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How can I Prevent a Winter Car Accident?

January 14, 2021

In Virginia, many drivers are unprepared for the cold weather and hazardous road conditions, but there are several ways motorists can prepare for the winter months. Driving in the winter can be treacherous. In fact, 70 percent of snow-related fatalities are caused by car accidents. There are several reasons why driving during the colder months is more dangerous than other times of the year. Winter driving hazards include:

  • Poor visibility due to snowfall.
  • Poor traction on wet and icy roads.
  • Reckless or inexperienced drivers.
  • Snow and ice falling from moving vehicles.
  • Freezing temperatures affect vehicle performance.
  • People involved in accidents or breakdowns risk hypothermia.

How to Drive Safely in the Snow

It can be stressful to drive in the snow. It requires a bit of extra patience and caution to navigate slick roads safely. Follow these tips to prevent a car accident this winter.

Clean Off the Car

Everyone must scrape ice and snow from their vehicles; it is important to do so to increase visibility. Do not forget to clear the top of the car or large chunks of ice and snow can fall off when moving and hit other vehicles or people. Lights and mirrors should be completely clear before departing as well.

Do Not Rush

If one must travel in the snow, it is important to include some extra time in one’s schedule. Account for time to remove snow from the vehicle and heat it up. Since drivers have to go slower in bad weather, travel takes much longer. Leaving too late and feeling rushed can cause drivers to take unnecessary risks. Driving too fast on ice and snow increases the chance of skidding or spinning out of control.

Adjust Driving

Beyond just slowing down, winter driving requires a few other adjustments. Since it takes more time and space to come to a stop on a slick road, a driver should increase their following distance to eight to 10 seconds. Avoid sudden stops and starts, and slow down gradually before entering turns. In a skid, steer in the direction of the skid until the wheels regain traction. Never use cruise control in bad weather.

Winterize the Vehicle

Breaking down is more dangerous in winter because of freezing temperatures. An unmaintained vehicle is more likely to stall. Tire blowouts, worn-out brakes, and other failures can also lead to serious accidents. Winterizing a vehicle before it gets cold helps it runs smoothly and safely all season long. A driver should check the following:

  • Battery: Check for a good charge and rust or corrosion, replace if it is necessary.
  • Brakes: Look for excess wear and tear, replace brake pads when it is needed.
  • Fluids: Fill wiper fluid, anti-freeze, oil, and other fluids.
  • Lights: Clean glass and replace worn-out bulbs.
  • Tires: Check for sufficient tread and air pressure.
  • Wipers: Replace blades annually or when they are damaged.

Schedule a regular service appointment every year at the end of summer to be prepared for winter.

Always Have an Emergency Kit

It is also necessary to be prepared in the event of a winter car accident. Every vehicle should have an emergency kit on board to protect the occupants until help arrives. A car emergency kit should include the following:

  • Water
  • Non-perishable snacks
  • Basic first aid kit
  • Portable phone chargers
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • Warm blankets
  • Hand and foot warmers
  • Hats, gloves, and scarves
  • Flares and reflective warning triangles

Take Steps to Stay Safe After a Cold-Weather Car Accident

Although it can be frightening, try to stay calm and collected when involved in a car accident in the snow. Some important tips after a collision include:

Stay at the scene. In remote areas, do not attempt to leave the scene to go for assistance, especially in freezing temperatures. Use blankets, gloves, and hats to stay warm until help arrives.

Assess the accident scene: Look to see if anyone is hurt, but do not try to move anyone with serious injuries. If it is possible to do so safely, move vehicles out of the way of traffic to avoid additional collisions.

Call for help. Cooperate with first responders and relay the details of the moments leading up to the accident. If another driver was speeding, texting, or otherwise reckless, mention this to the police.

See a doctor when it is possible. If emergency treatment at the scene is not needed, anyone involved in a car accident should always get checked out by a doctor to rule out serious injuries.

Schedule a legal consultation. Car accidents are costly. There are medical bills for injuries, lost income for those unable to work, and damage to vehicles and other property. With the assistance of a lawyer, injured parties can pursue a legal claim for compensation.

Call the insurance company. Every accident must be reported to both insurance companies. In many cases, the auto insurance provider for the at-fault driver will propose a financial settlement. Ask a lawyer if it makes sense to take the settlement or pursue a different legal course of action.

Contributory Negligence and Winter Car Accidents

In Virginia, recovering damages for injuries and other types of losses is more challenging than in other states. Virginia employs the principle of contributory negligence. Unless a plaintiff can prove the at-fault driver is 100 percent responsible for the accident, they cannot recover and damages. If a plaintiff is even one percent to blame for the crash, they are not entitled to receive any compensation.

What Types of Damages are Available?

It is wise to consult with an experienced lawyer to handle a car accident claim. It takes skill and careful attention to detail to build a case to prove one party is at fault for a crash. When a lawsuit is successful, damages can include:

  • Car repairs
  • Co-pays for medications
  • Medical treatment
  • Lost income

The above damages are considered economic damages. Economic damages are expenses that are easily quantified and documented with medical bills, pay stubs, and receipts.

Non-economic damages are not easy to calculate, but they are still important. Non-economic damages involve physical pain, mental anguish, and the loss of enjoyment of life’s daily activities. These losses are just as devastating as the loss of income. Virginia allows injured parties to be compensated for non-economic losses. In rare cases, punitive damages are also awarded. Punitive damages are used to penalize a person or agency for especially egregious behavior, like drunk driving.

There are time limits for filing a car accident claim in Virginia. Most individuals have up to two years to file a personal injury lawsuit. For accidents involving infants, the statue of limitations is extended to five years.

There are many steps drivers can take to practice safe driving in the winter. When an accident cannot be avoided, make an appointment with a lawyer to discuss available legal options.

Virginia Beach Car Accident Lawyers Help Clients After Serious Winter Collisions

Winter is a dangerous time for drivers. If you were injured in an accident, contact one of our Virginia Beach car accident lawyers today. At East Coast Trial Lawyers, we protect the rights of car accident victims. Call us at 757-352-2237 or contact us online for a free consultation. Located in Virginia Beach, Virginia, we serve clients throughout Chesapeake, Eastern Shore, Hampton, Newport News, Norfolk, Portsmouth, and Suffolk, Virginia, as well as North Carolina and nationwide.

Areas We Serve

Our law firm proudly serves clients injured anywhere in Virginia or North Carolina on personal injury claims, including cases with traumatic brain injury, spinal and neck injury, wrongful death, and more serious injuries. As Virginia Beach personal injury attorneys with many years experience, our team of lawyers will be ready to fight for you. If you were injured on the job, our Virginia Beach Workers Compensation lawyers are ready to serve you.

Call 757-352-2237 or fill out the online contact form for a free consultation about your personal injury, workers compensation, or other attorney services. Our firm adopts a team approach to every case, so while one primary lawyer will be assigned to your case, you have the benefit of an experienced team of lawyers, all working on your side. We are located in Virginia Beach, VA, and serve clients who were injured anywhere in Virginia or North Carolina.

301 Bendix Road, Suite 460
Virginia Beach VA 23452
Ph: 757-352-2237 | Fax: 757-352-2220