THE ROLE OF WEATHER IN PERSONAL INJURY MATTERS
“How’s the weather today?” – it’s one of the most frequently used conversation starters, but little do people realize just how big a role weather can play in a personal injury matter. The two biggest types of personal injury practice where weather can become a critical factor are in slip & fall events and motor vehicle accidents. With November just beginning, we will soon see the weather change – colder and wetter: two ingredients which can spell disaster if due care and caution are not taken.
Weather-Related Slip & Falls
It comes as no surprise that weather can play a huge role in slip & fall events, especially in the winter time. What people may not realize is that just because your neighbor slipped and fell on ice on your property, doesn’t necessarily mean you are completely liable for the event. In fact, in many instances, liability turns on the defendant had notice of the icy condition and the amount of time he or she had to remedy the situation.
It is becoming increasingly more common for many townships to institute local ordinances with regards to snow and ice remediation or removal. In fact, many insurance companies are seizing upon the opportunity these ordinances provide to excuse their insureds from liability. Nonetheless, New Jersey case law has made clear that snow removal ordinances will not serve to severe a homeowner’s liability, where the homeowner has had notice of the hazardous condition and more than adequate opportunity to remediate the hazardous condition but has neglected to do so.
Weather Conditions & Motor Vehicle Accidents
When you’re in a car accident there are a number of factors that go into determining fault, such as the state’s fault laws – New Jersey being a “no-fault” state – the exact circumstances of the accident, the reports of the people involved and witnesses, police, first responders, and more.
Even so, yet another important factor that a good plaintiff’s attorney must take into account in determining fault in a motor vehicle accident, is the prevailing weather conditions at the time and scene of the accident. Obviously, negligence is an important factor in every accident case, and when it comes to weather, there are many weather-related variables which can come into play when determining negligence in a motor vehicle accident, including road conditions – Was the road wet from rain, or slippery due to snow or ice? – and visibility – Was it raining or snowing too hard to see? Was there low visibility due to heavy fog or mist? These weather-related factors, when combined with the typical accident-causing factors like speed, the driver’s degree of distraction, or the presence of drugs or alcohol, can often be the key tipping point factors which contribute to the accident in terms of causation.
When the insurers and jury look at an injury case, they will consider not just the weather conditions, but whether the drivers were behaving properly given those conditions.
NOAA & Personal Injury Litigation
In personal injury litigation, establishing just what the prevailing weather conditions were at a given time – the time of the accident or slip & fall – is critical, especially when those weather conditions played a part in causing the accident to occur. Luckily, the government administration called NOAA – the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration – provides a service through their National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) which serves as the official archiving facility for U.S. climatic data records and can provide exact copies of those records on file. These authenticated weather records can then be admitted into evidence in personal injury litigation. From meteorological data to hourly surface weather conditions, the reports that NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center provide can help prove or disprove theories of liability in personal injury litigation.
Hiring an Experienced Personal Injury Attorney
If you’re involved in an accident, you will need help proving fault and that the other driver’s negligence, given the prevailing inclement weather, was the proximate cause of the collision. Similarly, if you were involved in a slip & fall event, you will need to establish that there was, in fact, a hazardous weather condition which caused you to slip and fall, thus sustaining injury. The experienced personal injury attorneys at Drinkwater & Goldstein, LLP know what resources are available to prove the relevant weather conditions on the date of the subject event, know how to use this data to prove your case, and know how to get you the financial recovery you deserve.
Call the Law Offices of Drinkwater & Goldstein, LLP today at (856) 753-5131 for a free over the phone consultation regarding your personal injury matter. There is no charge to you unless we recover on your behalf!