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How Fault is Determined in a Winter Accident

November 8, 2011

Winter weather can cause a wide variety of hazardous road conditions, making driving dangerous and increasing the possibility of an accident occurring. Black ice, heavy snowfall, roads that have not been cleared of snow and other bad driving conditions can all make it more difficult to control your vehicle and avoid an accident. When it comes to filing a claim for a weather related accident, insurance companies may make some allowances for road conditions, but it remains the driver’s responsibility to take appropriate precautions when driving during the winter.

Determining Fault

When an insurance company determines fault, all circumstances of the accident are reviewed. This includes things like inclement weather or bad road conditions. If your car slides through an intersection or into another vehicle, or if you lose control and go off the road as a result of slick surfaces, you may feel that it is the road and not the driver at fault.

Unfortunately, in the eyes of an insurance company, it remains the driver’s responsibility to keep the vehicle under control no matter what the road conditions. Although icy roads can definitely contribute to an accident and no driver can be expected to control the weather, drivers must take extra precautions when driving in these conditions in order to avoid an accident.

While legal charges (as of a result of an accident) may be waived due to road conditions, insurance companies must always determine fault. When it comes to Ontario auto insurance, the Fault Determination Rules are always used by the insurance companies to decide who is at fault, regardless of road and weather conditions. In other provinces, insurance companies may use their own fault determination system. In most cases, the road conditions will not clear the driver of any fault in the accident.

In some cases, a 50-50 fault determination may be made and this might be the case when two cars collide due to both drivers losing control because of inclement weather or road conditions. This does not, however, clear either driver of fault; it only acknowledges that the fault was shared.

What Happens after Fault is Determined

If you are determined to be at-fault in an accident and you feel that the determination is wrong, you have the right to appeal the decision. You may cite bad weather or road conditions as the reason why you feel you are not at fault, but the insurance company will not use this alone as a determining factor. Unless you can show that another party was at fault, the determination will likely stand.

The insurance company may acknowledge that the road conditions bear some of the blame for the accident occurring, but it is the driver who may be faced with an insurance increase. Unfortunately, there is no lenience in terms of removing a weather-related accident from a driver’s insurance record. The accident will likely be treated the same for any at-fault accident, no matter what the contributing factors. If you’re insurance premium is high as a result of an accident, it may be time to shop around for car insurance quotes.

Avoiding a Winter Accident

The best way to avoid a claim that could drive rate increases during the winter is to be prepared for the bad road conditions that accompany the winter months. Be sure to winterize your car to avoid engine trouble that could cause you to lose control of the car and switch to a windshield fluid containing antifreeze to keep windows clear. Check your tires and use appropriate winter models during the snowy months and carry chains if you plan to drive through mountainous areas. Clean your headlights and all windows and mirrors to clear off the dirt that can build up during snowy months and defrost windows completely before leaving home.

When on the road, be sure to drive slowly and carefully and allow extra stopping distance, should the vehicle slide, giving you more time to gain control of the car. If the road conditions are very bad, it is usually best to stay off the road altogether.

Insurance companies do understand that sometimes the weather and road conditions can take control of a vehicle out of the driver’s hands. Unfortunately, someone must still carry the responsibility for an accident. When you decide to get behind the wheel of your car, you accept the responsibility for what happens while you are driving. Make sure you are aware of the potential dangers on the road from ice, snow and winter weather before driving. If you’re uncomfortable driving to your destination, it’s best to stay where you are or seek alternative transportation.

  • Karman9

    I was rear ended during a winter storm. However the insurance company says I have to pay a deductible. Is this true since the person who rear ended me should have kept enough distance from me in a winter storm. Can anyone suggest what I should do now and how to fight back?
    Thank you

  • Nick – InsuranceHotline.com

    Hello Karman,

    If you were deemed “not at fault”, then typically you would not pay the deductible.

    Check with your insurance company for details on deductibles. Also, here is an article that explains how they work: http://www.insurancehotline.com/understanding-your-auto-insurance-deductibles-when-they-apply-how-they-affect-rates/

  • Lindsey

    I was coming around a corner going west on a 45 mph road. A car was coming around the same corner heading east spinning out of control. I swerved as far off the road as I could to avoid a head on collision and still ended up getting into an accident with her.

