Winter & Blizzard Conditions Still Command Motorists Duties or Negligence Lawsuits Arise


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Winter and blizzard conditions may render streets closed and others near unable to be traveled upon. Still, the duties of a motorist remain. In fact, no matter the weather, motorists are still required to follow the "rules of the road" and the law so that a lawsuit for negligence will not be brought against him/her/them for some or all of the following (but not necessarily limited to):

  1. Carelessly and negligently operating, managing, maintaining, and/or controlling a vehicle;
  2. Carelessly and negligently operating a motor vehicle at a rate of speed which was greater than reasonable and proper with regard to traffic conditions and the use of the highway, or which was greater than the applicable speed limit established in violation of the law;
  3. Carelessly and negligently failing to equip a motor vehicle with proper brakes although such a device was necessary to insure the safe operation of the vehicle;
  4. Carelessly and negligently failing to give proper warning of the approach of a vehicle although such warnings were necessary to ensure the safe operation of the vehicle;
  5. Carelessly and negligently rear-ending another’s vehicle;
  6. Carelessly and negligently failing to keep a proper lookout and to stop or alter the course of a motor vehicle to avoid striking the vehicle; and/or
  7. Simply being otherwise careless and negligent.

Crash Checklist

In the State of Illinois, for example, if you are in a crash, the Illinois Secretary of State has a checklist it suggests the following.

If you are involved in or come upon a traffic crash:

  1. Stop your vehicle in a safe, well-lighted public place.
  2. Help an injured person if necessary or requested. First, protect the person from traffic, then cover the injured person for comfort and to avoid shock. Do not move an injured person unless absolutely necessary. Do not attempt to give first aid unless you have been trained in it.
  3. Call 911 immediately.
  4. Someone should warn other drivers, using flares if available.
  5. Ask all those involved for their names, addresses, phone numbers, driver’s license numbers and license plate numbers.
  6. Notify the nearest police station as quickly as possible.

Accident Reports

Further, after a crash, Illinois law, for example, requires reports (and so do other States and many municipalities) such that, according to the Illinois Secretary of State:

"Regardless of fault, a crash report must be filed by the driver of a vehicle if the crash involves death, bodily injury or property damage of more than $1,500. (If any vehicle involved in the crash is uninsured, a report must be filed for $500 or more.)"

And the Illinois Secretary of State also states:

"Notify the police immediately. Many towns and cities require a report if a crash occurs within their limits. Therefore, if an officer is not at the scene of the crash, a report must be made at the nearest police station as soon as possible. If in a rural area, the county sheriff or Illinois State Police must be notified. If the driver is unable to make the report and there is a passenger, the passenger must make the report."

In Illinois, a report also must be made to the Illinois Department of Transportation. This confidential report must be sent no later than 10 days after the crash. The form may be obtained from a police officer or automobile insurance agency.

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