, aggressiveness, and case yield results. So if you suffered injuries in a weather-related car accident, just because only your vehicle was involved doesn’t mean you can’t get a large payout from an unknown defendant.
Because car accidents in inclement weather may have many probable causes, only a sharp legal eye can determine the reasons for the crash and the effects. ELFPI’s skilled team of attorneys stands ready to use their experience to help. Discussed below are some other not-so-discussed causes of weather-related wrecks.
Weather-related accidents are defined as wrecks in hazardous weather conditions, such as heavy winds, sleet, rain, fog, snow, or hail. Another example could include driving to your condo in Palm Desert from Los Angeles and blasted while driving through a sandstorm. Your decreased visibility and strong winds could sandblast the paint off your car and blow your vehicle off the road. Weather-related accidents can also include road debris blown onto the slick, oily pavement immediately after a fresh rain downpour.
Most wrecks are caused by human error. And this remains especially of those behind the wheel. However, some issues are caused indirectly or due to passive actions. In cases where the person or persons at fault remain unknown, you must weigh the evidence. So that way, you determine who needs to take responsibility.
You had better believe it, yes! Car accidents caused by debris and foreign materials like a spilled load from a moving or farm truck are nothing new. Also correct, litter and things falling off of trucks and cars are part of the problem. But alas, much roadside and roadway debris results from materials washed into the highway after bad weather. In a way, it is foreseeable to the road’s master (usually the government) that flooding brings with it waste products and organic materials from any myriad of conditions that can result in landslides and even sinkholes.
Also, months of trash, oil, sludge, and other items dumped into the sewers will eventually flow to and from gutters and drainage ditches. And that material often ends up in or on the side of the road. Heavy winds can scoop up these objects after the areas dry. A motorcycle rider is particularly at risk for being hit in the face and killed or blinded during these periods. And sometimes, this debris ends up on the freeway. Imagine a bunch of construction planks flowing in front of your car when traveling at freeway speeds during inclement weather.
You need to imagine trees falling into the street or the rock slides and massive boulders avalanching down steep hills, such as in Malibu Canyon. Many drivers could have avoided these mishaps if not, but a poor design that failed to account for or prepare for future substantially changed roadway conditions.
Most of all, workers conducting poor maintenance before and after a downpour causes road users to suffer severe injuries or death. For example, potholes tend to occur in high traffic areas with many big rigs and other traffic, placing loads of pressure on the asphalt’s surface or wearing course. The constant flexing and heaviness of vehicles and water’s normal expansion and contraction properties mean the base course, subbase, and subgrade of the road weakens. As a result, the surface can develop tiny cracks and fissures over time. During cold, rainy, or snowy conditions, these cracks expand and contract at an accelerated rate and expel debris onto the road, developing a pothole crack or fissure.
Once road depression gets reported in L.A. County or L.A. city by a driver appears on the road surface, local police may detour traffic with traffic safety flares and other methods. Simultaneously, maintenance crews, machinery, bright emergency traffic lights, and repair equipment should get dispatched to the danger zone. Their job is to remove broken pieces of the pavement and fill any gaps and broken details of asphalt that could harm people using the road.
Workers must assume the underlying soil around the pothole is fatigued as well. Because of this, traffic may need to be slowed and funneled into one lane after the CHP performs a round-robin, so the workers can safely set up caution signs and construction zone warnings.
Slowing traffic remains vital to protecting other motorists from possibly new breaks in the poorly supported asphalt surface. Frequently, speed “slow” signs are used by Caltrans or some other workers to get drivers to drive slower. But on vast stretches of freeway or school zones, other modern methods are used in tandem with more traditional traffic speed warnings.
Modernly, workers may deploy radar-containing machines that display the speed of the oncoming motorist. Simply put, when drivers exceed the speed limit, a message will flash, instructing them to “slow down.” The point is that adverse weather brings a whole series of countermeasures before and after seasonal conditions.
Failure to use proper road signs and detours near construction zones can spell disaster for a motorist. In other words, there are many ways someone can be liable to pay for your injury, even when the insurance company says there is no coverage. But only a great lawyer will know what to do, who, and how to pursue it. But as you can see, during repairs, signs remain an essential source of roadside information for the driver.
