Who Is Responsible for Motor Vehicle Accidents in Inclement Conditions?
According to statistics compiled by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, more than a million people are injured every year in motor vehicle accidents caused by or involving poor weather conditions, such as snow, ice, heavy rain, fog or even glaring sun. There’s a common perception that, because the weather is “an act of God,” that no one should be held responsible for a car accident in inclement weather. That’s simply not true.
How Is Liability Established in a Weather-Related Car Crash?
In New Jersey, as in other states, the laws governing personal injury are mostly governed by the common law (judge-made law), and are not found in statutes. Accordingly, there’s no written law in New Jersey that identifies exactly who is liable for a weather-related accident. Instead, the determination of liability is based on the legal principle of negligence.
The concept of negligence, as it has evolved over the centuries and as it is currently applied in New Jersey, requires every person in society to exercise a “reasonable” amount of care when engaging in any activity. That applies to driving a car, designing or manufacturing a product, or maintain residential or commercial property, among other things. Accordingly, when a person gets behind the wheel of a car, they have a duty to act as a reasonable person would. That includes not only the actions they take while behind the wheel, but also the initial decision whether to get behind the wheel and take the car on the road.
There is likewise no specific rule or law identifying what will be considered as reasonable. That determination is made by a jury on a case-by-case basis. If a person has been hurt in a motor vehicle accident that happened in poor or inclement weather, the jury will first need to determine whether driving in that weather at all was reasonable. If it was not, there may be liability (on one or both parties).
Contact the Law Office of Howard D. Popper
At the Law Offices of Howard D. Popper, we can help protect your rights. For a free initial consultation to discuss your options after a motor vehicle accident, contact our office online or call 973-993-8787 to set up an appointment. We have offices in Morristown and Newton.
We handle all motor vehicle accident injury claims on a contingent fee basis. You won’t pay any attorney fees unless we recover damages for your losses.