    Michigan is a no fault state and I did not have full coverage on my vehicle just liability. Therefore, I planned on filing a mini tort to at least pay for some of the damages on my vehicle. I got the police report and turned it into my insurance company and they noticed neither unit 1 or 2 were listed at fault. No hazardous action was marked and in the description it just noted “Unit one was traveling east bound and had a collision with unit two.” Based off of the diagram it is clear that unit one was not in her lane and unit 2. I tried to get the officer to change the report so I could get my truck fixed and he said he would not list her at fault because the roads were snowy. I do not agree with this statement because I should not be punished for driving in my lane. If driving at the right speed no one would have collided. In every accident there is something that is over looked and unfortunately somebody is almost always at fault. If you are driving in your lane how are you listed 50/50? Anything I can do?

  • Nick – InsuranceHotline.com

    Hi Lindsey,

    Weather is not a factor in determining fault of an accident; there is always a driver who is found at-fault. Please check the fault determination rules to see who is at-fault for your accident: http://www.e-laws.gov.on.ca/html/regs/english/elaws_regs_900668_e.htm

    Also, explain the situation with your insurance company.

  • http://www.insurancehotline.com/ InsuranceHotline.com


    This is definitely a question for your insurance professional.

    thank you

  • http://www.insurancehotline.com/ InsuranceHotline.com


    Tough call but since you lost control of your vehicle, it might be you.


  • http://www.insurancehotline.com/ InsuranceHotline.com


    Unfortunately there is not enough information here to say. Check the police report. That usually indicates who was at fault. It might be that they would both be considered to be 50% at fault.

    Thank you

  • http://www.insurancehotline.com/ InsuranceHotline.com


    You are best to discuss ‘what happens’ with your father’s insurance company.

    Thank you

  • http://www.insurancehotline.com/ InsuranceHotline.com


    Yes it is likely that you will be at fault. The truck was stopped and you hit it. Regardless of whether or not the roads were slippery.

    Thank you

  • http://www.insurancehotline.com/ InsuranceHotline.com


    It may be that since you lost control of your vehicle (regardless of the weather conditions) you might be found to be at fault.

    Thank you

  • http://www.insurancehotline.com/ InsuranceHotline.com


    You are best to check with an insurance company in Kentucky


  • http://www.insurancehotline.com/ InsuranceHotline.com


    you can try to fight the ticket but you will likely still be considered to be at fault for the accident.

  • http://www.insurancehotline.com/ InsuranceHotline.com


    If you have purchased collision coverage then you should be covered by your insurance company.

  • http://www.insurancehotline.com/ InsuranceHotline.com

    You can try to fight the ticket but most of the time regardless of road conditions if you lose control of your vehicle you are considered to be at fault.

  • Lux

    My car skid and I had to switch lanes immediately and after i switched lanes, the car behind me rear ended me, who’s fault would it be

  • Shoal

    I was driving through a neighbourhood going about 25-30 km/h and was about to pull to the right of the road for the on coming car from the opposite direction to drive by with enough room, but I slid on ice and couldn’t turn which we then collided just about nearly head on. What do you think will happen in this situation?

  • Starr

    Same thing happen to me he was in 3rd lane but still waiting to see if the insurance feels the same ..

  • mark

    my car was hit by a car that was going the other way the road had snow on it I stopped my car when the other car lost control I could not move my car at all as there was a car behind me so I just had to sit there and then the other car hit me head on who is at fault ?

  • http://www.insurancehotline.com/ InsuranceHotline.com

    It sounds like the other driver may be at fault.

  • John

    it depends on how close really. by that i mean how close the other car was to you before you commited to your lane change.

