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Who is Liable in a Car Crash Due to Winter Weather?


Winter weather in New York can cause hazardous driving conditions. According to the Federal Highway Administration, 24% of all weather-related crashes are caused by snow, slush, and ice, with 15% occurring during snowfall or sleet. Tragically, 1,300 are killed, and another 116,800 are injured each year in accidents occurring in this kind of winter weather. 

Although a driver can’t be held accountable for a snowstorm, winter weather can’t be blamed for a car accident. A driver is responsible for how they operate their vehicle while driving in snow or icy rain. They can also be held liable for the injuries they caused another to sustain in a car accident that arose as a result of their negligence.   

A Driver’s Duty of Reasonable Care in a Snow or Ice Storm

Despite how challenging driving a car can be in a winter storm, a driver still has a duty to take reasonable care under the circumstances. Generally, a snowstorm is not a defense in a personal injury action for a car accident. While a driver must operate their vehicle safely in any weather, they may need to exercise additional caution in icy conditions.      

When is a Driver Responsible for Car Crashes During a Snow Storm?

When operating a vehicle in the snow, a driver must proceed at a reasonable speed, use windshield wipers, ensure headlights are on, and keep a safe distance from the vehicle they are behind. Drivers should also make sure their car is equipped with weather-appropriate tires, and the brakes are in good working order.

If a driver was operating a car faster than would be considered reasonable in a snowstorm, they may be held liable for negligence in the event of an accident. For example, even if the speed limit is 55 miles per hour on a particular road, this doesn’t mean that it would be a reasonable or safe speed to drive during a blizzard.

Similarly, if a car had worn tires, faulty brakes, or there was another problem with the vehicle that made it dangerous to drive in icy conditions, the driver or owner may be held liable in a personal injury action for their negligence in operating a vehicle that was unsafe to drive.

A driver might also be negligent if they failed to remove snow or ice from their vehicle after a storm occurred. For instance, if they didn’t scrape the snow or ice from their windshield or car roof once the storm passed and ice unexpectedly struck you, causing you to veer off the road, you may be able to assert a claim.

Causes of Winter Weather Car Crashes

While snowfall and low visibility can be the direct cause of a car collision, winter weather can also cause other conditions that contribute to accidents. Other factors that can give rise to a winter weather car crash can include:

  • Ice flying off vehicles
  • Unsalted roads
  • Black ice
  • Reduced visibility
  • Potholes
  • Snow accumulation  
  • Unplowed roads

In some cases, a town, city, or village may be liable for a collision that occurred due to its failure to properly clear or maintain the road after a snowstorm. The municipality may be sued on its own or included as a defendant in a suit against another driver on the road, depending on the circumstances of the case.

Contact an Experienced New York Personal Injury Attorney

Snow and ice related car accidents can cause devastating injuries and long-term disabilities. If you were injured in a winter weather car crash due to the negligence of another, you may be entitled to compensation for your economic and non-economic damages. In a personal injury action, you may be entitled to recover unreimbursed medical expenses, out-of-pocket costs, time lost from work, and pain and suffering. It’s important to contact a personal injury attorney as soon as possible after the crash to get the maximum compensation you deserve. There are strict statutes of limitation that begin running from the date of the accident, and shorter ones if a municipality is involved.

The Dearie Law Firm, P.C. has convenient office locations in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and the Bronx as well as mobile locations serving Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan, the Bronx, Staten Island, Westchester, Rockland County, and on Long Island in Nassau County and Suffolk County. Contact us today for a free consultation.