Weather Warning: How does bad weather affect road traffic accident claims?

by Emma Flood Curated Media on November 19, 2015

As the weather worsens, the risk of being involved in a road traffic accident increases. Driving on winter roads can be challenging, and as such drivers must exercise a greater level of caution and skill than is usually required of them. However, regardless of how careful drivers are, unforeseen weather conditions such as black ice, fog or being caught in snowfall can result in an accident – but how does this affect driver’s liability in relation to other road users? Can the local council be held responsible for failing to grit the roads? This post looks as the determination of liability and negligence in adverse weather road traffic accident claims.

Assessing Negligence in Bad Weather Claims

Drivers have a legal obligation to drive safely, including making assessments about road conditions. When driving under extreme weather conditions, it is important that drivers take extra care, or they may be acting negligently. When roads are wet or icy, drivers should drive below the speed limit, leave extra space for other drivers and make sure their car is made suitable for driving in such weather. Drivers may face negligence claims where they:

  • Fail to adjust their driving for weather conditions (driving too quickly, for example)
  • Overly rely on vehicle safety features such as four-wheel drive
  • Fail to prepare their car in poor weather conditions. Such as driving with windows frosted over, restricting their view of the road.

However, even when all caution has been exercised by the driver accidents still do happen. In these circumstances, however, it may still be possible to make a claim for compensation against the local authority.

Legal Obligations of Local Authorities

The local authority is responsible for ensuring ‘safe passage’ along highways so far as is reasonably practicable. The law is set out in the Highways Act 1980, and the definition of highways under the act includes roads and public footpaths.

However, the obligation on local authorities is not particularly onerous. Local authorities are limited in resources and can only respond to inclement weather conditions as they receive relevant information. This means that authorities will firstly focus on gritting main roads and walkways, and even then they can only do so after the icy weather has been reported to them.

This is outlined in Section 58 of the Highways Act 1980, which gives local authorities a defence against many claims brought against them relating to snow and ice on the roads. Section 58 outlines that authorities are only under an obligation to attend to what is reasonably practicable, and thus their lack of resources means that it is not practicable (nor in all likelihood possible) to clear and grit every road and walkway. This means that personal injury cases against local authorities involving ice or snow are often difficult to pursue.

Obligations of Individuals

Another interesting aspect of personal injury claims arising from poor weather conditions is that where an injury is sustained on private land, or where private occupiers clear public pathways in an unsatisfactory way – both could result in a successful personal injury claim.

Where a private occupier takes to clearing a public pathway and their actions are negligent, if these actions result in an accident they could face a personal injury claim. For example, if a person pours hot water on a pathway in the hopes of melting the ice or snow, and this, in fact, makes the pathway more slippery, the individual may find themselves liable for compensation if an accident occurs as a result.

Furthermore, under the Occupiers Liability Act 1984, it is the responsibility of the occupier to take reasonable care of those visiting their land. While it is simple to warn guests of dangerous ice on your property, this liability extends to those such as the postman or another delivery person. This means that occupiers are under an obligation to take reasonable care to ensure their land is safe for those that may be required.

Need a personal injury legal opinion? Get in touch here.

Emma Flood Curated Media

Emma Flood Curated Media

Legal Copywriter and Legal Marketing Assistant for Personal Injury Law Firms at Curated Media
Emma Flood is a first class law graduate in the UK. Legal Content Writer and Marketing Assistant at Curated Media, Emma and the team write bespoke legal content for law firms across the UK and can help you make the most out of the Internet through effective content marketing. Visit to find out more.
Emma Flood Curated Media

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