Ice Liability

Ice led to an accident last week even though it hadn’t rained or snowed.  I’m Amy E. Feldman.

Ice caused an 18 car pileup that shut down a Philadelphia road last week. But the confusing part was it hadn’t rained or snowed.  Turns out, the ice was caused when an overnight road crew sprayed the road with water, which, as any second grader will tell you, becomes ice when it’s below freezing, or, as any lawyer will tell you, becomes a lawsuit.  If an accident is caused by a hazard on the roadway, whom can you sue?

Well, if you’re trying to sue a government agency like the state Department of Transportation, you’re usually out of luck because of sovereign immunity, a legal principle that says the government is immune from lawsuits except in very specific situations and ice on the road is rarely one of them.  In the Philadelphia pile up, the Pennsylvania DOT said that it was an independent contractor that performed the service, so there could be recourse.  But if you’re in an accident, the best approach is to call your insurance company and let them figure it out.

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