Who is Liable for a Car Accident When a Vehicle Slides on Ice?

Located on the chilly east coast, Philadelphia often receives heavy snow during the winter months.  When the snow starts to melt in the sunny afternoon, only to refreeze overnight, the streets are left coated in slick, treacherous sheets of ice, which can be almost impossible to see under certain lighting conditions.  As any driver knows, icy roads increase the risk of losing control and having an accident.  But who is at fault in this situation, and why?  Philadelphia car accident attorney Brent Wieand explains how liability is determined when ice causes a car crash in Pennsylvania.

Snowy and Icy Road Car Crash Statistics in Pennsylvania, 2015

It’s a terrifying scenario that thousands of Pennsylvanians find themselves in each winter.  They’re driving slowly down an icy road, nervously watching their rearview mirror for that driver who seems a little too close for comfort.  Then, it happens, and their worst fears are realized: the car behind them suddenly loses control, growing larger in the rearview mirror by the second.  The driver ahead braces for impact, hoping the crash won’t be too severe.  If they’re fortunate, they’ll escape with expensive property damage – and if not, they’ll sustain a terrible injury, or even be killed.

Even in winters with light snow and ice, this scenario is more common than you might think.  Perhaps it’s a scenario that you have personally experienced.

If you have, you’re far from alone.  According to Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT), exactly 9,860 auto accidents took place in snowy conditions during 2015, including sleet and freezing rain.  Only the period from November to March is cold enough to produce these conditions, which means there was an average of roughly 65 snow- or sleet-related accidents per day during the 2015 winter season.  PennDOT calculated that overall, snow, freezing rain, and sleet were factors in nearly 8% of all Pennsylvania car accidents that year, which is not an insignificant number.

As you can see in the related image, which is captured directly from a PennDOT statistical report, PennDOT also determined that in 2015:

  • 8,560 Pennsylvania crashes happened on snowy and/or slushy roads (6.7%), resulting in 35 deaths (2.9%).
  • 6,308 Pennsylvania crashes happened on icy roads or roads with patches of ice (5%), resulting in 39 deaths (3.3%).
philadelphia car accident lawyer
Image Source: Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT), 2015 Pennsylvania Crash Facts & Statistics

Who is at Fault for an Auto Accident Caused by Skidding on Ice?

We’ve established that snow- and ice-related car crashes are, unfortunately, quite common during Pennsylvania’s frigid winters.  The question is, who is at fault and thus liable for the resulting expenses?

In most cases, the driver who is at fault in a crash caused by skidding on ice is the driver of the striking vehicle.  If Car B is following behind Car A, the driver of Car B will usually be the driver at fault, because there is a general assumption that the driver of Car B was driving too fast for the conditions, and/or failed to leave a safe and reasonable distance between their own vehicle and Car A.

Occasionally, the driver of the skidding car will successfully argue that he or she was forced to respond to a sudden emergency, sending the vehicle out of control; but in most instances, he or she will be found at fault for causing a preventable accident, as the sudden emergency defense is rarely applicable.  As the Superior Court of Pennsylvania noted in Kukowski v. Kukowski (1989), “[T]he ‘sudden emergency’ doctrine only applies to moving instrumentalities suddenly and unexpectedly thrust into a driver’s path of travel.”  Even then, motorists who perform avoidance maneuvers can still be considered negligent, because drivers are expected to take poor weather into account and adjust their driving accordingly (e.g. driving slower than usual, leaving a larger than usual space between themselves and the next vehicle).

Any time a winter weather crash occurs, being represented by an attorney who has a detailed understanding of ice-related accident claims will improve the likelihood that you will receive the compensation you deserve.  You should always speak to a car accident lawyer in Philadelphia, PA before agreeing to a settlement, because initial settlement offers are typically inadequate.

Philadelphia Personal Injury Lawyer Handling Snow and Ice Car Accident Claims

If you were rear-ended, T-boned, or otherwise hit by a careless motorist who was driving too fast for bad weather conditions, you may be entitled to financial compensation for a variety of expenses and losses, including your medical bills, the income you lost, and the pain and suffering you experienced as a result of your injuries.  An experienced personal injury lawyer in Philadelphia, such as Brent Wieand of the Wieand Law Firm, LLC, can negotiate with insurance adjusters aggressively to increase the value of your claim.  It is also possible for the surviving spouses and family members of fatal icy road crashes to file a claim or lawsuit with assistance from a Philadelphia car accident lawyer.

You should speak with an experienced black ice accident lawyer about getting compensated for your car crash if you or a loved one was hurt in a rear-end collision, intersection accident, or any other type of winter weather accident.  To talk about your snow or ice car accident claim in a free legal consultation, contact the Wieand Law Firm, LLC at (888) 789-3161 as soon as possible.

*Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes.  It is not legal advice and should not be used as legal advice.  The Wieand Law Firm, LLC is based in Philadelphia, PA, and proud to serve clients throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey.*

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