Determining Fault in Winter Hit and Runs

Determining Fault in Winter Hit and Runs

The snowy weather makes winter hit and runs more common, but who is really at fault?

It’s a chilly morning in November, you look outside, and the very first snowfall of the season coats the ground. After warming up your car and brushing off the snow, you start your commute; however, it seems as though everyone has suddenly forgotten how to drive. We see it every year, and most of us are guilty of it; driving in the winter requires a bit more patience and attention. Thus, we are at a higher risk of winter hit and runs and accidents in general. Unlike normal hit and runs, determining fault in winter hit and runs can get a bit tricky because there’s an additional factor involved – good ol’ mother nature.

Why are hit and runs common in the winter? 

Even if you have the best winter tires in the world, snow and ice are ruthless, and they show no mercy. Unlike a typical hit and run during other seasons, visibility issues and other environmental factors make it easier for winter hit and runs to go unnoticed.

For example, suppose you and another car engage in a small bumper car game on the road. You don’t feel any severe impact; you both bump each other only slightly. At the moment, your main priority is regaining control of your vehicle. By the time you’ve straightened yourself out, they may have turned in another direction, you may have lost sight of them, or you may not know or remember what their car looked like. Once you’re able to examine your vehicle, you maybe you notice a spiderweb crack or a small dent, so what now?

How do insurance companies determine fault in winter hit and runs? 

Even though black ice caused you to slide into another vehicle, your insurance company won’t be very forgiving. In Ontario, insurance companies must always determine fault, and they do so by following the Fault Determination Rules. These rules state that weather conditions can not be referenced or considered in the decision of fault. Regardless of the weather, it is always the driver’s responsibility to maintain control of their vehicle. However, if winter hit and runs result in legal charges, road conditions may be used as a way to waive them. If the insurance company cannot designate the fault to one person, they will determine both drivers at fault.

Uh-oh, it’s your fault! What now? 

If your insurance company determines that you are at fault, unfortunately, your insurance rate and driver’s insurance record may take a hit. It is possible to appeal their decision; however, you probably won’t have much luck unless you prove that it was someone else’s fault. Citing road and weather conditions alone is not enough to successfully appeal a decision. For winter hit and runs where you’re not at fault and the other driver is, take all necessary steps to locate the other driver. It’s crucial to inform yourself about what to do in case of a hit and run accident.

Winter hit and runs, especially when you are the victim, aren’t always wholly preventable. However, drive safely, follow the rules of the road, equip your car with winter tires, and install a dashboard camera to protect yourself as best as possible.