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Who’s at Fault in a Snowplow Collision?

Tree Lined-up Snowplows Clearing the Highway

Snowplows are essential for anyone to operate on the roads in the Northeast over the winter months. After a heavy snow, the roads are simply untraversable until a snowplow comes by. Perhaps for that reason, New York law offers significant protections for snowplow drivers. They’re not subject to many of the traffic laws other drivers have to follow, and holding snowplow drivers for property damage and personal injury they cause can be exceptionally tricky. Continue reading to learn about how fault and liability play out after a snowplow collision. Reach out to a seasoned Kingston car accident lawyer for help after an accident in New York’s Hudson Valley.

Snowplow Drivers Are Exempt from Most Traffic Laws

Snowplow drivers employed by a public entity (county, city, or state agencies) are not required to follow most of the rules of the road that other drivers must follow. Snowplows do not need to stop at red lights or stop signs, they are free to make illegal turns, and they can generally do whatever they need to in order to clear the streets of snow. That means that when you are trying to establish their liability for an accident (as discussed below), the fact that the snowplow ran through the red at an intersection will not provide much support for your claim.

Recklessness, Not Negligence, Must be Proven

If you were injured in an accident involving a snowplow and you want to hold their public employer liable, you face a significantly higher burden than you would after just about any other accident. In most car accident cases, assuming you satisfy the threshold to get out of New York’s no-fault insurance scheme (i.e., you suffered a serious injury), you can hold the driver liable for your injuries simply by proving negligence. Negligence means that someone deviated from the standard of care we’d expect from a reasonable person under similar circumstances. Often, negligence can be shown by proving the driver violated a New York traffic law–they were speeding, texting while driving, blowing through a stoplight, etc. The same does not apply to snowplows.

To recover after an accident with a snowplow, you’ll need to show that the driver was “reckless.” Recklessness might not sound very different from negligence, but under the law, it’s significantly harder to prove. In the case of a snowplow accident, you need to demonstrate the driver evidenced a “conscious disregard” for the safety of those around them – that they deliberately ignored the likelihood of their actions causing harm or damage to someone else. A snowplow driver who deliberately crashes through a living room wall, for example, would almost certainly give rise to liability. Driving a snowplow while intoxicated is also considered reckless, as would driving a car while intoxicated.

While not impossible, claims against snowplows are quite difficult. You may be better off filing the strongest claim you can with your no-fault auto insurance provider. If there are grounds to find the snowplow driver was actually reckless–such as if they were driving while intoxicated–then the driver and/or their employer may be held liable.

It’s important to keep in mind that there are additional hurdles to suing a municipal agency on top of the higher standard for proving liability. Suing the Department of Transportation or other government agencies requires filing a notice of claim within a certain amount of time after the accident and jumping through other additional hoops. A seasoned New York traffic accident lawyer can help ensure you preserve your right to recover.

Considered Advice and Talented Representation for Your Hudson Valley Car Accident Claim

If you or someone you love has been hurt by a negligent driver in New York, find out if you’re entitled to money damages for your injuries by contacting the dedicated and talented Hudson Valley car crash lawyers at Rusk, Wadlin, Heppner & Martuscello, LLP for a free consultation at 845-331-4100 (Kingston) or 845-236-4411 (Marlboro).

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