Motorists must drive with caution in hazardous winter weather conditions, all while sharing the road with cars and trucks of all sizes. The car crash attorneys at Casey, Devoti & Brockland understand that seasonal driving safety is crucial, especially as snow plows hit the road. There is always a risk of snow plow accidents this season, so we have compiled the basics around snow plow liability and how to stay safe as you share the roads with them.
Legal Responsibility for Roadways
In Missouri, there is no affirmative duty to clear the roadway of snow or ice. As a public service, many government agencies and businesses clear roadways, parking lots and sidewalks. Governmental entities typically have snowplow drivers on staff and hire private plow companies to fill in the gaps. However, Missouri is currently experiencing a shortage of snowplow drivers. Drivers may soon have to double their routes and work long hours to keep roads clear during high snow accumulations.
The car crash attorneys at Casey, Devoti & Brockland always become worried when drivers are on the road for extended periods. The shortage leads to a pressurized situation — the odds of snow plow accidents will rise due to distracted or exhausted driving.
Liability in Snow Plow Accidents
Like any other collision on the road, liability for injuries involving a snow plow depends on which driver’s actions contributed to cause the crash. A snowplow crash could be the fault of the plow driver, the other motorist or both. Likewise, the victims may hold the driver’s employer legally responsible for the collision, especially if the driver was undertrained, unqualified or inappropriately assigned the job. A motorist would typically turn to a firm of car crash attorneys to navigate which parties to hold responsible.
However, there may be a catch. You may be unable to hold the snowplow driver accountable for a collision, even when the driver negligently caused the crash, if the driver is employed by a government agency. State agencies, divisions and municipal offices have sovereign immunity in Missouri, shielding them from suit.. An exception to this rule is when injuries arise from the operation of a motor vehicle, including a snow plow. A lawyer knowledgeable about the immunities afforded governmental offices and their employees is essential. These lawyers can help you navigate Missouri law and hold the negligent driver and his employer liable for your injuries.
Staying Safe from Snow Plow Crashes
Most car crash attorneys would tell you it is best to avoid the roads during inclement weather. However, if you need to travel, keep the following tips in mind to avoid a car or snowplow collision:
- Check your vehicle. Before getting on the road, you should ensure that your car is completely cleared of snow and in good working order. MoDOT recommends motorists check that their headlights, defrosters and windshield wipers work and that their tires have ample tread.
- Stay back. Snow plows often dispense liquid, salt and sand to keep the roads safe. However, the debris may cause damage to your vehicle or make it difficult for you to see, so it is best to give them a wide berth. For this reason, snow plows often have a sign affixed to the back of the vehicle warning drivers to stay back.
- Slow down. The margin for error is limited in hazardous conditions. Ice may cause your car or a neighboring vehicle to slide across lanes and into another vehicle. You must act as a very careful person would and allow ample room to stop, slow or otherwise control your vehicle.
- Keep your eyes on the road. Winter weather means snow, ice and a higher chance of crashing. Motorists should remain aware of their surroundings and avoid distracted driving, especially if snow interferes with visibility and the driver’s ability to see and perceive what is happening in front and around them.
If you and your loved ones are involved in snow plow accidents this winter, contact one of the car crash attorneys at Casey, Devoti and Brockland for a free consultation.