Winter can be brutal in New Jersey, with an average of nearly two feet of snow every year. Snowy and icy conditions can make driving treacherous, leading to countless accidents when drivers struggle to stop or control a vehicle. When there’s an accident due to icy or snowy conditions, how do you establish fault? Is it just an “act of God?” As a general rule, the answer is no.
Under the laws that allocate responsibility for personal injury—specifically, the laws of negligence—every person in society has a duty, at all times, to use reasonable care when engaging in any activity. Whether you’re designing or manufacturing a product, maintaining real property, or operating a motor vehicle, you have an obligation to act as a reasonable person would in the same situation.
The obvious question—how do you know what’s reasonable? Unfortunately, the law does not offer specific rules with respect to what’s considered reasonable. If you are injured and file a lawsuit based on negligence, the members of the jury typically make that determination based on the facts and their perception of “reasonable” behavior. The law generally identifies as reasonable what “an ordinary person of average prudence” would do, given the same set of circumstances.
So how does that apply to driving in New Jersey’s winter weather? A jury may look at a number of factors to determine whether there was a breach of the duty of reasonable care:
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