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Accidents on Snowy & Icy Roads: What’s the law in Georgia?

With the winter weather covering our state, many people are probably wondering — What’s the law in Georgia when it comes to snow and ice on the roads, especially if there’s been car or semi-truck accident?  Well, let’s take a quick look at this area of the law:

HIGHWAYS AND ROADS

First things first, we need to look at the black-letter law in Georgia, which is codified under O.C.G.A. § 40-6-180. This statute reads:

No person shall drive a vehicle at a speed greater than is reasonable and prudent under the conditions and having regard for the actual and potential hazards then existing. […], [E]very person shall drive at a reasonable and prudent speed […] with respect to pedestrians or other traffic or by reason of weather or highway conditions. (emphasis added)

So, what does this legalese really mean? You need to be careful and not drive too fast when you are traveling on icy and snowy roads here in Georgia. Notably, snow and ice among other cold-weather conditions cannot be used as an excuse by someone if there’s a car or semi-truck accident. Snow and ice are by nature a “hazard,” which loosely means a dangerous condition. Drivers are charged, i.e. put on notice, that roads can be potentially dangerous even if the driver doesn’t actually see the snow or ice. In other words, Georgia law holds drivers to a pretty high standard of care.

Another question also arises, but what if the other driver is going under the speed limit, and still there’s accident on the road? Georgia law, regardless, requires a person to drive at a “reasonable” speed, which doesn’t necessarily equate to driving the speed limit. Remember, the speed limit is the maximum speed (at least in theory) a person should drive on the road or highway.

There are other laws on the books in Georgia that can also come into play for accidents. You’ve all probably seen videos on the news of vehicles skidding through an intersection and getting into an accident. But, just because there is ice or snow near a stop-sign, a person still is responsible for coming to a complete stop. It’s technically O.C.G.A. § 40-6-72. Here are a few others too: You must maintain your lane (O.C.G.A. § 40-6-48).  You still can’t follow someone else too closely (O.C.G.A. § 40-6-49). [FYI – It’s a relative standard so please remember to keep extra space on days like today when you are on the road to avoid an accident.]

Second, a little tip: Insurance companies may try to deny claims if there’s not an accident report because it may turn into your word against their driver’s so make sure you report this accident right away and get an accident report.  The person bringing the automobile accident case has the burden of proof “beyond a preponderance of the evidence” so the testimony (N.B. the police report itself isn’t admissible evidence) of a responding officer may be critical for success. As a practical matter, do be prepared though to wait a while, if you can, because the police and fire departments are going to be stretched pretty thin with responding to accidents.

Most importantly, we hope you are safe and enjoying your snow day or perhaps couple of days. If you have any other questions abut accidents or need a bit more advice (but hopefully, you haven’t been in an accident in Georgia), feel free to give us a call at (404) 566-8964 or shoot me an e-mail at kevin@patricktriallaw.com.