Negligent Snow or Ice Removal and Negligent Snow Plow Operation Claims
As Syracuse snow and ice accident lawyers, we get our fair share of snow plow injury and negligent snow/ice removal cases. (If you think Buffalo is the snowiest big city in New York, you’re wrong; it’s Syracuse. But we handle snow and ice cases in Buffalo, too. In fact, we handle them all over snowy Upstate New York.)
Here are the nuts and bolts of negligent snow and ice removal cases and negligent snow plow operation cases.Cases for Negligent Snow Plow Operation or Driving
If you are struck or injured by a motorized snow plow, to win your case you need to prove that the driver acted negligently. Usually this means that he did not look where he was going, or did not see the person or vehicle he struck, or violated the vehicle and traffic law of New York (such as running a stop sign). These kinds of cases are very much like regular motor vehicle accident cases, EXCEPT when the snow plow was being operated by a municipal employee (county, town, village, city, etc.). In those cases, there is a special law that protects the municipality from liability, called Vehicle and Traffic Law 1103(b). This statute grants municipal highway vehicle drivers, while engaged in the performance of work activities on the roadway, a “pass” for ordinary negligence. Instead of just “negligence”, you must show that the municipal snow plow driver was reckless. This is much tougher to prove. Generally, if the snow plow operator testifies, “I looked but just did not see the car coming”, he is negligent, but not reckless. You lose. On the other hand, if he did not even bother to look before pulling out in front of you, that’s reckless. Snow and ice accident lawyers, whether in the Syracuse area or the Buffalo area, must follow these same rules of proof.Cases for Negligent Snow/Ice Removal or Failure to Remove Snow/Ice
If you are injured because of something the plow or snow remover did or did not do with the snow or ice, rather than by his driving or operation of the plow, the law is very different. And again, there is a big difference between suing a private company or person versus suing a municipality such as a city, village or county. In both scenarios, you have to prove the snow and ice removal efforts were “negligent” so that the ice or snow you slipped on while walking or skidded on while driving should not have been there. Generally this means proving that they should have removed it earlier, or that they only partially removed it when they should have been able to remove it all. The law, however, says they don’t have to remove any of it until it stops snowing and for a “reasonable time” after it stops. Thus, if you slipped or skidded on ice/snow while on foot or in your car during a snowfall you will usually have a very difficult case. Things get even harder if the owner of the property was a municipality (city, county, village, etc.). If you slipped or skidded on ice/snow on a MUNICIPAL road or sidewalk or parking lot, in addition to showing negligent snow/ice removal (or failure to remove it) you also generally have to prove the municipality had “prior written notice” of the icy/snowy condition of the area. This almost never happens, so you are usually just plain “screwed” if you slip and fall, or skid out on, a snowy or icy sidewalk, road or parking lot belonging to a municipality. The exception is if you can prove that the municipal plow driver affirmatively created the icy condition (rather than just failed to remove it). Example: if the plow piled the snow up in an area where the snow later melted, and the runoff water then froze and you slipped on the frozen runoff. Again, snow and ice accident lawyers, whether in the Syracuse area or the Buffalo area, must follow these same rules of proof.
Here’s something else you should know about negligent snow/ice removal cases: Often you can’t sue the snow plow company at all. This happens usually when the snow remover/plow was cleaning snow or ice off of an apartment complex, or commercial property such as a hotel, office building, shopping mall, etc. In those cases, usually the owner of the property has contracted out to a separate company the snow/ice removal. The law says you can’t sue them at all for their negligence in most cases. Rather, you have to sue the OWNER OF THE PROPERTY for failing to keep their property safe. Ultimately, it was the OWNER’S responsibility to keep you safe on their property, not the snow plow company’s. The two main exceptions to the rule are (1) if the plow actually made the condition more unsafe (for example by removing the new snow but leaving the old slippery ice exposed or (2) the contract between the snow plow company and the owner of the property gave the snow plow company such vast control over the property that its responsibilities essentially “displaced the owner’s duty” to maintain the property. Both these exceptions are rare.
There are many more New York State snow, ice and plow liability laws your lawyer will need to understand in order to properly represent you when you are injured by slippery conditions involving snow or ice or where a negligent snow plow operator injured you.
The Syracuse snow and ice accident lawyers Michaels & Smolak have recovered millions of dollars for clients injured by snow plows or by negligent snow and ice removal and for other injuries to cover their medical bills, lost earnings, pain and suffering, and more. If you or a loved one has been injured because of negligent snow or ice removal, or because of negligent snow plow operation, CONTACT US for a free consultation with an experienced lawyer who can inform you of your legal rights and maximize your compensation.