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Drivers Can Be Liable for Failing to Clear Snow and Ice from Cars

December 15, 2016 Motor Vehicle Accident


It’s a law in the state of Pennsylvania—you must clean all snow and ice from your car before you get behind the wheel and pull out of the driveway. If snow or ice falls from your car and causes injury to anyone—drivers, passengers or pedestrians—you can face a fine of up to $1,000 for each violation. The law was enacted in 2006, a year after motorist Christine Lambert was killed when a chunk of ice fell from a tractor trailer and shattered her windshield.

Authorities say, though, that there’s more than potential criminal responsibility when you fail to brush snow and ice from your vehicle. It can also be the basis for a civil suit seeking damages. Here’s how that works.

In most personal injury claims, the legal basis for seeking damages is a claim of negligence. One of the fundamental principles of negligence is the assumption that there is a duty, imposed on everyone, to act reasonably under all circumstances. That includes while operating a motor vehicle. It’s reasonable that a driver would operate a motor vehicle within or close to speed limits and that a driver will obey traffic laws, signs and signals. It’s also likely that a jury would find it reasonable that a motorist would remove ice or snow from his or her car before heading out on the road.

Additionally, it’s not just concerns that snow or ice falling from your vehicle may strike someone else. If you don’t take the time to defrost or clean your windows and your visibility is impaired, causing you to pull out in front of moving traffic or strike a pedestrian, that will likely be considered a breach of your duty to use reasonable care.

Contact Our Office

At Barnard, Mezzanotte, Pinnie & Seelaus, LLP, we offer experienced and knowledgeable legal counsel to individuals in Pennsylvania. To set up an appointment for a free initial consultation, call us at 610-565-4055 or 302-594-4535 or contact us online.

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