Georgia does not suffer from lengthy winters, but we get our share of ice and snow, especially in 2014. Inevitably our firm gets deluged with phone calls from motorists dealing with collisions in icy conditions. The biggest problem we see is the propensity for car insurance companies to seize on icy crashes and declare “it’s not our insured’s fault, it was the ice!” This is, of course, a cop-out in many senses. Ice and snow are rarely a surprise so careful drivers have a duty to modify their speed and following distances based on conditions. Drivers in Pittsburgh and Boston manage to get around just fine by driving carefully.
A case in point is a call we received from a driver on Peachtree Battle where the other driver came around a curve and slid over the centerline, totaling the caller’s car. The insurance company for the other driver denied liability even though the police officer issued her a ticket. Normally you can just turn the claim in through your own insurance and they will pursue the other insurance company through intercompany arbitration. The real problem arises if you don’t have full coverage.
Trial lawyers cannot afford to take property damage only cases on a contingency unless the car is worth a lot of money. We just would not make enough to justify the time and money put into the case.
The key to pushing ice cases forward is establishing:
knowledge on the part of the negligent driver of the icy conditions (through driving earlier that day, preferably in the same are)
admission of the other vehicle successfully negotiating the turn. (demonstrate a lack of other police reports that day for that area)
Gibson v. Carter 248 Ga. App. 280 (2001) provides a good explanation of the duties where there is ice. OCGA § 40-6-180 says that a driver may not drive “at a speed greater than is reasonable and prudent under the conditions and having regard for the actual and potential hazards then existing. Consistently with the foregoing, every person shall drive at a reasonable and prudent speed… when special hazards exist with respect to pedestrians or other traffic or by reason of weather or highway conditions.”
Understand that if you chose to file the case yourself in small claims court, you will need to be able to prove the negligent act by the defendant driver and have admissible evidence on the value of your vehicle and the repair.