  • Jessy

    I was on my way to court when i got off the highway and this other lady was infront of me, we turn left at a light and there’s three lanes right when you turn left. The left lane is a only to get back on the highway, the middle and right lane to keep it straight but then there’s a traffic light right after you turn left when you get off the higgway , so the lady by mistake went to the left lane which is to get back on the hightway I guess she notice her mistake so she switch to the middle lane as fastvas she could where i was, she didn’t put her signal but since i was watching everything that was going aroud I press my brake from the moment i saw her switching back to my lane back i notice that my car was sliding so i try to preventing from hitting her by switching lanes but since she change lane too fast without signal and there was snow and I tried to take control of my car i still hitted her left back/brake light with my right headlights. Who’s fault is it or what can I do

  • justme

    I live in Massachusetts. 2015 has been horrendous! I took a turn onto a road going roughly 2-5 mi an hour, there was a patch of ice. I have new tires i might add but my car swerved and tapped an oncoming car. I have never been in an accident, i am 62. What i am pissed at is that every month you have to pay insurance but you can’t ever use it or you will be fined, surcharges for years! WTF

  • Brett

    Can anyone help me with a question. I was pulling into a sheetz gas station that had a driveway entrance with two lanes, it was 0 degrees and the roads were wet and it had just snowed badly. I was going 5mph because i was coming down a hill and already slid a bit so i stopped made a right turn into the entryway and my car started sliding and hit front bumper to front bumper with someone coming out of the in the other lane. This was on sheetz property and the cause was ice on their property. Would this be my fault or theirs? I feel it should be on them for not maintaining the property because its just like if i were to slip and bust my head open because of ice on their property, it would be on them.

  • Tan

    Same kind of thing happened to me today In a a Walmart parking lot super icy even the manger said it was icy and their sand guy was running late…tried to park and slid Into another vehicle..shouldn’t it be the businesses fault for not keeping their property safe? Like you said if I was walking and slipped they would be at fault so how is this any different?

  • mike walker

    If a large chunk of snow comes off your vehice and hits another car causing a accident whos ar fault

  • giovanni

    I have a question I did like 4 turns n almost flip my car because the city did not clean the highway what can’t I do know

  • steve

    Its snowing and im driving down the highway car in front of me to my left losses control of there vehicle and does almost a complete 360 turn into my lane . We collide ,who is at fault.

  • Sandy James

    My friends car was parked and do to ice w solid into a parked care after it was parked for more than an hower. No won in ither car no searious damige dun.

  • Cesar

    Hi steve im sorry to hear what happened. Unfortorunately the exact same thing happened to me just yesterday. Could you tell me what the insurance decided? Who was at fault?

  • Edgar

    I was driving on an exit breach that was only one lane, i lost control of my car and slid, by the time i stoped i didnt hit anything at all but i end up faving the wrong way. When inwas trying to fix myself another car came and couldnt stop and hit me on the passenger side of my car. Whos fault is it? I dont know if his insurance is gnna take blame or if in gnna have to pay my own damages because i dont have full cover

  • christine

    I was traveling south on road. Snowing heavily. I stopped with my directional on to take a left turn. The driver in the oppposite direction waved me on. I made the turn, but she slid
    into the rear passenger side quarter of my van with her front corner drivers side. She said she was telling me to go faster because she was sliding and her 4 wheel drive wasn’t helping. Does the location of the damage have anything to do with who’s at fault. I wouldn’t have gone if she didn’t tell me to

  • Jennifer

    I was driving last night during snowy slippery weather conditions and could not stop my car at a stop sign and ended up hitting a snow bank head on. There was some damage to my front bumper. If i file a claim with my car insurance company will i get a surcharge for this type of accident? Should i even bother?

  • Jay

    I was rear ended by a truck in the middle of a white out and driver wants to settle privately and buy out my car but is he 100% at fault?

  • Michael

    I was driving on the highway while it was raining and as i was driving a car infront of me had kinda stopped so i tried to stop but it was raining so hard that i couldnt stop or go anywhere around the car. I could turn the wheels but they werent going anywhere. Then i got a ticket for not being able to control my speed. Now i have to go to court next week. Whats going to happen in court????

  • Kerry Reeves

    I was driving at night and just had stopped at the stop sign and was going up the hill when I saw headlights stopped on the other side of the road which were blinding me because his bright lights were on plus his fog lights or some kind of extra lights he had on,all of a sudden I hit something.
    He was backing his boat into his driveway
    I did not hit him but hit his boat with was on my side of the road who is at fault.

  • John J

    A car infront of me slowed down to make a left turn. He put the blinkers on. I proceeded to go around his vehicle until suddenly he decided to speed up next to me. As he speed up, there was a parked car infront of me. I attempted to stop however I ended up scratching the parked car. The driver who caused me to hit the other car sped off. What should I do in this situation?

