Drivers who do not take precautions and drive carefully in rain or snow may experience hydroplaning. The phenomenon occurs when water accumulates on the road and does not disperse quickly enough, causing a loss of traction for vehicles traveling at high speeds.
Driving in bad weather can cause serious accidents that could lead to death or severe injury. The Federal Highway Administration reports that each year, roughly 5,700 people die and another 544,700 people become injured in car accidents on wet pavement.
You need to know who could be liable if you get into an accident while driving in weather conditions like snow and ice. Our Syracuse car accident lawyers provide free consultations to help injury victims protect their rights after a crash.
Who Is at Fault in a Hydroplaning Crash?
When a car accident occurs due to hydroplaning, any of these parties might be at fault:
The driver might be at fault if they are driving with under-inflated tires. This type of minor maintenance is necessary because underinflated tires are more likely to lose their grip on the pavement. The driver might also be at fault if the reason they began hydroplaning was because they were speeding.
The treads on a car’s tires allow water to be dispersed away when the tire travels over the road. When there is a manufacturing defect in a tire, such as shallow treads, this can cause a car to hydroplane. If a tire company knowingly sold tires that don’t meet industry safety standards, they may be found to have been negligent.
New York counties, cities, towns, and villages handle snow and ice maintenance on state highways under New York Highway Law. Excess water can come from poor road design or from inadequate gutter maintenance. When too much water gathers on the road, it can cause accidents. If the local government did not clean the gutters or fix roadway defects, they may be liable for an accident.
There are several factors investigators—whether police, insurance agents, or attorneys—look at to determine who was at fault or who bears primary liability for the collision.
Photos and Videos
Photos and videos taken by the drivers involved can greatly help support an accident claim. It’s wise for all parties to promptly photograph the accident scene and damage to their vehicles before cars are moved. These on-the-scene photos should include shots of vehicle damage and conditions at the time like weather, visibility, road hazards, traffic flow, and functioning of traffic lights or signs. Such evidence provides context on contributing factors and can corroborate or refute each driver’s story.
Police reports also provide critical evidence. The officers who respond to the scene document important details like where the vehicles ended up, skid marks on the road, and any traffic violations observed. They also take statements from the drivers and eyewitnesses which gives initial accounts of what happened.
Eyewitness testimony provides additional perspectives. If there were people who saw the collision happen, their accounts help complete the picture, especially if they observed something the drivers themselves didn’t see, like one car running a red light. Their versions of events can be compared to the drivers’ testimonies for consistency.
Camera footage can help reconstruct the accident. If the intersection or area of the crash has security cameras or dashcams that captured video, it can corroborate who had the right of way or reveal other unsafe behaviors like speeding. The footage gives an unbiased record of how the accident unfolded.
Finally, accident reconstruction provides expert analysis. Specialists review all the evidence to simulate the accident and determine the most probable sequence of events. By studying the vehicle damage patterns, debris scatter, and rest positions, they can calculate speeds, angles of impact, and other key factors to advise on each party’s role in the crash.
When police and insurance companies conduct an initial investigation, the findings may not be enough to clearly establish fault, or may not be completely favorable to your side. This is where lawyers become crucial. Our Syracuse car accident attorneys know what evidence holds up best in court and how to cast doubt on unreliable witnesses or biased police reports. Rather than taking the insurance company’s assessment at face value, we can independently gather evidence to build the strongest case for your position.
Tips to Avoid Hydroplaning When Roads Are Wet or Icy
To stay safe on the roads in snowy conditions, you should buy winter tires and frequently check your tire pressure. You can also prepare for icy conditions by making sure your vehicle is in good working order. Here are more tips for safe driving on wet or snow-covered roads:
- In case of rain, give yourself extra time to travel. You should drive slowly in these conditions to give yourself extra time to stop.
- Don’t hit the brakes forcefully.
- Stay on the same path as the vehicle ahead of you.
- Leave a safe distance (minimum of three car lengths) between your car and other vehicles, so you have time to safely slow or stop when there is rain or snow.
- Stay in the center lanes of the road if possible. The water accumulates on the outside lanes due to drainage. If you remain in the inner lanes, you’ll have a lower chance of encountering standing water.
- Avoid driving through deep puddles when possible. If you have to drive through a puddle, make sure your brakes work properly afterward by pumping them a few times.
- Never drive in inclement weather unless it’s absolutely necessary.
- If you are driving over a bridge in snowy conditions, expect the surface to be more slippery than asphalt. A bridge typically freezes faster than a paved road.
- When temperatures are below freezing, be careful of black ice. It’s hard to see it on the roads and highways, but it can make driving conditions dangerous.
What to Do in a Hydroplaning Accident
The risk of hydroplaning exists in rainy and snowy conditions regardless of how carefully you drive. Here are some steps to take if this happens to you.
- Try to stay calm. Do not slam on the brakes; take your foot off the gas pedal instead.
- Keep a firm grip on your steering wheel. The car will go in the direction the driver wants if they continue to steer.
- Pump your brakes gently if you have regular brakes. If you have anti-lock brakes, then you should brake normally and not slam the brakes.
- Once you regain control of your car, proceed with caution. You need to drive slower when it’s raining or wet outside.
Contact Catalano Law After a Crash
If you have been injured in a hydroplaning crash, the car accident lawyers at Catalano Law can help. Our attorneys can review your case to determine who was at fault for the hydroplaning accident and how you can get compensation for your injuries. To get started, contact our law office for a free consultation.
Originally published December 20, 2021. Updated February 12, 2024.