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Can a driver be held negligent if the road conditions are poor?

The cold days of winter are coming to an end for Tennessee residents, as Spring is just around the corner. However, as discussed last week in this blog, the change in weather comes with some extra trouble as well, as local officials are currently busy trying to fill in and repair many potholes around the area.

When accidents occur on these roads, questions can arise as to what caused the accident in question. For instance, a driver might blame the car accident on some road condition that was not his or her fault, in an attempt to avoid liability for the accident, and thus avoid paying compensation to others who were injured in the accident.

In order to find that a person was a negligent driver, the injured person must prove that the other driver violated the duty of care that driver was bound to exercise on the road. Accordingly, issues involving road conditions or other factors can be important, because they can impact whether the crash was caused by a violation of the duty of care, or by some other factor that was not negligence.

At the same time, however, it is important to recognize that poor road conditions will not, by itself, typically excuse a person from being held negligent. Indeed, the Tennessee Driver's License Manual advises drivers how to confront of a number of different road conditions.

For instance, when the road is wet because of rain or similar conditions, drivers are urged to slow down, particularly when the rain first starts to fall, as this is when the conditions can be most treacherous. The same is true with snow and other conditions, as drivers need to slow down in order to be able to sufficiently react in time to other vehicles on the road.

Drivers are also advised that their visibility may be impaired by bad weather or other conditions. Accordingly, drivers need to take appropriate measures like slowing down and keeping their windshield clear from obstructions, in order to keep their field of vision as clear as possible under the circumstances.

Accordingly, if an accident occurs in the midst of poor driving conditions, it is important to know how the driver acted in response to those conditions. If the driver was driving too fast for the conditions or in an unsafe manner for the conditions at the time, the driver can still be held negligent and responsible for the crash.

Source: Department of Safety and Homeland Security, "Tennessee Comprehensive Driver License Manual," accessed on Mar. 7, 2015

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