Snowplows help keep New Yorkers mobile after a storm, but they sometimes injure people and damage property in the process. Worse still, New York law makes it difficult for the victim of a snowplow accident to recover compensation, especially when the plow is publicly owned and operated.

You may be surprised to learn that snowplow drivers employed by a public entity do not have to follow the same rules of the road that the rest of us do. The snowplow driver can go through red lights and stop signs, make illegal turns and make other maneuvers as necessary in the course of snow and ice removal.

Under Section 1103 of the New York Vehicle and Traffic Law, the state, county or municipal agency that owns the snowplow and employs the driver can be held liable for bodily injuries and property damage only if all of the following are true:

  • The claim is filed within 90 days of the accident.
  • The driver was engaged in work at the time of the incident.
  • Recklessness on the part of the driver can be proved.

Recklessness is a higher standard than applies in a typical car accident, where the plaintiff need only prove that the driver was negligent. The standard for negligence is failure to exercise reasonable care under the circumstances. Recklessness, on the other hand, means the snowplow driver showed conscious disregard for the safety of others and their property. That is very difficult for the plaintiff to prove.

However, Section 1103 applies only when the snowplow is “engaged in work.” The phrase has a specific meaning, namely that the snowplow is actively involved in snow and ice removal. If the accident occurs when the vehicle is traveling without plowing, then the ordinary negligence standard applies and it becomes easier for an injured person to recover damages.

The situation is more favorable to the injured person if the snowplow was owned by a private company, whether operating on a public street or on private property. Drivers for these companies are not protected by Section 1103. When someone gets hurt by a private plow driver, liability can fall upon the driver, the plowing company or the property owner, depending on the circumstances. Private plow accident liability is governed by the ordinary negligence standard.

The Licatesi Law Group, LLP has handled numerous snowplow injury claims involving cities, counties and state agencies of New York as well as private plowing companies. Our Brooklyn and Uniondale attorneys are ready to discuss your legal needs. Call 516-227-2662 or contact us online to schedule a free initial consultation.