Icy windshields are commonplace during the winter months in New England. Clearing it off the car before you hit the road will keep you and other drivers safe. However, it is not unusual for someone to quickly scrape the ice off the driver’s side in a hurry and neglect the rest. If your involvement in a car accident had something to do with the ice remaining on your windshield, you could be at least partially at fault. However, the specific circumstances are critical, and talking to a car wreck attorney can help you better understand the legal options available to you and the other driver.
What Does the Law Say About Removing Snow and Ice From Your Vehicle?
In short, some states have laws that hold drivers accountable for not removing snow or ice from their vehicles, and some do not. For example, Massachusetts has no specific law requiring you to clear your entire windshield before driving. However, you could still receive a citation under other traffic laws. For example, police sometimes cite drivers who failed to clear all the snow and ice from their vehicles using a general rule that covers the operation of a car with an unsecured load. Additionally, drivers owe a duty of care to everyone with whom they share the road, meaning you are responsible for any actions that could cause someone harm because you owe them a duty to ensure your efforts are safe and reasonable on the road.
What Is Personal Injury Law?
The law defines a personal injury, also known as a tort, as harm caused to another person’s body, reputation, or psychological state due to someone else’s negligence or malicious intention. For example, when someone suffers an injury in a car accident due to another driver’s negligence, they are liable for the losses incurred. However, several factors can affect liability:
- If a negligent driver hit your car and you did not violate a traffic law, the other driver is likely at fault regardless of any ice on your windshield.
- If you hit a person, vehicle, or object in the field of vision blocked by ice on your windshield, you would be at fault.
- If a negligent driver hits you, jarring the ice from your windshield and causing it to hit another vehicle, you could both be liable.
Every accident is unique. That is why talking to a car accident attorney can help you better understand the legal options available to you. They will investigate your accident independently of the police and insurance company to find evidence of negligence from all parties involved and determine what damages are recoverable from the aftermath.
The Benefit of No-Fault Insurance
If you own a vehicle registered in Massachusetts, the law requires you to carry no-fault auto insurance as part of the state’s obligatory insurance. The benefit of no-fault insurance, also known as personal injury protection, is that it eliminates the question of liability and allows you to access compensation for losses using your own insurance policy.
Therefore, if you cause an accident and the other party suffers injuries, they can recover medical expenses and lost wages through their PIP policy. While you may receive a citation for the ice on your windshield, you would not be accountable for the other driver’s damages. However, in cases that result in severe injuries to either party, the victim can step outside the no-fault system and file a claim or lawsuit against the at-fault party. To bypass PIP coverage, the injured person must have at least $2,000 in medical expenses or suffer an injury that caused disfigurement, broken bones, or loss of sight or hearing.
What Damages Could You Be Liable for if You Cause an Accident?
Damages refer to the liabilities an at-fault driver owes to the injured party in their case. More severe accidents generally result in more substantial losses. The damages available are compensatory and can include economic and non-economic. Although, non-economic losses are only available if you meet the qualifications to bypass the no-fault system.
Any monetary losses associated with the accident are recoverable. Examples include:
- The cost of any necessary medical care, including emergency treatments, hospital stays, surgery, prescription medicine, medical devices, and all ongoing treatments for rehabilitation
- The wages lost during recovery, including loss of earning capacity if the injuries cause a permanent impairment
- The cost to repair or replace the vehicle damaged in the accident and any other property damaged
- Any other monetary losses associated with the accident or injuries, such as childcare needed during recovery or transportation to medical visits
The non-economic losses reflect how the accident and injuries can impact the victim psychologically. Examples include physical and emotional pain and suffering, loss of the ability to enjoy life, loss of consortium, mental anguish, anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Proving these damages can be complex and typically require the help of a car accident lawyer.
What Happens if Both Parties Are Liable?
If both parties involved in a collision are partially responsible, most states will apply a legal concept called comparative negligence. The basis of this concept is that the injured party in an accident should only pay for the portion of damages reflecting their percentage of fault for the accident. Additionally, some states adhere to the modified comparative negligence rule, which only allows the injured party to recover damages if they are less responsible than the other party. States that apply the pure comparative negligence rule enable the injured party to recover a fraction of the damages even if their percentage of fault is more significant than the other party.
For example, Massachusetts follows the modified comparative negligence rule and sets the threshold for damages recovery at 51%. Therefore, if the injured party is 50% liable for the accident, they can still recover 50% of the total cost of damages. However, if the court finds the injured party 51% or more at fault for the accident, they cannot recover damages and must rely on the limitations of their own PIP insurance coverage.
When Should You Contact a Car Accident Lawyer?
Many questions arise in the aftermath of a car accident, and when you are unsure about your role in the cause, you risk making mistakes that could cause financial hardship. Instead, consider contacting a car accident lawyer as soon as possible to review your case’s details. Even if you are at fault, you may not bear full responsibility. Additionally, if you also suffered injuries, you could recover compensation for your losses.
At Jason Stone Injury Lawyers, we have extensive knowledge of the laws that govern car accident cases in New England. When we represent you as a client, we channel all our resources and energy into ensuring you have access to the compensation you deserve and protect you from false claims of liability. Additionally, we know the financial burdens these accidents place on our clients. To help alleviate that burden, we provide our expertise and representation at no upfront charge. The first element of the Stone Cold Guarantee ensures you only pay if we win your case. Contact us 24 hours a day, seven days a week, at (800) 577-5188 to schedule your free case evaluation with an experienced car accident lawyer. There’s No Obligation, Just Information (R).