Mostly, it is from other drivers, construction crews, state workers, or natural occurrences. And such obstructions can be a significant impediment for motorists. How the road debris, damage, or obstruction existed on the motorway, to begin with, remains vital evidence.
If road clean-up workers left items on the road negligently, after a few days of rain, for example, the at-fault parties for doing maintenance are likely liable. In other more gray areas, such as who should take responsibility for obstructions left on the way after a severe storm or earthquake, they will need an attorney specializing in car accidents.
Ehline Law has seen similar issues in the past. For example, California DOT or Caltrans employees failed to take action after seeing a blocked roadway or walking path. Also, sometimes the responsibility for someone’s injury lies with a private maintenance provider employed or contracted by the State of California, County, or the City of Los Angeles, as examples. In these cases, injured workers and car accident victims might be an employee.
All of these above employers might be on the hook to pay for other people’s damages and injuries. So they might have to cover the people who work for them. But they will only pay if forced to do so. In other words, they must pay for your reasonable, allowable damages if the evidence shows their legal liability by proof. Attorneys are responsible for gathering that evidence and proving the case.
Sadly, injuries remain all too common after accidents involving terrible weather. Also, there are some other factors to consider carefully. For example, during pouring rain, heavy winds can blow cars and heavy trucks off the road.
There remains a possibility of detours, arterial roadway closures, such as those leading to and from urban areas. Traffic signal phasing can also become disrupted, leading to long delays due to reduced vehicle speeds and roadblocks.
Nationwide, snow or sleet on the road is responsible for around 17% of motor vehicle collisions. Although snow is not as common in Southern California, severe snowfall does happen in the state. But if the area is not expecting such a snowfall and has a high percentage of inexperienced snow drivers, it might be a good idea to stay off the road altogether. However, if you have to drive during such a time, be cognizant of other drivers on the road, put on your lights, and slow down.
Again, icy roads remain a rare situation in California unless driving in the higher elevations of Lake Arrowhead, Big Bear, Rancho Palos Verdes, Palos Verdes Estates, or Rolling Hills Estates. So you could find yourself in thin air quickly as you drive up the winding roads into the mountains. Most of all, city folks are clueless when it comes to driving in these different conditions.
Nationwide, icy roads make up around 13% of road accidents. Sadly, this fact remains true even when operating four-wheel-drive vehicles or passenger cars equipped with snow chains, for example. In particular, residents of L.A. driving to and from the Tera Nea Hotel or the Trump Golf Course must pay attention to signs of black ice and frozen roads during California’s winter months.
One of the most dangerous types of icing conditions on the roadway is called black ice. Mostly, this is water on the road that freezes once night falls. And it is often not visible to drivers at night at all. In some cases, the driver may see the ice illuminate from the headlights of the vehicle. But often, there is no time to use extra caution driving on this section of the pavement.
Having little knowledge is essential during the colder months of the year. And having access to current weather information can help. That way, drivers and their passengers can remain safer. Being prepared for icy conditions is essential when operating a motor vehicle. But drivers must also be ready for a variety of weather conditions. Any of these can result in ice forming on roadways.
A few things to remember during cooler weather are:
Nationwide, fog makes up around 3% of reported road accident causes. Any Marine driving back from weekend liberty from LA to Camp Pendleton has experienced foggy driving conditions. Anywhere along the San Diego Coast can present near zero-visibility driving conditions, so. However, fog makes up a small percentage of wrecks as a whole, in areas where there is a lot of fog, such as Carlsbad, CA.
Ice on roadways is not always from rain or freezing rain. The moisture can come from several other weather factors and temperatures around 32 degrees F or freezing.
These conditions can occur one at a time. Or they can be a combination, with more than one making the roads hazardous.
Valleys and low-lying areas often have icy road conditions when other regions may not have any problems. This is because cold air is more substantial and denser than warm air. So this causes it to move down from higher elevations, even if it’s only a minor hill.
Clear nights with relatively few clouds results in colder temperatures. And surfaces like asphalt tend to cool faster than the air above. This air causes low-lying areas to be as much as 2-5 degrees colder than elevated areas a short distance. City temperatures are warmer than in rural areas. But this is usually a double-edged sword. After all, the warmth can melt freezing rain, snow, and rain from creating slick conditions.
