It’s winter in New Jersey and that always means ice and snow, making the roadways more treacherous. If you’ve been hurt in a motor vehicle accident on snowy or icy roads, it’s almost a certainty that any legal claim you file for damages will be based on allegations of negligence. What is negligence? Is the standard for negligence different in the winter?
Under the laws of personal injury, all persons in society have a duty to use reasonable care in all their actions, given the specific circumstances at the time of the accident. If a person fails to act reasonably under the circumstances, he or she may be liable for losses suffered by another person, provided the injured person can show that the failure to act reasonably caused an accident or injury, and that there were actual losses suffered as a consequence of the accident.
Because the circumstances can change, the duty may also be different, based on the unique factors at the time of the accident. Accordingly, if it’s snowing at the time of an accident, or if there’s an accumulation of ice or snow, a jury will ask what a reasonable person would do under similar conditions and determine whether the defendant’s conduct was in accord with that behavior. If not, there will potentially be liability.
It’s important to understand, though, that the duty to act reasonably under the circumstances applies to all parties to an accident. A jury may find that both parties to a winter-weather-related crash were not acting reasonably. If that happens, the comparative negligence laws in New Jersey may reduce or potentially prohibit recovery by either party.
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