Black ice is a layer of slippery, often deadly, ice below the crust of snow usually found on roadways. Hitting a patch of black ice can often cause you to lose control of your vehicle. Sometimes, this loss of control results in an accident with injury to you or others or damage to your vehicle or someone else’s. Whether your car insurance will cover an accident caused by black ice depends on whether you have the right type of coverage and the specifics of the accident.

Liability Insurance and Black Ice

Everyone is required by law to have liability insurance. Liability is the coverage that pays for another person’s damages if you cause an accident. If you slide on black ice and you hit another car, your liability insurance coverage is what will pay for the other person’s damages: your property damage liability will pay to repair or replace the victim’s vehicle, and your personal liability will pay for any medical bills or other costs associated with a physical injury. You have liability limits on your policy, and your liability will pay up to those limits for these types of damages.

However, your liability coverage will not pay one penny toward fixing your car or paying your medical bills if you are injured in a black ice accident. However, there are other types of coverage you can purchase which will pay for your injuries and the damage to your car.

First, medical coverage pays your medical bills and those of your passengers. Sometimes called PIP, or personal injury protection, this coverage pays for your hospital and doctor bills if you are injured, as well as your rehabilitation costs. Some policies even provide payment for lost time from work or other related expenses.

What if you are not injured, but your car is damaged?

In order to have your car repaired in a black ice incident, assuming the damages were not caused by another driver, you must have a different kind of coverage which specifically pays for damage to your vehicle. Depending on your policy, this might be a collision policy or a comprehensive policy.

Collision policies cover damages you cause to your own vehicle. If the insurance company classifies a blackice accident as a “collision,” your collision policy will cover any damage to your vehicle caused by this event. However, in most cases, collision policies do not cover anything except an accident with another vehicle, so if it is a single-vehicle black ice accident, your comprehensive policy may take over.

Comprehensive policies, as the name implies, take in any type of damage not caused by a direct collision with another vehicle. Comprehensive policies can cover everything from a broken windshield to a stolen car, or damage caused by hail, flood, or tornado. Comprehensive policies are often the type of policies which cover damage caused by a black ice accident.

If the black ice accident involved only your vehicle, it is very likely that your comprehensive policy will be responsible for the costs of repairs. On the other hand, if another car hit you due to black ice, it is likely that car’s liability policy will pay for your damages. If the other driver was uninsured, then your uninsured motorist coverage will pay for the damage.

Black ice accidents are not easy to avoid. Unlike “regular” ice, black ice is often invisible. There are a few things you can do to minimize your chances of a black ice accident, however:

1) Avoid excessive speeds on icy roads. Speed is what causes most accidents in icy weather. Remember that “excessive” speed does not mean driving above the speed limit; it means driving too fast for conditions.

2) Learn to maneuver through a skid. There are ways to handle a skid without panicking. If you are not sure how, learn from an experienced driver or take a defensive driving class.

3) Allow plenty of stopping room. Give yourself much more leeway on icy roads than on dry pavement. You will need up to three times as much room to stop when the roads are icy. Never slam on brakes; instead, pump them gently as you come to a stop.