When the traffic slows and the evening falls, temperatures decrease. So this causes water on the roadway to freeze when the temperatures are low. There are some areas where the air may be colder than other areas. And this is referred to in meteorology terms as thermal signatures. But it isn’t easy to see at night.
Fog occurs when there is moisture in the air and temperatures drop the dew point. This moisture is thick and dense, containing large amounts of water. So it is carried by the air current and passes over roadways. And if the temperature is below freezing, it can result in severe icing in a matter of minutes. And that can happen on an otherwise clear night. Cold nights with fog blanketing a roadway has resulted in numerous serious accidents. They were due to roadway icing when temperatures dipped into the mid-’30s.
Frost is moisture that settles on the ground on cool and usually clear nights. So this forms with low wind speeds, generally under ten mph. But the creation of frost touches on infrared radiation. So these clouds absorb and emit, and warmer objects emit more infrared radiation. But on clear nights, the surface or ground emits infrared radiation without the clouds in which to reabsorb. So this is lost to space, resulting in the road surface and air cooling rapidly.
The air away from the surface is warmer, so the air’s increasing height is called an inversion. Cloudy night inversion does not occur. This inversion is because the clouds blanket the surface by preventing the quick loss of infrared radiation or heat. Air contains unseen water vapor. That vapor condenses into visible ice crystals. And the amount of water air can provide varies with the temperature.
And if the air is cooled to the dew point, the moisture cannot be held as an invisible gas in the air. This cooling forces the water vapor to condense into drops or ice crystals falling from the sky. The ground surface is cooled to near freezing temperatures from night temperatures.
And the air reaching the dew point results in frost. This frost, when the sun is out, remains unseen and melts rapidly from surfaces. All of this is from the rise in temperature or increased infrared radiation.
The more vapor there is in the air, the more frost will form. So you will see it in areas with swamps, lakes, and ponds. They will have a higher density of vapor in the air and a thicker blanket of frost.
This thin coating of ice can make it harder to stop. Also, other driving functions remain more difficult. Frost is responsible for numerous motor vehicle accidents due to the thin coating of ice on roadways it creates.
Drivers should be alert to roadway conditions when the sky is basically cloud-free and the night air temperatures are in the mid-’30s.
This is rain that has frozen due to the air temperatures or nearly frozen. Also, this may be referred to as freezing rain, sleet, or drizzle. The way this occurs is because of a layer of air. Now it is below freezing near the surface. But warmer air is above freezing higher in the atmosphere.
As the rain falls because the air higher is warm and passes through the below-freezing temperatures. Then it freezes upon hitting the surface. This rain turns into a block of glazing ice on the surfaces. Glazing happens when surfaces get cooled. Glazing can make tree limbs heavy enough to snap and power lines.
Areas of California can experience freezing rain. This freezing happens when the air temperatures are right and helped by the low-level cold. This warm rain is from the Pacific. This results in rain freezing on contact with the surface. So this makes higher elevations treacherous because of the warm Pacific weather systems.
These are coming into the coast where warm rainfalls. So the air temperatures are in the area of 32 degrees. Hence, it causes freezing rain. And in higher mountain locations of the state, it often changes over to snow. High winds can result in temperatures plummeting and result in freezing surface areas.
Groundwater in lower-lying areas and melted snow in California’s upper elevations can freeze as the temperatures drop. During the day, roadways heat up due to traffic and the warmer daytime temperatures.
This causes water seepage or melted snow to keep from freezing on the asphalt. Once the traffic slows and the night temperatures begin, this standing water or wet asphalt can freeze. So this results in dangerous driving conditions for motorists.
Roadways made of pavement, also known as blacktop roads, heat up by absorbing heat from the sun. And this melts any ice. But as soon as dusk arrives, there is no more extended heat absorption. So the road quickly cools. And if the temperatures are freezing, the seepage or melted snow freezes. This is particularly the case if there are few clouds in the sky. But this is because cloud cover acts as an insulator during cold weather.
