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Car accident liability and the PA turnpike blizzard debacle

In our last post, we began speaking about the potential impact of inclement weather on determinations of negligence in car accident litigation. As we noted, a finding of liability for a party who causes a gets involved in an accident in inclement weather, but the extent of that person's liability can certainly be modified both by the weather and the negligence of other drivers.

Last month's debacle on the Pennsylvania Turnpike highlights that there may be instances where drivers have other parties to blame when inclement weather causes problems on the roadway. As a result of a serious blizzard snowstorm, over 500 vehicles were stranded for nearly 24 hours on a 16-mile stretch of the turnpike. The problems started when two tractor-trailers lost functioning and ended up blocking the lanes. Part of the problem, though, was that weather predictions were seriously inaccurate.

According to a spokesperson for the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission, the agency counted on a forecast of about eight inches of snow. That prediction was given on January 22, around mid-afternoon. The next update, according to the agency, didn't come until 10 p.m., when the prediction is said to have changed to a foot or two. Lawmakers have pointed out, though, that local news stations were updating predictions throughout the day.

It isn't clear what consequences, if any, the agency will face as a result of the debacle. Typically, suing a government agency for personal injury liability is a challenging prospect due to legal immunity issues. It is worth pointing out, though, that those involved in any car accident--not only accidents where inclement weather is involved--should work with an experienced attorney to ensure they explore all possible avenues for liability and compensation. 

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