Winter Automobile Accidents Spike in PA
Automobile accidents occur all year long throughout the US. The state of PA, however, can see a definite surge in accidents in the winter months. Being mountainous and northern, PA has many winter weather issues impacting roadways and travel.
N’oreasters, which are blizzards that blow in from the North, are common. Sudden snowsqualls that coat the roads within minutes and ice and thin sleet that can’t be seen are common. Most residents of PA refer to this ice coating as “black ice,” as it is not apparent until a vehicle skids.
Negligence Claims Can Ensue
Many injuries occur from winter car crashes. According to Chris Dolce, in an article written for Weather.com, “Vehicle crashes due to winter weather are more deadly than other types of accidents.” (Dolce, Weather.com, Feb. 6, 2022) (1).
This article also states that more tragedies occur with ice and snow than hurricanes, tornadoes, and floods. Anyone living in PA can generally agree with these statements.
This is also backed up by data from PennDot, which is the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation. Foggy conditions make driving even more difficult. PennDot does provide information on before and after storms and salt and plow roads.
Liabilities and Duty of Care in PA for Roadways
PennDot only assumes the responsibility of keeping roads “passable.” The organization and the government of PA do not assume responsibility or liability outside of this. Conditions that occur suddenly also can impact the liability of PennDot for any tragedies.
Most municipalities/townships also follow the guidelines set by PennDot, and severe dereliction of duty would have to occur for liability to be assigned for a winter-related automobile accident.
This also applies to the state of PA itself. In other words, the fault or shortcomings of any government entity would need to be severe in nature. Shortages of the work crew and malfunctioning equipment do not constitute a true breach of Duty of Care.
What is a Reasonable Duty of Care for Governments?
The definition of Reasonable Duty of Care is quite simple. It is taking precautionary measures and exerting judgment that any individual would consider “reasonable.”
A reasonable Duty of Care is expected, but nothing beyond that, and shifting and unmanageable weather conditions do also not breach this duty. There are options offered to the state of PA by guidelines outlined in FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency).
The use of FEMA would be warranted in extreme winter events beyond the capabilities of local governments. Ignoring the options could lead to a breach of the Duty of Care Negligence case. There are requirements within the state of PA that a certain amount of municipal/township workers be trained in FEMA techniques.
Reasonable Duty of Care for Travelers/Drivers
While, of course, no one living in PA has a crystal ball and sudden weather conditions come without warning, accidents will occur, and unfortunately, so will horrific injuries or even death.
Negligence cases when automobile accidents occur during bad weather have many factors to consider:
- Was anyone responsible?
This is often not the case during weather conditions as the roadways become slick quickly, and averting an accident is sometimes not possible.
- Was carelessness involved?
This can lead to a successful case for a plaintiff that was either seriously injured or if death occurred of a relative. Some drivers who speed and ignore the weather can be held liable for negligence. The Duty of Care also applies to drivers during all seasons.
- Was a driver impaired?
No one impaired by drugs or alcohol should be driving. If an accident occurs during a storm, however, an impaired driver can face a negligence lawsuit plus fines, penalties, and even the loss of their license.
- Was the travel necessary?
Usually, all townships and municipalities put out an “emergency alert” before an upcoming weather event, and the state of PA does post these on the website. Some travel is necessary, such as essential personnel who work at hospitals or other necessary services.
Driving to a party, though, or running out simply to purchase something unnecessary can lead to a negligence claim if a driver is then involved in an accident.
- Was a tractor-trailer involved?
It is known that automobile tractor-trailer accidents are more deadly and dangerous to drivers and passengers in cars. The difference in size and weight is a factor.
Negligence During Weather Events are Difficult Claims
In summary, there are so many variables with the Duty of Care that only a seasoned attorney specializing in automobile accident negligence should represent any plaintiff.
As shown throughout this article, the Duty of Care can be breached by many parties, including the drivers in storms. Proving that one party is more responsible than another is a craft honed by great automobile negligence attorneys.
Christian J. Hoey, ESQ, and his team of professional staff, with over a decade of experience, are needed when these types of accidents occur in the Chester County Area of PA and other areas of PA.
Remember the Statute of Limitations
This is also another crucial component in PA. The Statute of Limitations to bring a Negligence Case in any type of automobile accident is a mere two years, according to the latest data compiled by Forbes Magazine.
Some states, such as Rhode Island, have up to ten years to file an automobile accident negligence claim, but that is not the case in PA. Much preparation must be done during this time, and a phone call or contact to Christian J. Hoey of Paoli, PA, is in order ASAP.
The clock ticks rapidly on these cases, and rapid deployment of the team of HoeyLegal is necessary to effectively win any case of this type.