Last week, a freak dust storm outside of Hardin, Montana resulted in tragedy, with 21 vehicles involved in a series of collisions, including the deaths of 6 motorists. With such a tragedy, those affected will rightly be looking to find out how to make an insurance claim to cover injuries and losses. The question then becomes, who is response for injuries in a dust storm collision?
Liability in a Dust Storm
Under Montana law, motorists are generally required to anticipate changes in weather and road conditions. This means that in the wintertime, if a driver hits a patch of ice and collides with another driver, its their responsibility. The same is true if wildlife jumps onto the road and causes a motorist to swerve and causes a collision. Under Montana law, its not the weather or the deer’s fault, its the driver’s. Fortunately, motorists are required to have liability insurance, meaning their insurance will cover injuries caused in such a collision. Also, smart consumers carry their own uninsured and underinsured motorist coverages to protect themselves and their loved ones if there is a serious motor vehicle collision.
So who pays when there is property damage or injuries because of an accident in a Montana dust storm? Generally speaking, under Montana law, the driver who caused the collision or otherwise engaged in conduct which caused the collision is going to be responsible, even if weather was a factor. This is because the system is set up to compensate victims in an accident, and a storm can’t be sued.
In our system, if a victim wants compensation for their injuries, they are going to have to prove that the other driver was negligent. To establish negligence, the victim has to prove that the other driver didn’t act in a prudent and careful manner the same as a reasonable person would do under the same circumstances.
For example, if one of the cars didn’t slow down and crashed into another car that had reduced speed, then a jury could easily determine that the car should have slowed to a safe speed.
However, if one driver just stopped completely in the road without pulling over or even putting flashers on and was hit by another car, then a jury could reasonably find that the driver that stopped was negligent because stopping suddenly on a freeway where there is little visibility isn’t reasonable.
What to Do if You’ve Been Injured in a Dust Storm
If you were in a dust storm and were injured in an accident, then you need to talk to an attorney right away. Don’t listen to insurance adjusters or insurance company attorneys who tell you that there is no liability in a dust storm. Or maybe they are trying to put the blame on you. Speak to an attorney who knows what the law says about motor vehicle negligence and dust storms.