As I write this blog, the roads in Syracuse, New York and surrounding areas are deadly. Sleet and freezing rain have been falling all day . The roads are frozen. My driveway in Geneva, NY is an ice skating rink. My windshield had a thick shell of ice covering it before I rolled it into the garage.
The National Weather Service just posted that the roads in Syracuse and all the way down through Pennsylvania are likely to be “treacherous” for travel for the next 48 hours. The National Weather Service is warning of “nearly impossible” driving conditions. They warn drivers to stay home or at least “use extreme caution, allow plenty of distance between you and the vehicle ahead of you”.
Already about a dozen Onondaga County vehicles are reported crashed or disabled likely due to the weather.
Given all this information, this Syracuse car accident attorney is staying home! (You should, too!)
But assume I did NOT stay home. What if I had chosen to take my car out to run some errands, for example, and I were unable to avoid striking a car stopped at a stop light because my car just kept sliding on the ice after I braked? Would I be liable? In other words, if the guy I rear-ended were injured, could he successfully sue me even though the storm was not my fault?
Let’s examine both sides of the case. Here’s the argument that I am NOT liable: I didn’t cause the sleeting, icy precipitation. That was God. I was traveling below the speed limit. I braked, as I was supposed to, but the ice that Got put on the road made me slide into the other vehicle. Not my fault!
This is called the “act of God defense”. Insurance company lawyers use it a lot.
Now here’s the argument a Syracuse car accident lawyer would make in Court if he represented my victim: “Mr. Bersani is fully to blame. He knew the conditions. He could see the ice on the roads. He chose to go out in it. If he chose to go out in his car, he was required to drive at a speed that was safe for the conditions, and to use the care required by the circumstances, and he was required to brake with plenty of time for anticipated sliding. He rear-ended my client because he was going too fast for the conditions, or he did not have proper snow tires, or he did not brake early enough for what should have been anticipated sliding.”
Who would win this case?
Most cases just like this one described above are won by the PLAINTIFF, that is, the guy who was rear-ended. Any New York personal injury lawyer worth his
road salt, especially one trying a case in the Syracuse area where juries are used to the snow and ice, should be able to win this case. His job is to make the jury understand that all drivers, even in wintery weather, need to be able to handle the snow and ice up here in Central New York. If they fail to take reasonable precautions to handle it appropriately, then they are liable. They are required to maintain control of their vehicle at all times. If that means driving very slowly, and braking very early, so be it!
The only time the “act of God” defense works is in the rare circumstance where there was a sudden, isolated patch of ice on the road and no other indication before that time that the roads were icy or snow-covered. That’s unusual. Ice and snow are very seldom isolated events. At the very least, there will be sporadic patches of snow and ice that the driver should see as he is driving along and that should warn him to slow down, brake early, and anticipate sliding.
Always remember that you, as the driver in these Syracuse New York winters, have a duty to other motorists, pedestrians and to your own passengers to maintain control of your vehicle. KEEP CONTROL OF YOUR VEHICLE. Otherwise a car accident lawyer like me might be filing a claim against you in Syracuse or beyond.
But avoiding a lawsuit is not the most important thing. After all, if you have sufficient motor vehicle insurance coverage, the lawsuit should not affect you personally. But nothing is harder to live with than causing the death or serious injury of a fellow human being because you did not drive at a prudent speed for the conditions. Please drive carefully!
Email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org I’d love to hear from you!
Syracuse car accident Lawyers
Michaels & Smolak, P.C.