This condition often occurs on roads that have had the snow plowed in higher elevations. And it takes place in lower elevations where there is a water source that spreads. On cold nights without cloud cover, the cold night air causes heat from the roadway. And then, with the temperatures near freezing, the wet areas turn to ice. This remains true even in low areas where cold air tends to pool.
Slush is melted snow that generally affects the higher elevations in the state of California. And this is caused when snow begins to fall rapidly. Then the road surface is warm due to the sun and traffic. But when the temperatures drop quickly or because of the lack of warm air, the partially melted snow freezes. What remains is called slush.
So basically, this is a mixture of snow and ice. Because it is much wetter than snow alone, it is more hazardous for drivers. Plus, it can turn to solid ice in the right temperatures.
Bridges often freeze before roadways become icy for one interesting reason or another. First, it may depend on the bridge’s material, as they usually are not covered with asphalt. But it might be concrete, which is a superior material for lasting roads. But concrete does not hold the same warmth as asphalt because of sun radiation and traffic.
So this means the colder the temperature, the faster the concrete bridge will become dangerous. Bridges also do not have ground beneath them. So this leaves more room for more cold air to affect the bridge’s temperature below, even when covered with pavement.
Another factor why bridges may freeze quicker than roadways is that they might not absorb the same heat. Plus, freezing rain or snow may not completely melt. If it does melt, the surface does not dry because the water may have no place to drain. When night temperatures or rapidly falling temperatures occur, the surface cools fast. So this makes a perfect condition for the liquid to freeze.
Air temperature is generally determined using a thermometer about five feet from the ground. And often, it remains in an enclosed shelter. This is how official weather reports are decided for daily and nightly temperatures. But roadway and other surface temperatures are far different than the temperature taken above the surface.
And this is since cold is more massive from moisture contained in the air. The ground temperature can be between 2 and 5 degrees cooler than the air temperature. This is why frost can occur even when the air temperature is between 35 and 37 degrees. And this is a temperature that is above freezing.
During the day, the road temperature can often be warmer than the air temperature. But this is due to cars and trucks warming the surface, along with the sun’s radiation. Once the night temperature falls and traffic decreases, the warmth of the surface decreases. And on nights that have few clouds, the surface temperature cools rapidly. Icing conditions can occur when the surface temperature hits 32 degrees. And, in that case, the air temperature may be as high as 37 degrees.
Temperature changes during icy conditions can mean the ice changes and can become more slippery. This warming happens because of the scientific way ice is formed on surfaces. Ice has a thin layer of water on the outside, even when the temperatures are below freezing. This layer of water makes the ice slippery. And it is thickest when the temperature nears freezing. And then the ice thins when the temperature well below 32 degrees.
This creates a condition where the ice is the most slippery when the temperatures are between 26 and 32 degrees. When the temperature reaches single digits and below 0 degrees, the ice becomes less slippery. Motorists should be cautious when the air temperature is between 32 and 26 degrees. And this is since the ice on roadways will be the most dangerous.
Trees near roadways can cause shading of the surface as well as hills and other objects. And this can result in the potential icing of roads. Trees that overhang on roadways or objects covering the street can block the loss of infrared heating from the sun.
Frost is commonly seen on grass blades and other surfaces like roads and driveways. But maybe not if the car was parked underneath a carport. This is because the carport roof would have reduced the amount of heat loss or air-containing moisture.
The other side of this is roadways that do become icy and have tree cover may remain icy much later into the day. This is because the tree cover is shielding the pavement from absorbing infrared heat from the sun. So until the sun moves to a location where the roadway can absorb the heat, it remains icy.
Because drivers may not consider this situation, this might last later or even all day. This is where motorists can hit unexpected areas of ice protected by shade. So this leads to car accidents that are often fatal.
Nights that are clear and cold can result in the surface losing heat quickly. And this generally occurs within the first three or four hours after sunset. The temperatures can even begin falling before sunset on surfaces such as roadway areas with shade from trees and other objects.
This can create icing conditions on these parts of the roadway earlier in the day in colder temperatures. And the temperature of the surface will continue to drop more rapidly than other areas if there are no clouds or fog. Temperatures will fall slowly during the night and be the lowest near sunrise or a short time after sunrise.
