Liability of damage to another vehicle

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Liability of damage to another vehicle

My daughter was involved in an auto accident. A snow plow blinded her on a country road causing her not to see a semi that was stopped in the middle of the road to turn into a driveway. She tried to swerve to avoid the semi but slid on ice causing her to hit the rear-end of the truck. The police report placed blame on the weather but said it was actually the snow plows fault for the accident. My husband let insurance lapse so she was uninsured at the time of the accident. The semi company is trying to seek legal action against her for damages. What can she do?

Asked on February 8, 2019 under Accident Law, Indiana

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 2 years ago | Contributor

She can try suing the snow plow (the person or company owning it if private; the city or county if a government plow) for the damage to her car and any amounts that she may have to pay the semi company (and if she has been sued by the semi company already, she can "implead" the snow plow to bring it into the suit as a "third party defendant," or someone who may be liable to her in that lawsuit). She would have to show not just that the spray from the plow blinded her but that the plow's driver was actually driving/operating the plow in a negligent or careless fashion (e.g. driving too fast or too close to oncoming traffic). If the plow was being operated normally or carefully, they are not liable for something that is a natural and known consequence of snow plow operations: snow being thrown into the air and sprayed around. Only carelessness or negligence results in liability.
She can also, if sued, try to defend by showing that she was not at fault. This doesn't require showing that the plow was at fault (e.g. careless) but just requires showing that she was driving carefully. So long as she was not being careless (e.g. not driving too fast; not continuing to drive when blinded, instead of stopping and clearing the snow, if such was possible or practical then; etc.), she would not be liable for damage to the semi (though she or you will still have to pay for damage to your own car, if no one was negligent and so liable to pay).


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