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Pennsylvania Vehicle Accidents in Bad Weather

Accident in Bad Weather

A crash involving winter weather is often a bad one. It usually results in catastrophic injuries, property damage, and possibly fatalities. Victims dealing with the aftermath can quickly become overwhelmed, especially with mounting medical bills, insurance adjusters calling, and other issues. That’s where we come in. Our firm handles all the legal issues that arise for injured victims, so they can focus on getting their lives back.

Jon Ostroff, Founding Partner

Pennsylvania drivers are frequently exposed to winter weather conditions such as rain, snow and ice. Motorists must be vigilant to avoid an accident in bad weather. When they act carelessly, they put themselves and others around them in danger.

Snow and Ice Related Crashes

Hundreds of winter weather-related accidents occur annually in Pennsylvania. Snowfall can create glare, reduce visibility, and lead to icy and wet roads. A car traveling too fast may not have enough time to stop. Drivers should reduce speed and take extra precautions when moving, stopping, and turning. If you have any doubt about whether you can drive safely, then it’s better to stay put.

Preparing Your Vehicle

Car and truck owners should ensure they have good tires and replace worn ones. Winter windshield wiper fluid will help prevent frozen windshields during a car trip. Vehicles should always have an adequate supply of antifreeze. In addition, it’s a good idea to have emergency equipment in your car in case you get stuck in bad weather.

Driver Liability for an Accident in Bad Weather

Proving negligence in a weather-related crash can be complicated. After an auto accident, determining whether a motorist acted carelessly on the road during poor road conditions comes down to one question. Did the person act in a reasonably prudent fashion, as an ordinarily reasonable person would have done if faced with the same circumstances? If a driver failed to take care to be safe and caused an accident, he or she may be liable for victims’ injuries.

Frequently Asked Questions

What responsibility does the government have to clear the snow and ice from local roads and state routes?

State and local governments must make their best efforts to maintain road conditions. That includes clearing snow and ice from primary roadways. In Pennsylvania, PennDOT is generally responsible for maintaining the roads within its jurisdictional boundaries. PennDOT does not necessarily have to make the road “safe,” only passable for foreseeable use under prevailing weather conditions. There is no law requiring PennDOT to clear snow and ice at certain intervals or on a pre-determined basis.

Both local and state governments are generally immune from lawsuits by citizens for acting in a negligent fashion. There are exceptions. However, to sue a municipality, city, or township, you must find an exception to its general immunity from lawsuits and prove you suffered a permanent loss of a bodily function to be eligible to sue. Suing the state government requires proving that its action or omission was the primary cause of the accident, not driver error or any other third party’s actions.

Do I have to clear snow and ice from my property?

Most townships, municipalities, and cities have local ordinances. They include how long you have until you must clear snow off the sidewalk in front of your property. Failure to comply may result in a citation and fine. However, failing to comply with an ordinance is “negligence per se” — but not necessarily the legal cause of the plaintiff’s harm. Nonetheless, we advise you to comply with local ordinances as to the time frame to remove snow and ice from your sidewalks. However, remember that once altered from its natural state, snow can form in irregular heights. These hills and ridges can make you liable if someone should fall on account of them.

Am I still liable if my vehicle slides and hits another vehicle or someone in the roadway? What if I took all reasonable precautions but was caught in an unexpected, hazardous situation?

Pennsylvania “tort law” (civil wrongdoing) is based at its core on one word: reasonableness. In general, PA law would say if you chose to venture out in highly dangerous weather conditions, then you must have acted reasonably. If the roads you’re on seem to be especially icy or slippery, the reasonable driver would be expected to slow or even pull the car over and wait for a PennDOT truck to spread salt. Or, it may be the reasonable driver would never have ventured out. If you ventured out for a reason that was not urgent and you could have waited, you could be found negligent, because you should have anticipated the possibility of dangerous conditions, like sheets of ice and sudden gusts of wind.

You would be less likely to be found negligent for driving and causing an accident in extremely hazardous weather conditions if:

a. Your service job required you to drive for public safety or the public welfare, such as a firefighter driving to the fire station, a cop driving to the police station or an ER doctor driving to the ER to treat the hordes of people who came in.

b. You were far from home, there were no hotels nearby, and your only other option was to sleep in your car.

c. You tried to stay over at the local hotels, instead of trying to drive home, but they were all sold out and you are en route to the next closest one when the accident occurs.

What should I do after an automobile accident in bad weather?

After any accident, it’s important to remember to do the following:

– If you are able, drive the car out of the way of traffic.
– Put the vehicle in park and turn on your hazard lights.
– Check for injuries, and call an ambulance if necessary.
– Call the police.
– Gather as much information about the accident as possible. Record driver names and contact info, license plate numbers, mile markers, etc.
– If it’s safe and you are able, take photos and video of the damage.
– Do not admit fault or speak with an insurance adjuster until you contact a lawyer.

Seek medical attention after a vehicle crash, even if you think your injuries are only minor. Some problems do not show up right away, so it’s important to visit a physician immediately following an accident.

Featured Settlement: $3.075 in Allegheny County

Ostroff Injury Law obtained a $3,075,000 settlement in a lawsuit filed in Pittsburgh. Our client was severely injured in a snowstorm crash during whiteout conditions on Interstate 80. More than 60 trucks and cars were involved in what was one of the worst highway pileups in Pennsylvania history. With so many trucks involved and the severe weather, proving fault required complex crash reconstruction by specialized experts. Key witness statements obtained by Jon Ostroff were key in establishing the parties responsible for the crash and obtaining a substantial recovery for our client.

Holding Negligent Drivers Responsible

Negligent drivers cause collisions when they fail to adjust their behavior in dangerous weather conditions. Our lawyers know how to investigate and uncover the critical details of an accident. We use that information to determine what happened and who was at fault. Ostroff Injury Law has successfully represented auto accident victims for decades. If you sustained injuries in an accident in bad weather, we can help. Contact our firm for a free consultation.

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