NJ Winter Weather Car Accident Attorneys
Proudly serving all of New Jersey
When winter conditions are a factor in a car crash, determining whether the crash was the fault of another party or just “an accident” can be difficult. Several variables must be accounted for, including state and local municipal regulations that govern driving in the wintertime.
If you have been involved in a car accident involving icy or snowy roads, it is highly advised that you seek guidance from a qualified injury lawyer to get an understanding of your legal rights and options.
The experienced New Jersey personal injury attorneys at Lependorf & Silverstein, P.C., are dedicated to helping injured victims get the compensation they need to recover from their injuries. We offer free comprehensive consultations at (609) 240-0040. There is no obligation, and everything we discuss will be kept confidential. So, don’t hesitate to bring your questions to us - we will provide the answers you need.
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In New Jersey, motorists are legally obligated to clear ice and snow from their vehicles following a snowstorm. When blown off by high winds or speed, snow and ice accumulations can cause property damage and injury, or obstruct a driver’s vision, causing a crash. Citations for violations can range from $25 to $1,000, depending on whether damages are involved. Commercial vehicles are subject to higher fines. If the liable driver in your case has been cited for this violation, you may support your claim with the citation.
Black ice is a transparent coating of ice on the road. Unfortunately, black ice can be very difficult to differentiate from just a wet section of the road – if it can be seen at all. Steering, slowing, or stopping is difficult on black ice, even for four-wheel drive vehicles or vehicles with studded snow tires or tire chains. Drivers should always be extra-cautious any time they approach a shiny section of a black-colored road, as it is potentially covered with black ice. Here are times and places you may encounter black ice in New Jersey:
- When the temperature drops below freezing following a light rain is the most common time to encounter black ice.
- Bridges and overpasses are more likely to have black ice, as the air can circulate underneath the road and cause it to freeze before other sections of the roadway.
- Sections of road that are heavily shaded or in a tunnel can freeze before other sections of the road, making them prime locations for black ice. In addition, these areas remain frozen after other sections of the roadway have thawed.
All drivers in New Jersey are required to exercise ordinary caution when driving. Part of that responsibility is driving at the appropriate speed for the current weather conditions. This can include driving at a reduced speed and allowing more stopping distance between vehicles. Drivers must also watch for black ice or other hazards in the roadway, such as debris or large rocks. Actions that are never acceptable include:
- Failing to follow warning signs, such as slippery conditions ahead
- Failing to acknowledge signs of danger, such as other vehicles sliding on the roadway
- Panicking, slamming on brakes, or hard steering adjustments
- Poor tire maintenance or driving on worn-out tires
All of these factors can contribute to an accident involving black ice.
Other factors that commonly contribute towards auto collisions during winter include:
- Lack of visibility in winter storms ("whiteouts")
- Loss of wheel traction due to patches of snow, slush, or ice
- Freezing rain
Drivers can prepare for winter hazards and prevent accidents by changing to snow tires, driving slowly with plenty of space between vehicles, keeping their windshields clear, putting their vehicles into low gear, and learning how to handle a skid.
Motorcyclists need to do everything they can to keep themselves safe if they decide to take their motorcycle out on the road in bad conditions. Safety precautions for riding a motorcycle during winter include:
- Stay alert. Other motorists are unlikely to be accustomed to seeing motorcycles out on the road when snow and ice are a factor. Motorcyclists need to be aware of this and compensate for it by being even more alert. This means keeping enough distance between your bike and another vehicle to give it more time to see you, and to give both drivers extra time to react in certain situations.
- Keep motorcycles maintained. A poorly maintained bike, like a poorly maintained car, is an accident waiting to happen. Check the brakes, as well as the tires, and make sure that you are ready to stop abruptly if needed.
- Dress appropriately. Of course, motorcyclists will need to dress warmly to be better prepared for the elements. But wearing reflective gear and other bright clothing can help make drivers more aware that they are still sharing the road with motorcyclists.
The U.S. Department of Transportation states that nearly 25% of all car accidents are due to poor road conditions. During a particularly heavy snowstorm in New Jersey in 2017, there were over 200 vehicle accidents. These stats show just how dangerous bad road conditions can be, and how important it is for drivers to remain extra vigilant when on icy and snowy roads.
One driver is usually “at fault” for an accident, but at times roads that haven’t been properly maintained do cause accidents. A road that’s slick with ice, for instance, can be very hard to navigate, and may be difficult to predict so that it can be avoided. When an icy road causes a crash, the driver may have a case against the city or state of New Jersey. In fact, a state, city, county, or other municipal agency may be held liable when a street hasn’t been plowed, if it hasn’t been salted, or if the snowbanks resulting from plowing cover street signs and intersections, or prevent drivers from seeing around corners.
Normally, the statute of limitations in a car crash in New Jersey is two years. However, that statute is greatly reduced when the government is the one being sued. In New Jersey, a Notice of Claim must be filed within 90 days when suing a municipality or government entity or the lawsuit is null and void. When the cause of an accident is an improperly maintained road, it becomes even more critical that the injured party speak with a lawyer and file a lawsuit as quickly as possible.
Although it may be understandable as a reason, ice or snow cannot be used as a defense for your car accident, particularly if the city has kept that road properly maintained. In the eyes of both the insurance company and the law, drivers are expected to keep their vehicles under control at all times, even in bad weather. In cases where one or more drivers contributed to the crash, those drivers may be held personally accountable. When that is the case, the injured party may file a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault drivers.
Tire chains offer more traction and can prevent slipping and sliding, especially on ice. Another option is studded snow tires, which have small pieces of metal or plastic embedded in them and provide better traction in snow. Many states have outlawed their use because they can cause damage to the roads, but they are allowed in New Jersey, as long as they are only used between November 15th and April 1st. There are also snow tires, which have built-in traction without additional studs. (They are less useful than chains when it comes to icy roads, however.) There is no law stating when these can be installed on a vehicle, but they shouldn’t be used during the summer months as they can wear out quickly, especially in warmer weather.
Why should you hire Lependorf & Silverstein, P.C. and not some other law firm? First of all, we have a proven track record of success. Just look at the numbers in our case results page: we have achieved multiple multi-million dollar settlements and verdicts. Secondly, we do not take a cent unless we recover on your behalf. This means you won’t have to pay us any upfront fees. Finally, we treat our clients like family. We will keep you aware of your progress every step of the way and make your goals and needs our highest priority.
To learn more about how our firm can help you or a loved one obtain justice after a New Jersey car accident, please contact us at (609) 240-0040 today. You may call our office, submit an online contact form, or speak with one of our helpful representatives using the live chat feature on this page.
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- New Jersey Winter Weather Preparedness: Safety on the Road
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