Who’s At Fault in Accidents Caused by Black Ice?

Liability and Insurance Claims When You Slide on Ice

Sliding on ice is a scary and frustrating situation. You might feel you’re driving cautiously for the road conditions, but you can still lose control of your vehicle on ice. After an ice-related accident, ​you might wonder if car insurance will completely cover the damage. Learn how your insurance works in these situations.

Key Takeaways

  • Sliding on ice can cause serious damage, including bodily injuries and property damage.
  • You will likely be considered at fault if you slide on ice and hit something.
  • Icy roads are often worst on shaded streets and bridges.
  • An incident may be covered by insurance, but it depends on the type of damage that occurs after sliding on ice and whether or not the driver has the proper coverage.

Types of Damage in Sliding-on-Ice Accidents

Sliding on ice can cause several types of damage, and each one is covered differently.

Injuries to Others

If a party in another vehicle or a pedestrian is injured, your bodily injury liability coverage will cover their expenses, including medical bills and lost wages, up to your policy limits. Limits are listed per person/per accident, so if your policy says $25,000/$50,000, you have a limit of $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident.

Injuries to Yourself or Your Passengers

Medical payments or personal injury protection (PIP) coverage applies to injuries to yourself and other passengers in your vehicle. This coverage is mandatory in some states, but not all. Some PIP policies cover lost income, rehabilitation costs, and other expenses related to recovery.

Damage to Your Vehicle

Damage sustained by your vehicle after hitting a patch of ice will be covered if you have collision coverage. This coverage pays for repairs to your car (up to your policy limits) if you hit a guardrail, another vehicle, a mailbox, or any other inanimate object. Plan on paying your deductible before any claims are paid.

Damage to Another Vehicle and Property

In most states, property damage liability pays out whether the damage is to someone else’s vehicle, a mailbox, or a stop sign. Most states require property damage liability coverage. California, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania have the lowest minimum property damage coverage requirements at $5,000. In many cases, the minimum coverage may not be enough, and you’re responsible for what’s not covered by insurance.

Towing Costs

Sliding on the ice may result in needing a tow. Depending on your insurance policy, you may have coverage for a tow or to pull you out of the ditch. Call your insurance carrier to verify your coverage and find out who to call if you need to be towed. You may be able to file a claim on the spot and avoid paying any money out of pocket.

Who’s at Fault in an Ice-Related Accident?

If you slide on ice and hit another car or object, it’s typically considered an at-fault claim by your insurance carrier. It doesn’t matter if the police officer let you go without a ticket; your insurance company is going to decide that someone is at fault, and it’s not going to be the ice. Driving too fast for the conditions is usually given as the reason. It often doesn’t matter if you were driving at a snail’s pace; being on the roadway is reason enough.

Many drivers feel they aren’t at fault after sliding on ice. Your best defense against sliding on ice is staying off the road. If you do have to get out there, make sure to leave plenty of space between you and the car in front of you. Drive at a speed that gives you control over your vehicle. Don’t slam the brakes, and learn how to maneuver out of a skid.​

How To Safely Drive on Icy Roads?

It can be challenging to avoid sliding on ice, but some strategies will reduce your risk of sliding around and your chances of having to file an insurance claim.

Can I Prevent Ice Accidents?

You’re most likely to encounter ice early in the morning and late at night. During those times, the sun can’t melt ice on the roads and you can’t see it well. Keep a lookout if you’re driving through a shaded area during the day as well. Additionally, bridges are more easily cooled by air passing underneath them and are more prone to freezing.

Black ice can form on the roads at temperatures at or below 32 degrees Fahrenheit, but it is most likely to occur when it’s raining or sleeting, and the falling water hits the frozen ground. If you know what types of weather conditions to look for, you can better prepare for dangerous conditions.

How Can I Avoid Accidents if There’s Black Ice?

When there’s ice on the road, you should also exercise extra caution with speed. Note that any acceleration or deceleration (including putting on the brakes) may not go as planned, so you should keep a buffer of space around you.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How fast can I drive on black ice?

If you’re driving on black ice, keep in mind that you may lose control of your vehicle at any time. Your brakes and tires may have no control in this driving environment. So consider your surroundings and ask yourself how fast you want to be going if you were to lose control and veer off the road, or into a semi-truck in the next lane. Standard practice on most highways in stormy weather is to stay below 45 mph, but check in with your comfort level, since this is a cap and not a floor.

What is black ice exactly?

If you live in a warm climate or haven’t spent much time driving in winter conditions, the term “black ice” may be new to you. Simply put, it’s a thin layer of ice that forms on top of the road as a result of flash freezing (like rain or spilt water over a below-freezing-point stretch of asphalt). Black ice can be especially dangerous to drive on because it is hard to detect by sight and because it creates a slick surface with very little friction for vehicles to brake.

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