Who Is Liable for Damage When There’s Snow and Ice on Roads?

Weather is unpredictable and can throw a wrench in one’s plans without a moment’s notice. A huge snowstorm can suddenly strike while a person is on the road driving. It can also lead to an accident due to the slippery conditions with snow and ice coating the ground. However, there might be a question about who may be held liable after a driver has an accident after a snowstorm. In many instances, the government may be responsible for the road conditions that led to the accident.

Who’s Responsible for Road Maintenance?

In general, counties, cities, and states are responsible for the maintenance of roads. Sometimes, depending on the location and kind of maintenance, more than one organization shares the responsibility. A driver who gets into an accident on a road due to snowy and icy conditions will require a skilled attorney who is able to get to the bottom of the details to determine who would be liable for the accident.

Proving Negligence in a Case Involving an Accident in Snowy Conditions

Once a personal injury attorney has determined exactly which government agencies are involved where an accident occurred, the next important step is to prove that those agencies were negligent. However, when the situation involves a snowstorm that led to snow and ice coating the road, it can be a challenge. If the plaintiff had had an accident just shortly after the storm began, no agency would be considered liable because there would not have been sufficient time for it to respond to the weather condition. In addition, the driver could be considered negligent because she continued to drive in such poor road conditions.

On the other hand, if the snowstorm had started several hours or even days earlier, the government agency would have been aware of the potential dangers on the road and would have had ample time to respond. In that situation, the agency could be found negligent and therefore held responsible for any injuries people sustained in an accident while on the snowy, icy road.

Comparative Negligence Rule

Generally speaking, if a negligence lawsuit is filed against a government agency, the agency usually attempts to lay the blame on the plaintiff. Sometimes, it can be challenging to prove that an accident occurred due to a road that was not plowed after a snowstorm. If there are no witnesses, photos, police reports, or other types of evidence available, it can be difficult or even impossible to prove fault. In such a case, the court may find the injured party to be partially responsible for the accident, which reduces the compensation she would be awarded. For example, a jury may find a plaintiff 10 percent responsible, which means that if she were seeking $10,000 in compensation, that amount would be reduced to $9,000.

Special Circumstances

Sometimes, special circumstances come into play when a person sues a government agency. Occasionally, the agency must be found to have been “very negligent” in its treatment of road conditions and minimizing risks to the public after a snowstorm. The road conditions prior to the storm may also be a factor; if there were huge potholes that weren’t repaired that somehow contributed to the injury, this may also be considered when determining fault.

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