  • Deb

    My car was ridden off by an accident which was at fault by an oil slick on the road the police report said it was no fault of mine, unfortunately my car insurance had ran out is there anything i can get compinsatiom for my car

  • Steve

    I was in an intersection waiting to turn left. Yellow light comes on and traffic slowed to stop for the yellow coming from the opposite direction. I began to make my turn as traffic was stopping for the yellow. One of the cars slid through the intersection due to ice and hit the tail end of my vehicle. Whos at fault?

  • Debja Steilen

    We were on the freeway driving very cautiously (under the speed limit) because of freezing conditions. It was like 7:00am; Saturday after Thanksgiving; no traffic. As we came upon a crest on the freeway, the truck like floated a bit moving us away from the center divider. But then we were slammed into the center guardrail. We started to spin but my husband did everything perfect, got us out of the spin and we ended up on the shoulder of the freeway without hitting anyone or anything. Our beautiful truck is totaled (I am presuming); we will find out for sure tomorrow when he Claims Adjuster comes. How does fault in this case effect the settlement?

  • Rossy

    I slide of an icy road today and hit a tree and totalled the side of my jeep busted out passenger side window … Am I at fault ? First accident ever

  • InsuranceHotline

    Yes. Regardless of the road conditions a single vehicle accident is usually at fault.

  • Mike Geremia

    I skidded down a hill in my gated community. the roads had not been plowed or sanded yet. My car was totaled. whose fault is it.

  • Shubhneet

    My van got skid when I was taking a turn , and it hit the divider the front tires got damaged , should I go to the mpi (Manitoba public insurance ).
    Is there any minus points ?

  • InsuranceHotline

    Whenever you damage property you should always report it.

  • Erica

    I skid into the rear of someone car to avoid hitting a pole. Am i partially at fault ?

  • InsuranceHotline

    Yes. You would be considered to be at fault since we are expected to be in control of our vehicle regardless of the conditions.

  • Kristine

    A sheet of ice slid off my roof and cracked the windshield on the car behind me. Am I liable to pay for the damage? He has a rental car, as well.

  • InsuranceHotline

    you might be responsible for the damage to the other driver’s vehicle.

  • ronnie duncan

    i was turning into our town intersection and hit black ice..i hit a snowbank..i damaged my headlight and side panel of my truck i backed up and went home i was charged with leaving the scene of an accidant and now very high insurance can i appeal this in michigan

  • Lee

    I was driving on the highway and the snow was becoming bigger. I drove very slow at 40km/h but still lost control of the car. It hit the highway fence. The insurance company said it was my fault and may impact my insurance premium next year. I have 2 cars and 2 houses insured with them, is it possible to negotiate with them. Because this is my first accident and I didn’t hit anyone else.

  • InsuranceHotline

    Regardless of weather conditions a single vehicle accident is 100% at fault. There is likely going to be no change in fault.

  • Jawad Shasamand

    Hi I’m want to know I’m was going to store in two way street at 50 speed with one passenger one car coming in second to hit me I moved to curb hit the trees about 1 o’clock no witness and other driver none stop gone no plate number only saw green dark truck my mom injured I am unhappy 100% foult and 5 demerits from -12 up to -17 too angry not yet police report but are there any way to become not guilty which only reason to save our lifes still 5 demerits I can never able buy meat friend.

  • Jawad Shasamand

    I’m live in Canada over 16 now 2016 become MPI’s enemy and if I to wrong moves without fears in a day 100ks damages in any directions I promise to not do it only justice department have to help people’s like me if I say wrong crimes ideas in here MPI could lose millions only because giving 5 demerits I never fear who are Sir and lots loves respect like getting heart attack I crushed once at winter at 70 speeds didn’t go hospital that’s loves I did for autopac and lists of accident unknown times passenger that I never know if mpi do pays or helps I’m came from other countrie once I had 10 demerits than I know learn what exactly demerits are but crazy MPI is very disrespect in manitoba I’m taking revange in passions without any helps because lawyer are too much first ask pay.

