Regardless of environmental conditions, liability will be determined according to negligence, whether it be that of the driver’s, the pedestrian’s, or possibly both. A court of law will consider how much each individual involved in a pedestrian accident followed their legally mandated duty of care. In other words, what would a reasonable person do in similar circumstances, such as when it is raining or snowing?
Let’s consider an example. On a sunny day in the middle of the afternoon, a reasonable person would most likely drive at the speed limit, because there is no real reason to exercise extra caution. But what if heavy rain or dense fog prevent visibility? In that case, it’s expected for a driver to slow down, which is what a reasonable person should do. However, if that driver is speeding through a snowstorm, that would count as negligence on the driver’s behalf. Environmental conditions, including icy or poorly illuminated roads, all demand an added duty of care in order for a driver to have enough time to react to a pedestrian.
Let’s assume that a driver slows down below the speed limit to avoid hitting a pedestrian. How slow does a driver have to go to show that he or she was acting in a reasonable manner, in order to avoid liability? There is no clear cut answer.
In some circumstances, a court of law may decide that the driver did enough by slowing down in the first place. But if weather conditions were so bad that a reasonable driver would have pulled to the side of the road until visibility improved, then that driver can be held liable because their failure to pull over contributed towards causing an accident.
A pedestrian’s actions will also be analyzed when determining liability in an accident caused by environmental conditions. Poor weather will definitely affect the way a reasonable pedestrian should act given the circumstances. For example, did the pedestrian walk into the street or fail to use a crosswalk or a traffic signal? Were they wearing dark clothing that made it hard for a driver to see them?
In essence, a court of law will assess whether the driver and the pedestrian met their duty of care and whether they acted negligently. Given that California is a comparative liability state, a court of law will divide liability according to both parties' negligence, regardless of weather conditions.