Is Hydroplaning Considered An Automatic At-Fault Accident?

Contrary to what you may think, hydroplaning has nothing to do with hydroplanes. Instead, hydroplaning, also known as aquaplaning, is a driving incident that may occur while driving on wet roads. Specifically, hydroplaning happens when your vehicle tires encounter a layer of water that is deeper than the tires’ tread depth. The tire treads become so filled with water that they can’t expel it. The tires are lifted off the road, and traction between the tires and the road surface is lost. With your tires losing their grip on the road surface, your ability to control the vehicle by steering or braking is reduced by one-third compared to a dry road [1].

Contrary to general belief, hydroplaning does not happen only during a heavy rainstorm. Even a thin film of water may cause your vehicle to lose traction. Hydroplaning accidents can also happen while the road is still wet after the rain stops or on a wet road for other reasons, such as a broken water pipe.

What Are the Causes of Hydroplaning?

The main factors involved with hydroplaning include road conditions, vehicle speed, tread depth, and water depth. These may cause hydroplaning on their own or working together.

Road Conditions

A road with large puddles or a poorly draining road that holds water after the rain increases hydroplaning chances. In addition, smooth road surfaces increase the risk of hydroplaning compared to rough ones.

Vehicle Tires

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), almost one in ten vehicle crashes is tire-related [2].

Wider tires with deeper treads help the vehicle maintain its grip on the road when wet. During the rainy season, make sure your tires are not worn. If they are, replace them as soon as possible. Also, regularly check your tire pressure to ensure it is within the parameters set by the car’s manufacturer.

Vehicle Speed

You should always slow down when you are driving on a wet road. If you drive too fast, the treads don’t have enough time to expel the water. Remember that hydroplaning can occur at speeds as low as 35 mph [3].

Even if your tires are in perfect condition, what about the car’s tires in front of you? Should it start skidding, you must control your vehicle to avoid a collision expertly. A low speed is key to this.

Water Depth

The deeper the water, the worse the hydroplaning, as the treads in the tires are insufficient to expel the water under the tires. Hydroplaning is almost guaranteed to occur if the water is oily, mixed with mud, or icy.

How to Avoid Hydroplaning

While hydroplaning is one of the scariest experiences a driver may have, you can do several things to avoid it. The first is maintaining your tires properly, ensuring they are inflated and their treads are not worn.

When driving in rainy weather or on a wet road, adjust your driving accordingly to keep safe. Slow down, avoid large puddles or standing water, and keep safe from other vehicles.

If hydroplaning is expected in your area, look for professional driving advice on reacting when your vehicle starts hydroplaning. It is generally suggested to stay calm, avoid sudden steering movements or braking, slow down by lifting your foot from the accelerator, and gently steer your vehicle in the direction of the hydroplaning if you can do so without danger. This may let you regain control, so you should further slow down to maintain control of your car.

Why Is Hydroplaning Dangerous?

According to the US Department of Transportation [4], 7 out of 10 road accidents related to weather conditions happen on a wet road, and 5 out of 10 happen when it rains. Hydroplaning is the cause of 7 out of 10 deaths during a weather-related car accident.

Hence, hydroplaning is a real danger for you, your passengers, and your vehicle. When it occurs, you lose control of your steering and braking. Your car may then slide and collide with other vehicles (multiple-car accident) or on a wall, tree, or barrier on the side of the road (single-car accident). If hydroplaning happens on a busy street with many passers-by, you may even hit a pedestrian with your car.

Liability in Case of a Car Accident due to Hydroplaning

If your car starts hydroplaning and an accident is caused, you, as a driver, are liable for the collision.

Suppose you are involved in a single-car accident. In that case, depending on your policy and medical insurance, you may claim compensation for damages to your car and medical bills if you are injured. If you have opted for collision coverage, car repair or replacement should be covered by your policy (minus the deductible value), even though hydroplaning is considered an at-fault collision.

