How to Determine Fault in a Hydroplaning Accident - Catalano Law

How to Determine Fault in a Hydroplaning Accident

Driving under adverse weather conditions, such as heavy rain, snow, ice, or slush, increases the chances of a hazardous driving condition called hydroplaning. According to one study, rain contributed to 90.8% of single-vehicle and 78.9% of multiple-vehicle hydroplaning accidents, leading to severe injuries or death.

Knowing how hydroplaning happens and the factors determining liability is crucial to understanding who is responsible for a hydroplaning accident. Read further to learn the ins and outs of hydroplaning, liability factors, and how Catalano Law can help you seek compensation after an accident.

What is Hydroplaning?

Hydroplaning, also known as aquaplaning, is a term used to describe the loss of traction that happens when your vehicle’s tires lose contact with the road surface. Hydroplaning occurs when your tires cannot grip the road due to a surface layer of water.

When driving under rainy conditions, the treads of your tires are designed to catch and expel the water on the road to the sides, allowing your vehicle to maintain enough grip to drive safely on wet surfaces.

If there is more water than the tires can push away, they risk losing contact with the road surface, effectively skidding on water instead of asphalt. When this happens, the driver briefly loses control over their vehicle, significantly increasing the risk of an accident.

How Common are Hydroplaning Accidents?

According to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), approximately 5.8 million vehicle crashes yearly are weather-related.

Ten-year average statistics collected by the FHWA show that wet pavement, the condition most likely to result in aquaplaning, is a significant factor in 70% of weather-related crashes and 15% of all vehicle crashes nationwide.

Common Liability Factors in Hydroplaning Accidents

While many cases of hydroplaning are unavoidable due to the weather, drivers remain responsible for negotiating water-covered pavement as safely as possible.

Three examples of situations where a driver may be liable for a hydroplaning accident include:

  1. Excessive Speed

Although most car tires are designed to evacuate water with their treads, their capacity is limited, and they need sufficient time to push the water out and allow the tire surface to grip the road again.

The most efficient way of ensuring the treads are working as intended is to slow down. Even driving at the posted limit may be too fast in some cases, as hydroplaning may occur at speeds as low as 35 mph, depending on the water depth and road conditions.

Excessive vehicle speed under rainy conditions compounds the existing dangers of speeding with those of hydroplaning, significantly increasing the risk of a total loss of vehicle control.

  1. Aggressive Swerving

Attempting to turn a vehicle with little to no traction, such as when hydroplaning, increases the risk of drifting or skidding. This causes the vehicle to travel sideways and increases the risk of spinning out and causing a severe accident.

Drivers who swerve or change lanes too aggressively over wet road surfaces are at a heightened risk of causing hydroplaning accidents.

  1. Driving with Worn Tires

The average tread depth of a brand-new tire ranges between 10/32 and 11/32 of an inch or about 8 to 9 millimeters. According to the New York Codes, Rules, and Regulations, it is illegal for a vehicle to have any tire with a tread depth of less than 2/32 of an inch.

However, the more a vehicle’s tires are worn out, the lower the depth of their treads. Worn-out tires cannot displace water as effectively, meaning the minimum water depth at which a hydroplaning event occurs decreases.

A driver causing a hydroplaning accident may be liable if it can be proven they failed to replace their tires or knowingly drove on poorly maintained tires.

What Other Parties May Be Liable for Hydroplaning Accidents?

In some cases, the at-fault party for a hydroplaning accident may not be the driver that lost control of their vehicle. For example, if another driver acted recklessly on the road and forced you to make a sudden move, they may have caused your vehicle to hydroplane and crash. In that case, they may be liable for the damages and injuries you sustained.

Tires with manufacturing defects may have a lower tread depth than the factory standard. The manufacturer may be liable for your damages if you are involved in a hydroplaning accident due to a defective tire.

Your local or state government entity is also responsible for keeping the roads in good condition and adequately drained. They might be responsible for the hydroplaning accidents if they did not maintain the roadway.

Catalano Law is on Your Side

If you or a loved one has been injured in a hydroplaning accident or another weather-related car crash, Catalano Law’s skilled auto accident lawyers can help. We’ve helped thousands of people just like you to get the financial compensation they deserve.

Find out for yourself what Catalano Law can do by contacting us for a free consultation today. It won’t cost you anything to tell us your story. If we take your case, we’ll work on contingency so you won’t have to worry about out-of-pocket expenses. 

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