Hydroplane Car Accident: Who is at Fault?



A hydroplane car accident is a terrifying experience. Many motorists report feeling as if they have lost total control of their vehicle, and no movement they make with the wheel helps them regain control. Hydroplaning accidents often happen at high speeds, so motorists are vulnerable to serious injuries when they crash into another vehicle or slide off the road.


At Surasky Law, we can help accident victims receive compensation when someone else is responsible for their injuries. South Carolina law does not allow you to sue if you were mostly responsible for the accident, so determining fault is a key consideration in every accident case. Please reach out to our Aiken, SC personal injury lawyer if you have any questions.


Understanding Hydroplaning

To drive safely, vehicles need contact with the road, and the four wheels on a car represent that point of contact. If your wheels have a good grip on the road, then a driver can control where the vehicle travels. They can also stop the vehicle by applying the brakes.


Hydroplaning occurs whenever a vehicle slides or skids on a wet surface. Drivers report being unable to control their vehicle because the traction is reduced.


In many cases, even a light rain can cause hydroplaning because the water will mix with any oil already on the road surface. Oil is very slick, unsurprisingly, and motorists can easily slide uncontrollably when they hit a patch of oil on the road.


However, the most dangerous hydroplaning occurs usually when heavy rain falls. Tire treads are designed to displace water so that the tire maintains a continuous contact with the road’s surface. That’s what gives you traction. When too much water falls, however, the tire cannot displace all the water on the road. With nowhere to go, a film of water builds up under the tire.


Suddenly, the tires are actually running on the water. This is the most dangerous form of hydroplaning because the tires lose contact with the road surface completely and a vehicle can skid in any direction. Drivers also find braking does not stop their vehicle. Some motorists will spin around or swerve into oncoming traffic, and they are powerless to stop it.


Assessing Liability for a Hydroplane Car Accident

Now you understand hydroplaning better, we can more clearly identify liability. Who is liable for an accident where a vehicle that is hydroplaning crashes?


The answer really is: “It depends.” There are many variables at play. Let’s consider some of the possibilities:

  • The hydroplaning driver is at fault for the wreck. This might seem unfair. After all, the driver didn’t cause it to rain, and they aren’t responsible for there being oil on the road that mixes with the first rain drops. However, some drivers make matters worse by speeding, which can render them liable for the crash. The faster a car is traveling, the greater the risks of hydroplaning. This is why careful motorists should drive slower during heavy rainfall so they reduce the risk water will build up under the tires. If you drive too fast, you could be liable for your own wreck.

  • The tire manufacturer is to blame. In some accidents, defective tires contributed to a hydroplane accident. For example, the tire treads might be too shallow to effectively displace water from the road. This defect could step from a design or manufacturing flaw. However, remember this: a tire is not defective if you simply chose not to replace it when the tread got low. That’s the driver’s choice, and the driver will be responsible for a hydroplaning accident caused by a bald tire.

  • The government is to blame. In some accidents, a defect in the road design or construction contributes to a hydroplaning accident. For example, the state or local government might have designed the road poorly, preventing water from running off, so the entity responsible for the road could be liable for a hydroplaning accident. We will need to carefully review the road to see if this is the case.

  • No one is to blame. Some accidents are not the “fault” of any party. With hydroplaning, motorists might drive safely at the time of the incident, in which case Mother Nature is to blame. If you suffer a single-vehicle crash because you slid off the road, then you might be unable to get compensation because no one is to blame.

Remember multiple parties can share fault. A driver who is speeding could be partially to blame, but the road construction crew could also be partially to blame. Our experienced attorney can assign fault, but ultimately South Carolina will not let an injured victim sue if they were more than 50% liable for an accident.


Gathering Evidence of a Crash

At Surasky Law, our Aiken personal injury lawyer begins every case by carefully gathering and analyzing all relevant information. In a crash involving hydroplaning, our law firm will look at the weather reports and possibly inspect the status of the road to identify any possible defect. Our lawyer also will want to see your vehicle, which is why it is vital to avoid immediately taking it to a body shop or mechanic.

Witnesses might also provide helpful information about the crash. As an example, they might have seen a large pool of standing water which caused you to hydroplane.


Receiving Compensation

If you were injured in a hydroplaning related accident, you should seek compensation for medical care, lost income, and damage to your vehicle. All told, many people suffer tens of thousands of dollars in losses in these crashes.


South Carolina also allows victims to obtain money damages for pain, suffering, emotional distress, and other intangible injuries. An attorney can seek the maximum amount of compensation to make up for what is usually a devastating accident.


Contact Our Legal Team to Learn More

Hydroplaning accidents are complicated, as the above makes clear. Issues surrounding fault must be resolved before an accident victim can properly seek compensation. Please call Surasky Law today. Our legal team has the experience you need to seek money for your injuries.

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