SLIPPING AND SLIDING
January 19th, 2018 | Kevin C. Quinn
For all of its beauty, winter can be an unpredictable time. Attorney Kevin C. Quinn and the team at HKQ Law want to help you and your family deal with this season’s pitfalls. In this article, we’ll explore a few challenges that we face when traveling by car and or foot.
Hazardous driving conditions
Every year, over 100,000 people are injured and more than 1,300 are killed on snowy, slushy or icy roads. However, there are steps you can take to make winter travel a little safer. Start by winterizing your vehicle. Check your battery, belts, hoses, radiator, oil, transmission fluid, lights, brakes, exhaust system, defroster, heater, windshield wipers, ignition system, tires and tire pressure. Each time the outside temperature drops 10 degrees, the air pressure in your tires will go down one or two pounds per square inch. Underinflated tires make steering more difficult in slippery conditions.
Speaking of tires, if the winter temperatures where you live are regularly below 45 degrees F, like right here in Northeastern Pennsylvania, it is recommended that you invest in a set of four winter tires. Keep in mind that winter tires are designed not just for icy or snowy conditions, but also for low temperatures. Their special rubber compounds stay pliable in the cold, giving them better grip and improved braking. The tread compound of summer and all-season tires can harden in low temperatures, decreasing traction.
Before you start driving, clear all the snow or ice off of your vehicle, including the roof. Motorists who fail to do so could face serious fines if any snow or ice falls from their vehicle and causes injury or death to other drivers or pedestrians. What’s more, snow or ice slipping down from the top of your vehicle can impair your view.
When driving on slippery roads, drive slowly. Increase your following distance. Don’t “power” up a hill. (Build up some inertia before you get to the hill.) Don’t stop going up a hill, unless absolutely necessary. Proceed down a hill as slowly as possible.
If you are going on a longer trip, take water and food in the event that you get stranded on the road due to a storm or accident. Make sure you have your cell phone and charger, blankets, any needed medication, and emergency items such as a tow rope, jumper cables, sand or cat litter (traction aid), a flashlight, matches and candles, flares, first aid kit, and a portable radio.
Should you become snow-bound, stay with your vehicle. Display a brightly colored cloth to signal distress. Don’t try to walk in a severe storm. At night, keep the dome light on if possible. Start the car and use the heater for about 10 minutes every hour. Make sure the exhaust pipe is clear of snow, ice and mud, and isn’t clogged. Keep one window slightly open to let in fresh air.
In Pennsylvania, an abutting property owner is primarily responsible for the removal of ice and snow on the sidewalk. It is not required that the sidewalk be free from snow and ice at all times. The property owner is given a reasonable amount to time to clear the sidewalk. To recover compensation after a fall on snow or an ice-covered sidewalk due to natural accumulations, a plaintiff must generally show three things:
(1) the ice and snow accumulated in ridges or elevations that unreasonably obstructed travel and constituted a danger to pedestrians,
(2) the property owner knew through constructive or actual notice of the existence of the condition, and
(3) it was this dangerous accumulation of ice and snow that caused the plaintiff’s fall.
This is known as the “Hills and Ridges Doctrine” but there are certain exceptions to its application.
Perilous parking lots
The owner (or sometimes the lessee) of a parking lot has a legal obligation to keep the lot safe. That includes clearing snow and ice. Prevailing in a lawsuit for a parking lot fall generally requires proof that a defendant (property owner or lessee) knew or should have known that the property was unsafe and still failed to remedy the condition, and that violation of duty caused your injury.
If you’ve experienced a serious injury as a result of someone else’s negligence, call HKQ Law at (800) 760-1529 to schedule your no-obligation consultation.