Who Is Responsible If I Crash Due to Icy Road Conditions?

News headlines throughout the country, including New York, have been blazing with news of record cold temperatures. In mid-winter, it’s not uncommon to feel cold blasts, of course, but this winter has been one for the history books.

With cold weather, of course, comes snow and ice. Driving on ice and snow can be dangerous. It can cause vehicles to skid – into other vehicles, objects (retaining walls, posts, trees), into pedestrians, and off the road. Any of these accidents can cause injuries or even be fatal.

If you or a loved one has been in a crash caused by icy road conditions, it’s normal to wonder who is responsible.

Liability will depend on various factors

There’s no one answer. It depends on how each party was driving, what you crashed into, and multiple other factors.

Say, for instance, that another driver, approaching from the opposite direction on a roadway, goes into a skid and crashes into your car. Perhaps the skid was caused by the driver going too fast, braking improperly, or even having worn tires. Perhaps the driver was driving under the influence of alcohol. If that’s the case, the other driver may be responsible.

But there are multiple factors that might have caused the accident, including the possibility of mechanical malfunction in the vehicle that was out of the driver’s control. While drivers may be responsible for a crash if they disobey laws and rules of the road, such as going too fast or drinking to excess, assessment of responsibility in each case would require a thorough investigation into what caused the crash.

Or, say you were driving on an icy highway, skidded, and the car went into a ditch, injuring you and the passengers. Government authorities are responsible for keeping roads as safe as possible. That’s why we see snow plows and sanders out shortly after a major storm.

But all drivers should be aware that sanding and plowing don’t necessarily keep a road safe in periods of cold weather. If water forms and then temperatures drop, the road may re-ice. The same is true of individual driveways to a home or business parking lots. Drivers who don’t take account of conditions may themselves be responsible for a crash.

But the law says, to be negligent, responsible parties need to have known that a situation was dangerous, had time to make it safe, and failed to do so. If re-icing has occurred after an initial shoveling or sanding, these parties may argue that you failed to drive safely given the conditions.

The key to driving safely in icy conditions is to drive very slowly. If you skid, don’t panic. Don’t pump the brakes or go to the parking brake. Steer slowly in the direction you want to go. If icy and snowy conditions are forecast, the safest bet may be to stay at home.

Car accident attorneys New York residents trust

If you or a loved one has been injured in a collision this winter, Edelman, Krasin & Jaye can help.

Our initial consultation is free; we will discuss your case and potential next steps. Call 1-800-469-7429 for a consultation with an experienced New York car accident lawyer today. We serve all of Long Island and the greater NYC metro area.

Additional Resources on winter driving

1. AAA. Winter Driving Tips. https://exchange.aaa.com/safety/driving-advice/winter-driving-tips/.
2. National Safety Council. Be Prepared for Winter Driving. https://www.nsc.org/home-safety/tools-resources/seasonal-safety/winter/driving.