The Driving Hazard You Don’t See Coming

Kentucky is notorious for the unpredictability of our weather. This roller coaster weather that Kentuckians bemoan is caused by the jet stream that falls across the state, dropping cold air down from the Great Lakes or pulling tropical moisture up from the Gulf.

It’s this deadly duo of cold and rain that can combine to create patches of black ice on our Kentucky roadways. These hard-to-spot, translucent layers of ice occur when temperatures are 32 degrees or below at the surface and rain is falling. These conditions can cause the rain to freeze on impact – posing an invisible risk for drivers who may wind up in a crash. Victims can be left with serious injuries that result in mounting medical, rehabilitation, and household bills at a time they are unable to work, and some accidents may lead to death.

If you or a loved one was injured or someone has died in a black ice accident, you may be entitled to compensation for your losses, through insurance or a lawsuit. However, insurance companies are quick to blame the driver for ice and snow accidents and will attempt to pay out as little as possible or deny claims. It is difficult to go up against them on your own, but an experience Kentucky personal injury can help by gathering evidence to determine fault and discovering what happened to ensure you receive the settlement you deserve.

Who Is at Fault for a Black Ice Accident in Kentucky?

Black ice is one of the most dangerous things to encounter on the road, as it is hard to see and it makes your vehicle hard to control. Kentucky drivers have a “duty of care,” to drive in a manner that is considered reasonably safe and responsible. When you notice conditions are favorable for black ice, remind yourself of these safety tips:

  • Reduce speed and do not use cruise control.
  • Be particularly cautious on areas where black ice is likely to form – shaded areas of the road and on bridges. Black ice is most likely in the early morning or at night.
  • If you hit a patch of black ice, remain calm. Don’t swerve unnecessarily, don’t hit your brakes – keep the speed and steering wheel steady and do not overcorrect.
  • Remove your foot from the accelerator and allow the vehicle to naturally slow down.
  • Black ice tends to form in small patches less than 10 feet long, so once you feel traction again, slowly accelerate.

If you get into a black ice accident, fault will be determined based on whether you were driving in a prudent manner for icy weather. If you were driving too fast or following another car too closely, you will likely be the one at fault.

However, there are situations where more than one driver or a third party can be to blame for a black ice accident. For example, if another driver was going too fast and slid into you, that driver would be to blame and could be held liable.  If a municipality or road maintenance company failed to salt the roads to prevent black ice, it is possible that the municipality or company may be found liable for the accident.

Insurance or Lawsuits May Cover Black-ice Accidents

Insurance companies will try to hold the driver accountable for the accident, not the weather condition that may have caused it. Kentucky car insurance covers black-ice accidents, but benefits depend on your individual policy and who is at fault.  If you have no-fault coverage, you can file a first-party insurance claim with your own insurance to recover PIP benefits, which cover up to $10,000 in medical expenses, lost income, and other potential out-of-pocket expenses.

If you have elected to opt-out of no-fault and carry traditional fault-based insurance, or your damages are greater than what PIP covers, you may be able to file a personal injury lawsuit that allows you to recover compensation.

Depending on the circumstances of the accident and the costs and seriousness of the injuries, you may be entitled to recover both economic and noneconomic damages. Economic damages are for your monetary expenses, such as costs of medical and rehabilitation expenses, lost wages if you cannot work, and any property damage. Non-economic damages are those that do not have a specific dollar value but negatively impact your life. These may include physical and emotional pain and suffering; loss of enjoyment of life, consortium, and community; scarring and disfigurement; and permanent disabilities.

To win your lawsuit, your attorney would have to prove that another party was at fault for causing the accident and therefore liable for the damages you receive. Kentucky is a pure comparative negligence state, which means you can share blame with another party. According to KS 411.482, if multiple parties contributed to the accident, a percentage of fault will be assigned to each. You can still receive an award for your damages, but your settlement amount will be reduced by the percentage of fault you are found to bear.

How to Reduce Black Ice Accidents

Awareness is the most effective accident-avoidance system when there’s black ice on the road. You should have:

Awareness of the Causes of Black Ice: An analysis of national crash data shows that most weather-related car accidents occur in Southern states – including Kentucky — due to higher levels of precipitation. We are also a border state, and states in the Midwest have the highest rate of car crashes in the snow / sleet. Being aware of the weather risks is essential to safe driving.

Awareness of Current Conditions: Since black ice poses an invisible threat, staying aware of the current temperature and precipitation can help you recognize potentially dangerous conditions quickly. If the outside temperature drops below 32 degrees, watch out!

Awareness of Your Vehicle’s Maintenance: Winter tires are made with a special rubber that helps improve traction by gripping the asphalt better. Thin or balding spots in your tire treads create a slick surface that will act against you when encountering black ice. Also, maintain wiper blades, as this helps you spot conditions favorable to black ice. Black ice first forms in shaded areas of the road or on bridges. Keep a look out for shiny, glossy, wet areas on the road that can signal danger.

Of all car accidents, 17 percent are weather-related. That is 178 weather-related crashes every day, or over 673,000 injuries each year nationwide. It CAN happen to you. Avoiding the “Not Me” mentality and staying aware of your own overconfidence can help keep you safe.

Get Help for a Black Ice Car Accident

The Johnson Law Firm helps obtain compensation for those who have been injured by a careless driver — and that includes a driver who was operating his vehicle at speeds too fast for icy road conditions or who otherwise was negligent. If you have been involved in a winter-weather wreck on Kentucky roads, contact one of the car accident attorneys at the Pikeville, KY-based Johnson Law Firm. We are ready to provide you with a free and confidential initial consultation. Call us today at 606-437-4488.

GET STARTED NOW 606-437-4488

Attorney Billy Johnson

William “Billy” Johnson grew up in the Dorton area of Pike County, Kentucky, and early on decided to stay in the beautiful Appalachian mountains. Like many others in Eastern Kentucky, Billy’s dad worked as a coal miner, a hard job but one that taught his son how to meet challenges head on and persevere. Attorney Billy Johnson has years of experience helping injured clients with claims such as car, truck, and motorcycle accidents, wrongful deaths, work injuries, and more. [ Attorney Bio ]

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