Ice missiles – when a large chunk of ice breaks off from a truck and slams into the windshield of a trailing car – is an all too common occurrence on the roads of Pennsylvania and New Jersey during the winter time. This can not only result in serious injuries to you, but other drivers as well if you lose control of your car due to a large piece of ice smashing through your windshield. Fortunately there is recourse if you were seriously injured by one of these ice missiles in most states, including in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
What Are The Specific Laws About Ice Missiles in NJ and PA?
In these situations both Pennsylvania and New Jersey have what is called an “ice missile law.” Under New Jersey’s statute, N.J. § 39:4-77.1 a .(1), a New Jersey vehicle, “has an affirmative duty to make all reasonable efforts to remove accumulated ice or snow from exposed surfaces of the motor vehicle prior to operation, which surfaces shall include, but not limited to . . . . the roof of the motor vehicle, the cab of the truck, the top of a trailer or semi-trailer being drawn by the motor vehicle . . . .” Section a.(4)(a) of the statute also states, “in the case of any trailer or semi-trailer being drawn by a motor vehicle . . . , the person, including but not limited to a shipper or co-signee, who is in physical possession of the trailer, semi-trailer, or container at the time snow or ice accumulates on such trailer, semi-trailer, or container shall be responsible for removing the accumulated snow or ice from the trailer, semi-trailer, or container and shall be liable for a violation of the duty to remove accumulated snow or ice prior to operation of a motor vehicle pursuant to paragraph (1) of this subsection.”
The Differences Between Ice Missile Laws in NJ and PA
Pennsylvania also has an ice missile statute which imposes a fine on the person/company who causes injury due to ice breaking off of their vehicle. Title 75 §3720 states, “[w]hen snow or ice is dislodged or falls from a moving vehicle and strikes another vehicle or pedestrian causing death or serious bodily injury, the operator of the vehicle from which the snow or ice is dislodged or falls shall be subject to a fine . . . .”
New Jersey’s ice missile statute creates more of an affirmative duty to act. Therefore it is not enough for a driver for a trucking company in New Jersey to simply state they were not aware there were large mounds of ice on their truck that could break off. They must check their truck to make sure such large chunks of ice do not exist, and if they do exist to clean their truck. Your case will be stronger if you can prove that it had snowed in the past (and thus the ice accumulated before the truck driver used the truck) then if it started snowing in the middle of the truck driver’s run, giving them less of an opportunity to remove the ice from the truck. This can be proven by weather data gathered by your attorney.
In Pennsylvania there is no discussion about an affirmative duty to check and clean the truck of ice, however it does impose a fine when ice breaks off the truck. Therefore the statute is still a useful basis to proving negligence against the trucking company when your car is struck by an ice missile.
With ice missile accidents the fault may also lie more with the trucking company than the driver. For example, the company may give the driver a delivery schedule so tight that he or she does not have enough time to either check the truck for dangerous ice chunks on it, or do a thorough exam of the truck if they do. This evidence will be developed during discovery after suit is filed.
The Thistle Law Firm is experienced at handling ice missile trucking cases. If you or a loved one was seriously injured as a result of a piece of ice breaking off a truck and striking your car, the attorneys at the Thistle Law Firm are here to take your call and answer your questions at 215-568-6800.