Nights that have fog will have fewer ice conditions on surfaces than clear nights. This is because the mist acts as a thermal blanket. But the nights that have icing remain the largest threat between the hours of 5:00 a.m. and 8:00 a.m.
During months of cool or cold weather, motorists may be safer using some of the information above.
Ice sheets can form on the road surfaces in parts of the Golden State. Icy conditions reduce reaction times. Vehicle control remains severely compromised. California drivers not accustomed to icy road conditions are at particular risk of losing control. So when traversing frosty locations, use caution. In other words, slow way down.
Even in some types of inclement weather, one driver may fail to take certain actions that could avoid the accident, or he or she could be acting recklessly. Here, the weather can play a role, causing issues with water pooling or poor visibility.
A sinking car during a flood or storm is a nightmare. It’s not a matter of fact or fiction. Drivers and parents alike fear the possibility that their vehicle will careen off the road into the water. Standing and flowing water are both threats to drivers and occupants.
Each person in the car should know how to escape such a situation. This is even more dangerous, considering that hundreds die each year from just this situation.
It is easier than thought to escape from such a situation. Learning how only takes several minutes but can be the most valuable thing you learn today. There are specialized tools that knock out windows in case they are sealed shut. Roll down the windows and get ready to head out. Get out the front as the back windows probably won’t roll down all the way. There’s little chance to get out through the door. There’s also no chance an ambulance or fireman can get you out. You’re on your own.
Mythbusters even did an episode showing the risk and response to a sinking car. These types of issues are a real risk for drivers. A bridge issue or driving off a bank is not uncommon. Submerged cars are a unique danger to drivers. A car accident is a risk we all face. Floods and wet areas present these risks more than in dry areas. But this may not always be true. Flash floods happen in desert areas, and dams can break in dry areas.
So know what is needed to protect your family. You don’t want to be in a situation where you don’t know what is expected of you. There’s still time to learn. Furthermore, you owe it to your loved ones. Each one of these tips can save a life.
Smartphones have completely reconfigured how people act in day-to-day life. The modern smartphone can do just about anything– from simple calls to texts to apps that allow you to fit an office in your pocket. All of these different tools play important roles in an effective work ethic and just plain wasting time.
It’s like a Swiss Army knife. If you catch a splinter, it has tweezers. And it even has a magnifying glass to get it quickly. So too, your modern smartphones, not just Apple ones, can do many things to help piece together what happened after an accident and even notify authorities.
Fortunately, many apps have a beneficial purpose and can be used to make your life much more comfortable. Such is the case after a bad weather car accident. Heck, you can take pictures of the scene for any potential future litigation. You can take even notes on your phone, so you don’t forget.
You can use the recorder for interviewing witnesses to determine what exactly happened. However, many iPhone users don’t realize that the phone can establish where accident victims could be.
The popular Find My iPhone app has been deployed for many things, including finding your lost phone, but in San Jose, California, the app saved a woman’s life. Her car crashed down a ravine, and rescuers relied upon the apps’ help. Rescuers used the app, as reported by ABC 7, to locate and rescue the trapped woman. Her rescuers could not rely upon the woman’s OnStar system, so they relied upon desperate measures to track down her location. She crashed her car down a 500-foot ravine, so without her phone, she would likely be dead. Her case may seem extraordinary, but with some technological advances, driving has become safer.
Unfortunately, for many drivers poor weather, bad drivers, or technical issues, the chance of a crash is still out there. When involved in such an accident, it is essential to find the best medical and legal care possible to get you to a positive solution. For more information or a free consultation, please call or email Ehline Law today. Our legal experts stand ready to answer your call or email 24/7.
When faced with an accident partially caused by weather, it is vital to have a legal expert specialized in weather-related accidents and personal injury. The lawyers at Ehline Law have faced similar cases before. Also, we have won hundreds of crash cases for our clients. We’ve become experts at dealing with car, motorcycle, and truck accidents. And we want to use that experience for you.
We work on contingency. So we’re not asking for a penny unless we win for you. But we can help you find appropriate medical care as you need it. Additionally, in some cases, we can help you find ways to pay for it. For more information or to schedule a free, no-pressure consultation, please fill out our email form to the right. Or call us right now at (213) 596-9642 to discover your rights.
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