What is the law regarding accidents, etc.involving parked cars on snow covered side streets?

UPDATED: Feb 13, 2011

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What is the law regarding accidents, etc.involving parked cars on snow covered side streets?

A lot of our side streets are still covered in snow. The plows went straight down the center to clear a path for traffic and left mounds of snow on each side of the street. As a result people can’t park close to the curb; in fact people are parking 2-3 ft from the curb. The result is a very narrow opening for traffic, a small car can fit down at most, but there’s no way an emergency vehicle is getting down these blocks. So when someone chooses to park 3 ft from the curb are they illegally parked? If your hit by a plow, ambulance or another driver, who’s fault is it?

Asked on February 13, 2011 under Accident Law, Wisconsin


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

There is no simple answer: it depends on the respective level or amount of care taken by the person parking and the person driving. If it is reasonable, given the availablity of other parking, how far the snow extends, and how close to the snow bank that the person parked, he or she would probably not be liable. But this is a very fact-specific inquiry--for example, the same parking job yields clearly different answers on a street normally 15 feet wide than on one 30 feet wide; what is a reasonable job of parking for a Smart Car is different than for an Escalade or Hummer; it may matter whether the street is one way or two way; etc. So the answer is: someone who acts with reasonable care under the circumstances is generally not liable.

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