I have received several calls this week from people living in New York City and Long Island whose cars or vehicles suffered damages at the hand of snowplows in the recent spate of storms. Here’s a typical question: “A snow plow hit my parked car and caused thousands of dollars in damage, can I get the town to pay for the damage?”
The short answer is that you are best off filing a claim with your auto insurance carrier and let them go after the City or the municipality. If you do not have collision coverage, you can file a claim yourself. Let me take more time to explain.
If Your Car is Struck by a Snow Plow in New York, Who is at Fault?
First, a word of support for the snowplow drivers. These men and women work under difficult conditions. When the snow falls and the wind blows, we curl up at home, but they don their winter garb and head off to work. They face terrible conditions and great stress to keep working. Often they work at night in the midst of the snowstorm when visibility is limited. Most likely, they did not mean to strike your car. Sometimes, they may not have even known that they struck your vehicle.
That said, if you took reasonable care in parking your car and you were struck by a snowplow, you may have a legal basis for seeking compensation. You need to prove two points:
- You need to have taken reasonable care in parking your car: Were you parked legally? If you parked on a snow emergency route, you may have no basis for a claim. If you parked your car too far from the curb, you may have no basis for a claim. You need to prove that you parked legally or had a very good reason for parking in an illegal spot.
- You need evidence that the snowplow caused the damage to your car: I had one man call the office wanting to sue the City for damage to his car even though he had no evidence that a plow hit his car. You need to have some proof that a snowplow caused the damage. That evidence could take the form of a note – if the plow left one – or a police report. If you saw the accident happen or if you have witnesses, that might suffice.
You May Have Done Nothing Wrong and Still Not Be Able to Collect for Your Damage
New York State law (see section 1103(b) of the Vehicle and Traffic Law) exempts municipal snow plows from damage claims unless the driver was reckless in his or her driving. The application of the law varies from town to town, but a town can claim that it does not to have to pay for any damage caused by a snow plow. Does that mean you cannot receive any money? No. The plow may not have been a government plow. The driver may ahve been driving recklessly. And some municipalities will agree to pay some for some of the damages.
Filing a Claim for Damage Caused by a Snow Plow
What should you do? If you do not have collision insurance, you should file a claim with the town responsible for the snow plow. Present your evidence (photos of the damage, two estimates of the damage, any witness statements and your won statement. Pursue your claim. You do not need an attorney to do this, though you can hire one if you wish.
This is very important: You must file a claim against the town or municipality within 90 days of the incident. And the claim must be filed in a particular way to a particular office. Want to learn how? I have a separate article on filing a claim against the a city or town in New York. Click here to read it.
I hope you have found this information helpful. I practice personal injury law in the New York Metropolitan areas. If you or a loved one has suffered an injury through the negligence or recklessness of another, you may be entitled to compensation. I will be glad to answer your questions and assist you. There is never a charge for this consultation. You can call me at 1-800-660-1466 or email me.
Carol L. Schlitt
The Schlitt Law Firm
New York Personal Injury Attorney