As we approach the peak of the winter season in the state of New Jersey, citizens have started taking precautions against the well-known dangers of icy roads and slippery walkways. These include shoveling snow, salting pathways, applying grit or wood chips to increase traction, and so on.
However, their responsibility to ensure their safety and that of others only extend to their private property. Public areas like roads, walkways, and parks fall under the jurisdiction of the local governmental authority.
This brings up the issue: can drivers sue their city or county because of a car accident caused by icy or unplowed roads? Well, let’s take a deeper look at the issue.
How Unplowed Roads Can Cause Car Accidents
Here are a few common ways that unplowed roads can contribute to car accidents on public roads:
- Unplowed streets may form deep tracks in the snow which freeze over making the roads especially treacherous after a snowfall.
- Winter storms in New Jersey can be especially severe and snow buildup can be several feet high. This blocks off intersections, signs and may significantly reduce driver visibility.
Who is Liable for Accidents on Public Roads Due to Unplowed Roads?
In most cases liability falls on the city or county for not maintaining a reasonable amount of road safety by shoveling or salting the ground. The issue now is defining what is meant by a “reasonable” amount of safety.
It is virtually impossible for the local authorities to shovel all the streets within an hour of snowfall, so certain areas must be prioritized over others. Also, certain areas like cul-de-sacs and other dead-end roads may not be plowed for hours or even days after a snowfall.
Therefore, state laws typically offer the government a reasonable amount of time to discover dangerous road conditions due to snow and a reasonable amount of time to respond.
Therefore the government is not likely to be held responsible if they were not aware of the condition of the road or the accident occurred before they had a reasonable time to respond. There are several other arguments, such as the road had remained in poor condition long enough that the government should have discovered it. But even this argument is tentative under certain circumstances.
What to Do If You Get into an Accident Because of Unplowed Roads
Due to the difficulty in arguing your case you need an experienced personal injury lawyer to help you argue your case. These are the necessary steps to take once such an incident occurs:
- Seek medical attention. Your health and safety is the top priority. Even if you feel you are not seriously injured, seek medical attention as soon as possible, especially in accidents involving blows to the head or obvious signs of bleeding.
- Gather the right evidence. If your injuries permit, it is advisable to take pictures and videos of the scene and any damages done to your vehicle before seeking medical attention. Videos and photographs should be time-stamped. Collect the names and numbers of eyewitnesses if there are any as they may be valuable witnesses to your claim.
- Report the incident. Report the incident to the relevant local authority as soon as possible. If you’re not sure who that is you can contact the local police department.
- Keep all medical receipts. Keep all medical records and bills involved with the incident. This involves all treatments, tests, and appointments made.
- Seek legal counsel. The next step is to seek out an experienced attorney who can help you with your case as soon as possible.
Contact a Woodbridge Personal Injury Lawyer to Discuss Your Car Accident Case in New Jersey
Did you or a loved one sustain serious injuries due to a car accident in New Jersey? Don’t let the medical bills pile up while you wait for the negligent party or their insurance company to do the right thing. Right now, you need an aggressive personal injury attorney on your side, fighting to get you the compensation you need, want, and deserve. The skilled attorneys at the Law Offices of Anthony J. Vecchio, LLC represents clients injured because of motor vehicle accidents in Jersey City, Princeton, Freehold, Mt. Laurel and throughout New Jersey. Call 732-334-7468 or fill out our online contact form to schedule a consultation about your case. We have an office conveniently located at 227 Main Street Woodbridge, NJ 07095 as well as offices in Mt. Laurel, Freehold, Princeton and Jersey City.
The articles on this blog are for informative purposes only and are no substitute for legal advice or an attorney-client relationship. If you are seeking legal advice, please contact our law firm directly.