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Who Is Responsible for a Hydroplane Car Accident in Seattle?

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    Who Is Responsible for a Hydroplane Car Accident in Seattle?

    It’s a warm night, just after dark. As soon as you and your child get into the car after soccer practice, it starts to rain. Five miles down the road, you experience a terrifying sensation. Your car doesn’t just feel like it’s suddenly flying — it actually is. It’s aquaplaning. Knowing what to do when hydroplaning on wet roads can help you avoid a hydroplane accident and keep you and your passengers safe.

    What Is Hydroplaning?

    Many people wonder, what is a hydroplane when driving? There is a difference between hydroplaning and simply skidding in a wet spot. Vehicle hydroplanes occur when your vehicle loses contact with the pavement, creating a dangerous situation.

    As you drive on wet pavement, water collects ahead of your car’s front tires. Sometimes the tread on the tires can’t disperse the water. This causes the wheels to actually lift off the pavement, the way a water skier skims across the water — and that is what’s a hydroplane.

    Driving in the rain is dangerous for many reasons, including the reduced visibility, the risk of losing control over steering, and the greater chance you’ll hydroplane in a car. When drivers fail to adapt their driving habits as water accumulates on the road, they stand a good chance of causing a hydroplane car accident.

    What Causes Hydroplaning?

    hydroplane accident

    It is critical for drivers to drive defensively and learn how to react in time to avoid hydroplaning car accidents. But when does hydroplaning occur, and how fast do you have to go to hydroplane? Losing contact with the road’s surface is the chief cause, but there are many other contributing factors, such as:

    • Vehicle Speed: Hydroplaning can occur at speeds as low as 35 mph, and speeding decreases traction;
    • Tread Depth: When your tire tread depth wears to less than 4/32 of an inch, traction decreases;
    • Water Depth: Deeper water means a greater chance of hydroplaning, although you can lose traction at just 1/10 of an inch;
    • Road Conditions: Uneven surfaces have deeper areas of standing water drivers may not notice;
    • Poor Road Design: Some roads aren't designed for wet weather safety or proper drainage;
    • Vehicle Weight: Heavier vehicles resist hydroplaning better due to the greater force to displace water on the road;
    • Vehicle Center of Gravity: Higher centers of gravity make vehicles more unwieldy in wet conditions.

    Even knowing the threshold for hydroplaning speed and what to look for on the roads — like large puddles of standing water — isn’t going to always protect you from being struck by another driver who isn’t practicing defensive driving.

    What Are the Risks of Hydroplaning?

    is hydroplaning an at fault accident

    A hydroplaning crash can be terrifying — you feel the vehicle skidding out of control and are helpless to steer it. In fact, 70% of weather-related collisions are due to wet pavement and tragically cause 76% of weather-related car accident deaths.

    There are no surefire ways to prevent a hydroplane accident. However, knowing that 46% of weather-related crashes happen when it’s raining can help you make better travel decisions. Controlling your speed also helps; your chances of an aquaplane start around 30 mph and dramatically increase when going faster than 50 mph.

    If you’ve been struck by a hydroplaning driver or lost a loved one in a severe collision, an accident attorney can file a wrongful death suit on your behalf.

    How Is Liability for a Hydroplaning Crash Determined in Washington State?

    hydroplaning crash

    Determining in a hydroplaning accident who’s at fault can be trickier than other types of collisions because weather plays so much of a role in the collision. But the weather cannot always be blamed for a collision, and liability in anything other than a single-car hydroplane can be challenging to establish.

    Liability for a wreck would depend on which driver was the most negligent when conditions were hazardous. Drivers have a duty of care to operate their vehicles responsibly when on the road, including going slower in rainy or snowy conditions and taking measures to avoid hydroplaning.

    When you get a driver’s license, you implicitly agree to avoid actions that could cause a collision. If you’re asking, “Is hydroplaning an at-fault accident?” the answer would be yes if one driver:

    • Was speeding or going too fast for weather and road conditions;
    • Was following too closely;
    • Was using their phone while driving;
    • Changed lanes suddenly or was weaving in and out of traffic.

    Reckless, aggressive, or negligent driving doesn’t just create conditions for a catastrophic accident — it could also lead to heavy fines or even jail time for the at-fault driver, in addition to any type of car accident lawsuit they’re named in.

    Proving negligence is how your car accident lawyer determines liability in a hydroplaning car accident case. If the other driver abandons their duty of care to drive safely and prevent an accident, then they can be found liable for causing the crash and therefore owe you compensatory damages.

