Roadway Conditions & Weather Related Factors in Truck Collisions

The Chicago Attorneys of Zneimer & Zneimer, P.C. understand that the negligence of truck drivers, trucking companies, and other motorists, can each play a role in an accident involving a large truck. However, just like with cargo-related issues, roadway conditions and weather can contribute to both the cause and extent of an accident as well.

With regard to weather conditions, rare is the case where a motorist can effectively defend a matter by proclaiming that the weather alone was the cause of an accident. There are indeed rare cases, such as when lightning strikes a vehicle, or the immediate onset of thick fog causes a pile-up, which can either provide a valid defense and/or reduce a party’s percentage of liability. However, these scenarios are far and few between.

By and far, truck accidents in which weather was recognized as a contributing factor, more commonly occur in combination with the negligent actions of another. For example, both motorists and truck drivers are commonly issued traffic citations, either for following too closely or too fast, given the conditions. Yet, a citation need not be issued in an accident in order for liability to be established against an individual alleged to have caused a truck accident. Rather, all that is necessary is sufficient evidence proving that a driver breached a standard of care, or duty, owed to another.

In addition to standards of reasonableness required of all persons that operate a motor vehicle, commercial truck drivers are held to a heightened standard when traveling in hazardous conditions. Pursuant to 49 CFR 392.14:

Extreme caution in the operation of a commercial motor vehicle shall be exercised when hazardous conditions, such as those caused by snow, ice, sleet, fog, mist, rain, dust, or smoke, adversely affect visibility or traction. Speed shall be reduced when such conditions exist. If conditions become sufficiently dangerous, the operation of the commercial motor vehicle shall be discontinued and shall not be resumed until the commercial motor vehicle can be safely operated. Whenever compliance with the foregoing provisions of this rule increases hazard to passengers, the commercial motor vehicle may be operated to the nearest point at which the safety of passengers is assured.

In some cases, negligence can be attributed to a third party or entity, even though they were not actually involved in the accident. For example, failure to properly clear roadways during inclement weather, as well as failure to adequately warn motorists of known dangers along roadways, can sometimes result in liability being directed at additional parties. These types of incidents coincide with the second category of accidents discussed herein---roadway condition related truck collisions.

Trucking accidents associated with roadway conditions can occur in a variety of ways. While in some crashes, roadway conditions and inclement weather are combining factors in a collision, in other cases, roadway conditions alone are listed as the critical causative factor. Accidents attributed to the condition of a roadway are unique, because relief is generally sought, whether in whole or in part, against the local government or other entity having the responsibility for the construction, maintenance, inspection, and repair of a particular roadway. Pursuant to 745 ILCS, sec. 3-102(a), which provides in part:

“…a local public entity has the duty to exercise ordinary care to maintain its property in a reasonably safe condition for the use in the exercise of ordinary care of people whom the entity intended and permitted to use the property in a manner in which and at such times as it was reasonably foreseeable that it would be used…”

While damages claims premised upon roadway conditions are similar to other tort claims, in terms of basic principles associated with duty, breach, and harm, claimants must also plead and prove the additional element of actual or constructive notice. In cases where claims are premised upon allegations of constructive notice, the public entity will often attempt to defend the matter, by establishing one of the following, as provided in 745 ILCS, sec 3-102(b):

  1. The existence of the condition and its character of not being reasonably safe would not have been discovered by an inspection system that was reasonably adequate considering the practicability and cost of inspection weighed against the likelihood and magnitude of the potential danger to which failure to inspect would give rise to inform the public entity whether the property was safe for the use or uses for which the public entity used or intended others to use the public property and for uses that the public entity actually knew others were making of the public property or adjacent property; or
  2. The public entity maintained and operated such an inspection system with due care and did not discover the condition.

Due to the complexities that are often involved in claims for injury or loss brought forth against a local government or public entity, it is essential that you protect your legal rights by seeking consultation with a lawyer that has previously represented clients in similar matters. The Trucking Collision Attorneys of Zneimer & Zneimer, P.C. possess the experience, proficiency, and skill necessary, to seek the justice and compensation that a victim deserves. Contact us to set up a FREE personal injury consult at 773-516-4100, or online at our website.

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