  • Jawad Shasamand

    I belive if doing anything good if doing one thing wrong God the glorious don’t forgive easily I’m still struggling cutting smoke to pay back MPI laws deed for not asking payment at once by the time year ends jobs helps but winnipeg most companies broking laws hiring for colds times or hots summer then kicks you out I’m mental holiness friend for 100 dolled in front of me eyes bigger problem to MPI I’m also heart never one single person ever help me one day humans leave why not become friend.

  • InsuranceHotline

    regardless of weather conditions etc, if you are in a single vehicle accident, you are considered to be at fault. This would be the same with all insurance companies.

  • Vali

    On a 4 way stop..I started stopping long time before the stop sign but I couldn’t fully stop because I slipped on the icy st.. then I ran into The car from the left side..Whose fault is this ? ( I hope I explained it properly haha)

  • InsuranceHotline

    You will likely be considered at fault for this collision. Even though there was ice on the road the insurance company will consider you to be at fault.

  • InsuranceHotline

    Since you rear-ended the vehicle it is likely that you will be at fault regardless of the road conditions.

  • Bob

    heavy wet snow fell off the roof of the condo complex I live in & cracked my windshield , am I covered by the buildings insurance or does it have to be mine ?

  • InsuranceHotline

    Most of the time it’s your own automobile comprehensive coverage that will pay for the damage to the windshield

  • InsuranceHotline

    You should contact the city/town to see what recourse you may have.

  • Jay

    Michael were you 50 percent at fault or were you not at fault for the accident?

  • Jay

    I was driving at 55 mph at 65 mph zone.It was mildly raining and an 18 wheeler was speeding and all the water gushed into my lane causing my car to skid and do a 180.I turned on my hazard lights and then i facing oncoming traffic and other cars were avoiding me and one came came and hit me on the right drivers side.The car was speeding at 75 mph the other driver did not get a ticket.Am I at fault because there is nothing I could have done to prevent the crash the other driver did not try to avoid me.

  • InsuranceHotline

    It is likely that you will be at fault for the accident since you lost control of the vehicle. we

  • No Lyes

    Lux. This is old news. The fact is the accident is your fault, you caused it. 1. Your lane change was most likely an improper lane change. You cant cut someone off and hitting your brakes. The accident was due to you (Lux) not paying attention to the cars in front of you. How is someone (in the next lane) suppose to expect a)someone is going to cut in front of them? b) and coming to an abrupt stop?

  • No Lyes

    Old news. To win big money in a lawsuit you have to be found negligent. What you described is not negligence. This is why its good to be insured, your insurance company will deal with it.

  • No Lyes

    its your fault, road conditions. Only way out is to get police and DPW records to find out if the town was aware of the situation. You are not going to win. The truth is you seen the snow, you should have expected the worse. The snow was in plain sight, you seen it, you disregarded the potential of losing control of your car.

  • kelly

    Snow storm Thursday in MA, Friday weather was in the negatives which made snow turn into ice. Driving home from work on a street going 10-15mph and not up other car’s rear, car in front of me hit the breaks out of no where because there was a car backing up from driveway and when I hit my breaks all the way to the floor and my car would not stop because of the icy road (so scary), to avoid rear ending the car in front of me i hit the snowbank to my right, car behind me almost hits both of us but no one actually got into an accident except for me, or my bumper broke.. who’s at fault? sorry, freaking out because it’s my first accident …..

  • InsuranceHotline

    It is likely that since you lost control of your vehicle (regardless of road conditions) you will be considered to be at fault for the damage to your vehicle.

  • Tracy

    I was driving 20 -25 mphs and the road had some black ice. I truck behind me in the other lane slid on some black ice and slid into me and made my truck do a 360 in the road. Who fault would that be

  • InsuranceHotline

    If you were able to control your vehicle and not hit the other vehicle it would not be your fault. If the other driver hit you then that driver would be at fault

  • InsuranceHotline

    Since you lost control of your vehicle (even though it was icy) you will still be considered to be at fault for the incident.

  • InsuranceHotline

    we are expected to be in control of our vehicle regardless of road conditions (ice, snow etc) you would be considered to be at fault for hitting the vehicle.

  • InsuranceHotline

    If you were rear-ended, it is likely that the other driver will be found to be at fault.

