Nighttime driving presents a unique set of challenges for motorists. Reduced visibility due to darkness, headlights, and weather conditions can significantly increase the risk of car accidents, and when you’re trying to get a car accident settlement after an accident, the difficulties of nighttime driving can make it more challenging to determine liability. Talk to a Huntsville, TX and Rockville, TX car accident lawyer right away to get specific help if you’ve been in such an accident.
Nighttime Car Accidents: Addressing Visibility Issues and Liability
At night, the reduced visibility can markedly affect any driver’s ability to react to unforeseen hazards. This is not just about seeing less but also involves the way headlights illuminate the road, potential glare, and a reduced ability to judge distances and speeds. Texas law requires that vehicles have properly functioning headlights, but even the best headlights cannot replicate daylight conditions.
Drivers must recognize that their reaction times might be slower at night and adjust their driving accordingly. This includes reducing speed and increasing following distances. Even if drivers do this, however, there are specific challenges to nighttime driving that all must be taken into account when trying to determine the extent of liability that the drivers involved in a nighttime accident may hold.
Headlights and Glare:
Headlights play a crucial role in illuminating the road, but they can also create visibility problems. Misuse of high beams and improperly adjusted headlights can produce glare, temporarily blinding oncoming drivers and impacting their ability to see a hazard.
In accident situations, determining fault can depend a lot on headlight usage. If a driver was blinded by glare and subsequently caused an accident, their actions may be deemed negligent; however, if the oncoming driver is found to have been improperly using high beams or failing to maintain their headlights to keep the glare to a minimum, they will likely share some liability. In extreme cases, they may be primarily to blame.
Darkness amplifies the impact of environmental factors on visibility. In other words, rain, snow, and fog are even worse to drive in at night and can significantly reduce sight lines, making it difficult to judge distances and identify potential dangers.
These conditions can also create slick road surfaces, further complicating maneuvering and increasing the risk of accidents. In such cases, both drivers involved may share some degree of liability depending on their actions and whether they were following safe driving practices appropriate to the weather conditions.
Driver’s Physical Condition
Individual vision limitations can also contribute to nighttime visibility issues. Uncorrected vision problems, fatigue, and even the influence of alcohol or drugs can impair a driver’s ability to see clearly at night. If an accident is caused by a driver with known vision issues or who is under the influence, their negligence will influence their level of liability.
Fatigue in Nighttime Driving
Fatigue is a significant factor in many nighttime accidents; more so than in most daytime accidents. The human body naturally feels more tired without the stimulus of sunlight, which can slow reaction times and reduce a driver’s ability to concentrate.
Texas law does not explicitly address driver fatigue, but it is a contributing factor in many accidents. If it can be proven that a driver was knowingly negligent in driving fatigued, this could be a factor in liability.
Pedestrians and Cyclists
Texas law requires that drivers yield to pedestrians in crosswalks and be vigilant for cyclists on the road. If a driver hits a pedestrian or cyclist at night, the driver is often the first one the police will look at. However, pedestrians and cyclists also have a duty to make themselves visible at night.
For example, bicycles must have a front white light that can be seen clearly from 500 feet away, and they must also have a red lamp or reflector on the back that is visible from 500 feet (for a lamp) or 300 feet (for a reflector).
Both cyclists and pedestrians also have a duty to obey the rules of the road that pertain to them. All of this will affect liability in a nighttime accident involving a car and the subsequent car accident settlement. For instance, if a car hits a pedestrian wearing a hi-vis vest in a proper crosswalk, the car driver will normally be entirely liable. But if that same car hits a pedestrian wearing a navy-blue hoodie and sweatpants, jaywalking across an unlit road at night, the driver will have much less liability so long as they were driving safely.
Collisions with Animals
Texas roads, especially in rural areas, are prone to animal crossings at night. Generally, hitting a wild animal is considered a no-fault accident, but drivers must demonstrate that they took reasonable care to avoid the collision. Swerving to avoid an animal and causing an accident with another vehicle, however, could result in liability for the swerving driver.
Rear-End Collisions Due to Tailgating
Tailgating is particularly dangerous at night due to reduced visibility which makes it harder to properly judge distances. Drivers are expected to maintain a safe following distance at all times.
If a driver rear-ends another vehicle at night, they will almost always be found to be at fault. This is because Texas law presumes that the rear driver has not maintained a safe distance or has not paid adequate attention to the road. The only exceptions may be if the leading driver was engaged in “brake-checking.”
Proper vehicle maintenance plays a critical role in nighttime driving safety, and this involves regularly checking and replacing headlights, brake lights, signal lights, and taillights. Ensuring that windows and mirrors are clean to prevent glare, having your eyesight checked regularly, and ensuring tires have enough tread for the weather conditions can also make a significant difference in your safety at night, and any of these factors could potentially be involved when it comes to determining liability and the extent of liability.
Legal Factors in Determining Liability for a Car Accident Settlement
In Texas, comparative negligence applies to car accidents. This means that both drivers may be assigned a percentage of fault based on their actions or omissions that contributed to the accident. For instance, if both drivers were speeding or failed to yield the right of way, they may each be assigned a percentage of fault for the accident.
Similarly, if weather conditions were a significant factor, and both drivers were operating cautiously, the liability might also be apportioned more evenly. If either driver is assigned more than 50% of the blame, that driver cannot recover any damages. For drivers assigned 50% or less of the responsibility, their final settlement amount will be reduced by the percentage of their fault.
Say, for example, that one driver is considered 85% at fault for speeding on bald tires in the rain and the other driver is considered 15% at fault for failing to reduce their speed to match the weather conditions. The first driver can recover nothing. If the second driver has damages of $35,000, their final settlement amount will be reduced by 15% to $29,750.
Talk to a Huntsville, TX and Rockville, TX Attorney for the Best Result
If you’ve been in a car accident at night, establishing liability can be tough, and the best way to ensure a good outcome in your case is to work with a skilled and experienced Texas car accident lawyer. Contact Brian Gutierrez, Personal Injury Trial Lawyer today for help.