Navigating the Difficult Terrain of Black Ice in Virginia Personal Injury Cases
In York County, Virginia, a massive pile of 75 cars occurred on Interstate 64 on December 22, 2020. The accident caused fifty-one people to be injured. After an investigation, the police determined that the cause was black ice.
The York County accident is a recent example of the dangers of black ice. However, black ice does not only cause extreme problems on roads and highways. Black ice also devastates pedestrians. Once snow and ice begin to build up, there is a possibility of an individual slide and fall always increasing. However, if snow and ice cleaning is not done correctly, it can lead to dangerous black ice.
What causes black ice?
A main cause of black ice is the snow that is already on the ground and thaws and then freezes again. Thawing and re-freezing causes black ice. It’s clear in color and gets its name from what it looks like on asphalt – dark with a clear glaze and incredibly slippery.
Who will ensure that the public is protected from these potentially dangerous black ice conditions? Virginia lawmakers have several laws on the books when it comes to snow conditions. Through the Virginia Code, the rules ensure that property owners and landlords are required to remove accumulation of snow and ice from sidewalks and sidewalks. These are adjusted in instruction 24.030 of the Virginia Civil Model Jury:
“A landlord is obliged to a tenant to remove ice or snow with the usual care [outdoor entrance walks; steps; porches; stoops; parking lots] under his control within a reasonable time after [snow; freezing rain] stop falling. “
In addition, many Virginia communities go a step further and have specific codes in place that address the duty of others to clear snow / ice from public sidewalks.
The Arlington County Code, Chapter 27, sections 27-24, requires a homeowner to remove such snow or ice from public sidewalks. It is partly called …“It is the duty of the owner, inmate, or any other person or entity responsible for any occupied property in the county that is adjacent to a public sidewalk to remove or have removed snow or ice from the entire width of that sidewalk … “
Loudoun County has similar ordinances. The Loudoun County Code, Chapter 1022.01, requires owners to clear snow and ice from sidewalks or sidewalks adjacent to their property.
If an owner or landlord breaches their duty to keep their property in a reasonably safe condition and fails to remove snow and ice from sidewalks in a timely manner, a person walking in that area can be seriously injured by slipping on uncleared black ice . In this case, the injured party could bring a lawsuit against the owner for personal injury, but this is not without its hurdles.
Two common lines of defense for personal injury cases that have slipped on black ice in Virginia deny liability and alternatively argue that the injured person was partly to blame.
The first defense of denial of liability is for a defendant to deny any negligence. The defendant can argue that he or she acted sensibly, given the situation – hired a snow removal company, shoveled and / or salted all of his property. A defendant can take all of these correct steps, but black ice can still form. The burden of proving that these precautionary measures were inadequate is placed on the injured party.
The second common defense for slips and falls with snow and ice is Contributory negligence. Virginia follows a strict standard for contributory negligence. If a party is injured, even in the slightest, by its own negligence, it cannot recover Damage. This enables a defendant in a slip and fall case to argue that the injured person was also negligent if they were aware of the snowy / icy conditions they were walking in and continued down that path anyway. If a jury thinks this is right, the injured party cannot recover. Denial of liability and the assertion that the injured party was partly to blame are difficult hurdles to overcome and can often prove fatal for many slips and falls.
Also in Virginia, it is very difficult to be successful in an automobile personal injury case when it is black ice. Virginia has an exemplary civil jury brief that applies to motor vehicles that slide on slippery roads and cause an accident. We have explained the difficulty in handling automobile accidents when a slippery road contributes to an accident our blog post that deals specifically with this topic.
Black ice is a danger to cars and pedestrians. It can become a multi-car pileup or one slip and fall this causes serious injuries. It is important to properly clear snow and ice from sidewalks to avoid such hazards. Streets are a different story as they are usually not under any person’s control. Remember to drive at a safe, slow speed if there is a risk of ice on the road. All it takes is a piece of black ice to create a pile of 75 cars.
If you or someone you know was injured in an ice and snow-related accident, call Curcio Law at 703-836-3366, or text or email info @ curciolaw .com or visit www.curciolaw.com.
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