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Early NJ Snowstorm Causes 1,000+ Traffic Accidents and Two Fatalities

If you attempted to commute home on Thursday, November 15, you won’t soon forget the experience.
All across northern New Jersey cars got bogged down in the heavy snow and traffic came to a crawl. As
minutes turned into hours, the accident toll climbed, and many motorists were forced to abandon their
cars, because they either couldn’t move through the accumulated mess or they ran out of gas. Now, in
the aftermath of the storm that took the Garden State by surprise, it may be some comfort to know that
even if you were hours late for dinner, you were one of the fortunate.

On Friday morning, Governor Phil Murphy held a press briefing in Woodbridge where he indicated NJ
State Police had responded to “nearly 1,000 crashes… aiding almost 1,900 drivers.” As the news website
NJ.com reports, “Those figures … are just from roads such as routes 80, 280, 78, 287, 195, the New
Jersey Turnpike and the Garden State Parkway, which are patrolled by State Police. That doesn’t include
thousands of calls [to] local and county officials….”

There were also at least two fatal crashes assumed to be snow related:

  • A 61-year-old woman was killed when her car became stuck on the NJ Transit tracks just west of
    the Murray Hill Station in New Providence and was subsequently struck by an oncoming train.
    According to the town’s mayor, the “car may have slid down a snow-covered hill onto the
    tracks.”
  • A 52-year-old doctor was killed in Mantua Township when a pickup truck hit his car.

Authorities apologized for an ineffectual response to snow conditions but blamed the errant weather
forecast, which called for no more than four inches of snow instead of the six-to-ten inches that
eventually blanketed the state.

As lawyers for auto accident victims, we at Brach Eichler Trial Lawyers have seen a great deal of unnecessary suffering from preventable crashes. We urge you to take precautions during the winter months so that you and your vehicle are fully prepared for winter driving conditions. Steps we recommend include:

  • Carry a roadside emergency kit, including jumper cables, road flares, and fluorescent triangles
  • Winterize your car early, including a check of your steering, tires, and brakes
  • If it’s too early to put snow tires on, carry chains in your trunk
  • Carry an extra coat and/or blanket in your trunk
  • Fill up your gas tank ahead of a predicted storm

Another reason traffic was such a mess is that everyone left the office at the same time. Many
businesses have staggered commutes with employees arriving from 8 to 10 a.m. and leaving from 4 to 6
p.m. This spaces out the commute and eases congestion. Unfortunately, about 4 p.m. it became
apparent that the storm was going to be stronger than anticipated. Businesses shut down and commuters
flooded the roadways where they proceeded to sit in stalled traffic. Businesses should consider allowing
workers who can work from home to do so when winter storms are predicted.

Finally, it’s worth noting that even when state authorities are negligent in removing snow from
roadways, they enjoy substantial immunity under the New Jersey Tort Claims Act. So, if poorly plowed roadways lead to an accident, you generally cannot sue the state or local municipality. That’s an added
reason to be extra careful.

Brach Eichler Trial Lawyers represents clients injured in auto accidents throughout the Garden State. If you have
questions about your rights in any such case, call us at 973-364-8300 or contact our office online.

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