Snow, Ice, and Your Windshield
Recent decisions from lower courts around the United States bring to light a winter risk when driving that is less considered than snowy and icy roads. Namely, the question of whether a salt truck driver or entity is responsible for the damaged car windshields of other drivers on the road.
The prevailing thought is “no.” Many small-claims and lower courts are holding that salt truck entities cannot be held liable and vehicle property damage caused by the salt is an inconvenience necessitated by a greater public good. Basically, salt trucks throw rock salt and this is necessary for safe vehicle traveling. So, it’s not unreasonable to expect that there will be some collateral damage, such as cracked windshields.
When it’s Not Your Fault
However, those holdings seem to turn on the contributory negligence of the plaintiff driver. The plaintiffs in those claims were either following salt trucks too closely or passing them because they were traveling too slowly. The outcome might be different for those affected drivers who were traveling at a safe distance from the salt truck.
In the case of a driver who suffers a damaged windshield, but was traveling at a safe distance, the injured driver needs to establish negligence. An insurance adjuster or court will look to whether the salt truck driver or controlling entity breached a duty owed to other drivers on the road. After, they will look to whether the damage the vehicle sustained was foreseeable when the breach occurred.
Factors that are considered in light of a duty owed and when assessing liability are whether the salt truck was loaded in a manner that prevented any of its salt from falling, blowing, dropping, or otherwise escaping. If not, this could suggest a duty to other drivers on the road was breached. Additionally, there should be adequate truck lighting and other indicators on the truck showing that it’s actively spreading salt. Finally, it might be relevant to know where the damaging salt originated. For example, salt that is escaping from a truck bed because the salt was not loaded properly or secured, suggests more liability than salt that is spraying from the salt spreader.
Inherent in driving are some risks that are not easily avoided. Additionally, surrounding circumstances such as road conditions are always a factor to be considered when assessing liability. Therefore, it is always a good idea to seek advice from an attorney who is versed in insurance claims and property damage matters. If you have been involved in an accident due to someone else’s negligence call the Law Office Of Gary J. Natale, P.C. at 973-324-9711 or contact the office online.