    But your lawyer needs proof that the other driver was negligent and that the accident wasn’t simply a case of bad weather and bad luck. In some cases, neither driver is to blame, but the municipality or road designer is liable for failing to construct safe roads or provide adequate drainage in heavy rains.

    Your lawyer considers every possibly liable party in hydroplaning collisions. Even the mechanic for one of the cars could be partly to blame for the accident if a poorly performed repair made it harder for one driver to regain control of their car.

    Does Insurance Cover Hydroplaning?

    does insurance cover hydroplaning

    Many car accident victims wonder, "Is hydroplaning covered by insurance?" or "How does hydroplaning affect insurance?" Specifically, how your insurance is affected depends on your policy, coverage, and carrier’s rules, but essentially, there is no separate hydroplane car accident insurance.

    Reporting the accident and getting coverage after a wreck works generally the same way. You may file a claim with the at-fault driver’s auto liability insurance to collect damages, which can cover losses such as:

    • Repairing or replacing your vehicle;
    • Emergency medical treatment;
    • Ongoing medical care or medication;
    • Lost wages from time missed at work;
    • Pain and suffering;
    • Modifications to your home or vehicle, if you suffered a permanent disability;
    • Emotional trauma and mental anguish.

    If you were the only driver involved, you would file a claim with your own company. If you have a Personal Injury Protection Policy (PIP), you may also file a claim for additional medical costs.

    Possible Compensation After a Hydroplaning Accident

    Hydroplane car accidents can be serious, often causing catastrophic injuries to drivers and passengers. But what's hydroplaning's role in determining liability? If you were involved in a serious accident, you may be entitled to compensation from the other driver.

    If your injuries were minor, then your own auto or hydroplane accident insurance may cover the treatment. Your PIP may cover the following:

    • Medical expenses up to $10,000;
    • The cost of medical devices;
    • Lost earnings from work.

    Or, if the other driver was to blame for the accident, you’re eligible for a third-party accident claim, in which you may also recover compensation for diminished quality of life or compromised earning capacity.

    Because proving fault is more difficult when severe weather conditions are a factor, your best chance of obtaining compensation after a hydroplaning accident is by working with an experienced car accident attorney. They understand liability related to hydroplaning and how to gather the right kind of evidence that the other party was negligent in poor weather conditions.

    What Should You Do If Your Car Hydroplanes?

    hydroplaning car accidents

    Mastering what to do when you hydroplane can help you regain control of your vehicle. To help prevent a wreck, follow these steps for what to do if your car hydroplanes:

    • If your vehicle begins to skid, you should gently turn the steering wheel in the direction the vehicle is sliding;
    • Keep your front tires straight;
    • Brake with a light pumping action;
    • Slowly ease off the accelerator.

    Depending on whether you have rear-wheel or front-wheel brakes, your brakes may engage differently.

    Rear-Wheel Drive Vehicle

    Rear-wheel drive vehicles may make it easier to position your front tires straight.

    Front-Wheel Drive Vehicle

    The brakes for front-wheel drive vehicles may lock more readily than rear-wheel drive, so only gingerly press the brake pedal.

    How to Avoid Hydroplaning

    how does hydroplaning affect insurance

    There are a few methods when it comes to how to prevent hydroplaning:

    • Drive under the speed limit in wet conditions;
    • Avoid driving with worn tires;
    • Keep longer distances between yourself and other cars;
    • Stick to the inner lanes of the road;
    • Don’t use cruise control;
    • Turn the steering wheel slowly, not sharp or fast;
    • Avoid puddles and standing water;
    • Regularly inspect your tire tread depth to ensure it's at least 2/32 of an inch;
    • Keep your tires properly inflated.

    If these tips don’t keep an accident from happening, call 911, never admit fault, and only talk to police officers and EMS.

    Contact Our Car Accident Lawyers

    I hydroplaned and crashed — now what? Call the legal team at Lehmbecker Law as soon as you’re able — we’ll guide you through the legal process.

    Request Free Consultation

    Larry A. Lehmbecker
    Firm Founder, Larry Lehmbecker, has nearly 40 year’s of experience fighting for the injured in Washington State. He is always eager to share his knowledge to help those in need.
    Contact Lehmbecker Law Today
    Our attorneys and paralegals have decades of experience to help ensure you get the proper treatment for your injuries
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