After a winter storm blankets Upstate New York in snow, private companies and municipal entities use snowplows to remove the snow and ice from roads and walking surfaces. When snowplow accidents occur, they can leave people with devastating injuries. If you were injured or a loved one was killed in a snowplow accident caused by another, you should discuss your circumstances with the Syracuse truck accident attorneys of DeFrancisco & Falgiatano. We have the experience to advise and represent you in these potentially complicated claims.Snowplow Accidents
Snowplow drivers must follow different rules depending on whether they are employed by a municipality or a private company. Snowplow drivers working for private companies remove snow from nonpublic roads, driveways and parking lots. Municipal snowplow drivers operate on highways and roadways.
Different factors may contribute to a snowplow accident. In some cases, accidents occur because a snowplow driver is driving under the influence or talking on the phone. In other cases, an injury may occur because a snowplow operator didn’t properly salt a parking lot. You may be injured in a collision with a negligent driver or because of a snowplow driver created a hazardous condition by failing to adequately remove snow.Lawsuits Against a Private Snowplow Company
When private companies operate snowplows, they are not immunized to the extent that municipal snowplow drivers are. Their commercial insurance should cover any injuries caused by the snowplow driver. In most cases, the private snowplow company enters into a contract with a property owner to remove snow.
However, that contractual obligation doesn’t lead to tort liability favoring third parties except where: (1) the snowplow operator failed to use reasonable care in performing his duties thereby launching an instrument or force of harm, (2) the plaintiff relied on continued snow removal to his detriment or (3) the snowplow operator completely displaced the property owner’s duty to safely maintain the property.
For example, if a fatigued driver fell asleep while operating a snowplow and caused your traumatic brain injury when the plow collided with your vehicle, you can likely show that the driver failed to use reasonable care thereby launching a force of harm with the plow. In that situation, your lawyer may be able to hold that operator responsible for the losses arising out of your traumatic brain injury.Lawsuits Against Municipal Drivers
It is particularly challenging to recover damages from a municipal snowplow operator. Under Section 1103(b) of the Vehicle and Traffic Code, snowplow operators engaged in work on a highway are exempted from suit. However, you may sue a municipal snowplow operator involved in this work if that operator operated the snowplow recklessly while actively working. This standard is higher than ordinary negligence and requires that the driver acted in conscious disregard of a known or obvious risk that was so great, it was highly probable harm would result.Lawsuits Against Property Owners for Snowplow Accidents
In many cases, you must attempt to recover damages from a property owner rather than the snowplow operator. When a dangerous snow or ice condition exists on a property, you’ll need to show that the property owner knew or should have known about the dangerous condition prior to the accident. However, you may be able to hold the company that operated the snowplow liable if the plow made the condition more dangerous or where the property owner contracted with the snowplow company such that the company’s responsibilities displaced the property owner’s duty to keep the property safe. For example, if the specific way a snowplow moved the snow on the road caused your car to skid and crash, you may be able to recover damages from the snowplow operator for making the situation more dangerous.
The nature of the property and time of your accident may also impact your ability to recover damages. Generally, snow and ice don’t need to be removed until a reasonable time after the snow stops falling. You may not be able to recover damages from a property owner if you crashed due to snowy conditions during a snowfall. If your car skidded on ice on a municipal road, you’ll need to show the municipality had prior written notice of the icy dangerous condition. Alternatively, you’ll need to establish the municipal snowplow driver affirmatively created the icy condition.Consult an Experienced Syracuse Attorney
If you were injured in a snowplow accident, you should talk to the seasoned lawyers of DeFrancisco & Falgiatano about the circumstances of the accident. Our firm represents people in Rochester and Syracuse. We also represent clients in Upstate New York cities like Oswego, Lyons, Oneida, Cooperstown, Binghamton, Auburn, Canandaigua, Wampsville, Watertown, Ithaca, Utica, Elmira, Lowville and Herkimer. Call DeFrancisco & Falgiatano at 315-479-9000 or via our online form.