  • Lauren

    I was involved in a 3 car accident, and I am concerned they will say everyone has to pay for their own damages, when I hit no one. So car #1 was in front of me, lost control in the road due to snow and did a 180, to avoid the car, I swerved (being Car #2) and drove into the side of the road into a snow bank. My car was completely off the road, and came to stop. Then a third car, hit my rear left bumper, then collided with the other car in the middle of the road, and proceeded to stop further down the road. This was the morning after a huge snow storm, the road was not plowed properly and the same Car #1 could not handle it. So who is at fault? I did not hit Car #1 or Car #3, so what would happen to me? I do not want to get dropped from my insurance due to past accidents.

  • Lauren C

    I was rear-ended in a 3 car accident due to the road condition. It snowed last night, but this morning the accident occurred. A plow truck pushed snow into the middle of the road, and a Car #1 lost control in front of me. They did a 180, and I drove (Car #2) into the snow bank on the right side of the road. My car was off the road, and came to a complete stop. Then a Car #3 hit my rear tail light, and crashed into Car #1 in the middle. My car was driveable, but the other two cars are totaled. I did not hit Car #1 or Car #3, just the snow bank. The police officer blames it on weather condition of the road (even though it was sunny). My insurance company tells me they will fight saying I am not at fault. However, due to past accidents, I do not want to get dropped from my insurance. What do I do??

  • tex

    if i slid on ice and snow and hit an object after sliding its the drivers fault ?

  • InsuranceHotline

    Yes. A single vehicle accident due to ice/snow is considered to be an at fault accident.

  • Ashley Riley

    it was kind of sleeting out the roads were clear everywhere except this one steep hill there were two cars in front of me when the first car went around the curve there was a van parked to the shoulder due to previously running off the road from it being slick. well the first car hit its brakes a slightly swerved causing the car in front of me to hit its brakes i did the same thing all of us sliding down a hill with serval car links between us all. we all evetually rear ended eachother. i walked away with four tickets while the middle car got nothing even tho she claimed her brakes gave out on her then eventually admited to sliding. how is this possible?
    there were as wwell several other cars a little further down that had went off into the ditch and guard rails before we had got their.

  • InsuranceHotline

    Regardless of the weather, you rear ended the vehicle in front of you which makes you 100% responsible for that part of the collision.

  • Joe

    If there is an accident in a work parking lot on black ice deemed “No Fault” by a state officer who arrived on the scene who is at fault? The officer said the place of employment is at fault for not salting. The place of employment claims the drivers of the vehicles are at fault for not being cautious enough. The place of employment stated 3 road cones were put out in the 115 foot entrance to the parking lot to show caution must be taken. Mind you the parking lot is on a slope and the slope itself is what caused cars to slide towards one another.

  • InsuranceHotline

    Typically, regardless of road conditions, if you slide on black ice and hit another vehicle you would be considered to be at fault.

  • Joni Clemens Minica

    Question, while driving 15-20mph in a severe blizzard and white outs we come upon a car that is totally stopped in the middle of the road, swerved to miss him but clipped our front right to the point of totally the car. Threw us into the snow bank. He still doesn’t move and another car hits him. He was afraid so just stopped. There were 6 more wrecks cause from this man stopping in the middle of road. Who is at fault here?

  • InsuranceHotline

    Most of the time, even though the other vehicle was completely stopped, you would likely be considered to be at fault. The thinking is that we should always be prepared to stop regardless of the weather and/or road conditions.

  • Kurt

    If I just got full coverage and I slide off the road and totaled my car am I covered

  • InsuranceHotline

    You should be covered if you have collision on your policy. Best to check with your insurance professional to be sure.

  • Hope

    This applies in a business parking lot as well? Doesnt the property owner have some responsibility for poorly maintained lot?

  • InsuranceHotline

    You could try to get compensation from the owner of the parking lot but since they are privately owned, the highway traffic act rules don’t apply

  • InsuranceHotline

    Yes. From the insurance company perspective, you will be considered to be at fault for the collision since regardless of road conditions you hit the other vehicle.

  • Game Boy135

    if a traffic controller tell me to go and I hit object whose fault is that

  • InsuranceHotline

    Since you hit the object, you would be considered to be at fault.