If you have to drive a lot during winter, you know that cleaning ice off your car helps you see and drive more safely. But sometimes it can be really tempting to just clear off the windshield and windows, especially if you're in a hurry. This is a bad idea -- if there's ice on your car, you need to clear all of it off before you drive. Ice can fly off moving cars and cause damage to other vehicles and property, as well as cause potentially fatal injuries to people. If you neglect to clean the ice off your car before driving, you could find yourself on the receiving end of a personal injury lawsuit.
State Laws Don't Prohibit Additional Suits
State laws vary as to the technical responsibility of the driver of the ice-covered car if damage or injury results from that ice flying off. Some states fine the driver if injuries result. These laws usually carry specific fines. However, they don't really prohibit the injured party from filing additional lawsuits. If the ice results in extensive injuries, your insurance and the fine you owe under the laws might not be enough to cover the person's medical bills.
In states where there are no laws, you might not be charged by the police—but the injured person could still hit you with a personal injury lawsuit. If they can prove that your negligence resulted in them sustaining injuries that affected their daily lives, you could end up having to pay a huge amount of money.
A Few Minutes of Preparation vs. a Few Weeks in a Courtroom
Rather than put yourself at risk of a lawsuit like this—and rather than put fellow drivers at risk of injury—take the time to clean all the ice off your car before you go. That means the roof, hood, trunk, and even the bumpers. If the sides of your car have ice on them too, clean those off. Chunks of ice that fall and hit the road surface can ricochet up and hit a car just as hard as if the ice had slipped directly off a car roof.
There's one more way that ice on your car can create a problem for other drivers: If the ice lands on the road and causes a car to skid. Sometimes the ice that falls off is in sheet form, flat and thin. This can sit on a roadway and act like any other obstacle. Cars can hit it, sending it into other vehicles, or the cars can skid as they try to avoid the ice.
All of that can be prevented if you simply take time to prepare your car properly for travel on an icy day. If you want more information on your legal responsibility to prevent injury due to flying ice, or if you have been injured yourself by ice flying off someone else's car, contact a personal injury attorney.