News & Articles

Winter Car Accidents: Who is at Fault?

January 13th, 2023
winter car accident

Pennsylvania winters always bring with it, frigid temperatures and the promise of snow. While a fresh snowfall looks beautiful on rooftops, trees, and fields, it creates a mess for travel. Snow-covered, icy roads can be treacherous and lead to car winter car accidents with catastrophic injuries. According to the Federal Highway Administration, over 1,300 people are killed and more than 116,800 people are injured due to vehicle accidents on snowy, icy, or slushy roads.

After a car accident involving snow or ice, accident victims may incorrectly assume they cannot file a personal injury claim. After all, the other driver didn’t cause the bad weather. The truth is Pennsylvania law requires drivers to practice extra care when inclement weather impacts roadways. When drivers fail to do so and cause an accident, the injured accident victim has a personal injury case.

Let’s take a closer look at PA state laws surrounding winter weather driving, several tips to drive safely this time of year, and what to do if you are involved in a winter weather accident.

PA Winter Driving State Laws

Pennsylvania is one of several states with laws specifically aimed at reducing the risk of an accident during the winter months. With the amount of snow and ice storms that hit our region and the entire northeast, the laws address key safety issues that can contribute to an accident.

Removal of Snow, Ice, or Debris from Vehicle: If you’ve ever driven behind a vehicle with a pile of snow on top, you know the risk and dangers it can bring. Although the driver of that vehicle may be able to see out of their windshield, drivers nearby may have obstructed views of the roadway. Even worse, the snow could potentially dislodge from the vehicle and hit another car or cause an accident.

Thanks to new legislation passed in July 2022, drivers are required to remove snow from their vehicles within 24 hours following a heavy snow or ice storm. Police officers can cite drivers who fail to clean off their cars before hitting the road. Previously, drivers were only fined when dislodged snow or ice caused an injury or death to another driver, passenger, or pedestrian.

Visibility: Visibility is key when driving in inclement weather. Pennsylvania requires all drivers to use their headlights anytime they are using their windshield wipers. Even if you aren’t using your windshield wipers but visibility is low (let’s say in fog), you are still required to use your headlights not only to allow you to see better but also to let other drivers see you.

Duty of Care: No matter what time of year, all drivers have a “duty of care” to operate their vehicles safely and take the proper precautions to keep passengers and other drivers around them safe, too. When a driver fails to keep their “duty of care” and causes an accident, they can be held liable. For example, if a driver loses control during a snowfall and was going at an excessive speed, he failed to uphold his “duty of care.”

Pennsylvania’s winter driving laws are meant to protect you and other drivers from reckless behavior and keep you safe when on the road. If you were injured in an accident during winter weather conditions and the other driver was negligent, you have the right to file a personal injury claim. Before taking a settlement from their insurance company, contact an accident lawyer to understand your rights.

Tips to Drive Safely in the Winter

Driving during the wintertime can be stressful, especially when there is snow or ice in the forecast! The best and easiest tip to stay safe is to stay home. If at all possible, avoid travel during hazardous conditions.

If you do have to drive, here are some basic tips to stay safe on the road:

  • Take it slow: Snowy and icy roads are difficult to travel on at high speeds. During inclement weather, take it slow and steady and avoid braking quickly.
  • Keep a safe distance from other vehicles: As much as possible, keep a safe distance from cars around you. If you are traveling behind someone, a general guideline is to keep “6 seconds” between you and the other car. To calculate six seconds, start counting the number of seconds it takes you to reach a fixed object that the other car passed by. If you take less than 6 seconds, you are traveling too close.
  • Limit all distractions: Distracted driving is never safe, let alone during winter conditions. You should stay focused and alert at all times. Checking a text message or changing the radio station should be the last thing on your to-do list when driving.
  • Use extra caution on bridges and overpasses: Bridges and overpasses freeze much quicker than roads and can have an accumulation of black ice. Use extra caution on these sections of your drive.

What to Do After a Winter Weather Accident

Being in an injury accident can be traumatic, especially during a snow or ice storm. What you do immediately after an accident can be important to your personal injury case. If you are in an accident, here are steps to take to avoid further injuries and protect your rights as an accident victim:

  1. Move to safety  If possible, move yourself and your car out of harm’s way. A winter 2-vehicle car accident can quickly turn into a multi-vehicle pileup if other drivers are unable to stop or cannot see you.
  2. Call 911  Alert the authorities of the accident to ensure all parties get the medical attention they need. Let the 911 operator know your location, how many cars were involved, and if you know of any injuries. When the police arrive, ask for a copy of the police report.
  3. Document the scene and any evidence  It’s sometimes hard to tell who is at fault after a snowy accident so you should gather evidence for your case. Take pictures of the vehicles, talk to witnesses, and photograph road conditions or other potential causes of the accident.
  4. Contact a personal injury attorney  Personal injury cases after a snowy car accident can be complicated, messy, and stressful. Personal injury law firms have the experience and expertise to fight for the compensation you deserve.

Winter Car Accident Personal Injury Law Firm

At Dale E. Anstine Personal Injury Law Firm, we know how devastating a car accident can be for its victims and their families. Injuries can lead to expensive medical bills, weeks or months of recovery, missed time from work, and pain and suffering. Accident victims should not have to go through that alone.

If you were injured in a snowy or icy car accident, contact us today for a free review of your case. We can help you understand your rights and fight for the compensation you deserve. We are available 24/7 on our website or by calling 717-846-0606. We do not charge a fee unless we win your case!