If your accident involves a second vehicle, the other party may file a claim for damages and medical bills to your insurance company.

If your car is involved in an accident with a hydroplaning vehicle, the driver of that vehicle is liable, and you may claim compensation for any damages suffered.

Other parties, such as the government or the car maker, can sometimes be held liable as well, provided that you can prove negligence on their part.

Government Liability

Improper road maintenance and design that result in water buildup on the road may cause hydroplaning accidents. Municipal or state governments may be held responsible for road safety violations and dangerous conditions in such cases.

If there is no adequate signage to alert you to the possible danger on top of the road’s poor conditions, you may also be able to claim compensation from those responsible for road maintenance.

Tire or Brakes Manufacturer Liability

In a car accident caused by tire defects or brake failure, liability may fall on the carmaker or the manufacturer. Tires with shallow treads due to manufacturing defects can create a hydroplaning hazard. In such a case, the tire or car manufacturer may be considered liable for the accident.

Your best bet for receiving the compensation you deserve is by consulting an experienced attorney. Ross Ziev and his team at Legal Help in Colorado have extensive experience in car accident cases and a proven track record of success.

What to Do if You Are Involved in a Hydroplaning Road Accident

If you are involved in a hydroplaning collision, whether a second car is involved or not, you should follow our general advice on what to do in a car accident. Follow the tips below to increase your chances of fair compensation.

Call First Responders and Your Lawyer

The police or other service will restore traffic, care for the wounded if there are any injuries, and prepare a police report. Ask for a copy of the report to document your case in case of a compensation claim properly.

Calling your lawyer as soon as possible is also a good idea, especially if you are injured or feel too shocked to think clearly. A lawyer can handle all procedures involved in the car accident, gather evidence and testimonials, and advise you from the beginning on documenting your accident, thus maximizing your chances of receiving fair compensation for your damages and injuries.

Get Medical Attention

Even if you think you have not suffered any injury, going to the hospital is one of the most important things to do right after a traffic accident. Some injuries could appear later, and you may have trouble documenting a claim if you wait several days or weeks before getting medical attention.

Opt for a hospital rather than for a doctor, and document your visit by keeping copies of your exams, medical reports, and medical bills. This way, insurance companies wishing to follow common insurer adjuster tactics, such as arguing that your injuries are not related to the accident, will be unable to do so.

Record the Contact Data of Witnesses

If there are other people on the accident scene, collect their contact data so that your lawyer can contact them and get their statements later on.

Also, take pictures of the accident scene as soon as it is safe. Because traffic needs to be restored soon, you will likely need to move your vehicle out of the way, and evidence related to the accident may not be available for long.

Ensure you take several pictures of the scene and the damage from different angles. If there is a second vehicle involved, also photograph their license plate.

Since road conditions could cause a hydroplaning accident, don’t forget to take pictures of the road, potholes, or water buildup. Have someone take pictures on your behalf if you are injured, and ask them to take a photo of your injuries.

Avoid Statements

Ask a lawyer to come to the scene and represent you before you give any statement to the involved car insurance. If someone asks for your statement before your lawyer arrives, politely decline to talk to them. Under the shock of the accident, you may say something that could be used as evidence that the accident was your fault, thus denying or reducing your compensation.

Why You Should Call Your Car Accident Attorney as Soon as Possible

An experienced car accident attorney can help you with your claim right away at the scene of the accident. They can look for road defects, get witness statements, talk to your insurance company, get a copy of the police report, and several other actions that will help you get compensation for your damages and injuries.

It is even more important to call your lawyer as soon as possible if you have caused the accident and a third party has suffered injuries or damages. Your car accident lawyer will help you document your case adequately and examine if there is a shared liability for the accident.

At Legal Help in Colorado, we have the knowledge, experience, and resources to guide you throughout this process. We will discuss your case, examine the available evidence, and offer you a clear overview of your options.






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