Today, I placed an order for a snow blower. While I think we all earned a mild winter after last year's storms, preparation never hurts. Mental preparation might be in order, too.
Think ahead to those icy, slick roads of winter. They create greater risks of car accidents, and impose greater duties on drivers.
Did you know that a driver who hits another driver in the rear is almost always at fault? In our courts and under both statute and common law, it is rare for a driver who rear-ends another to escape liability. Claims that the guy in front stopped short usually won't do.
So, if you are hit in the rear, resulting in accident and injury, you can bet you have a meritorious claim against the driver in contact with your rear bumper.The key to the whole thing is stopping distances and rate of speed. Under the New York Vehicle and Traffic Law, all drivers must keep a reasonable distance between themselves and the vehicle in front of them, allowing time and distance to stop safely. Six feet in 30-mile-per-hour traffic will never do.
Instead, think in terms of multiple car lengths. When the roads get slick and icy, allow as much space between yourself and the car ahead as possible, and go slow. How much space is enough, and what speed is slow enough? A jury will have to decide what a reasonable person would do under the circumstances. Sometimes an accident reconstruction expert can testify and help them decide.
That driver riding your tail who whacks you on a snowy day has breached a duty of care owed to you. That driver is almost certainly at fault.
It is foreseeable that failure to keep a safe distance could force a car off a snowy road and into a tree.