We had a bout of freezing rain last week. While I was driving to work, I stopped at A US Customs Inspection Lane (I commute from Canada). Due to the crowning of the plaza, my car slid sideways 90 degrees into a pole. I was fully stopped with my foot on the brake at the time. There was no forward momentum and in my opinion, I was in full control of the vehicle.

Unfortunately, the plaza is owned by my employer and considered private property with public access. I had them save camera footage that shows the plaza was not salted.(The freezing rain was forcasted well in advance, this was not a freak storm). Upper management is adamant that they are not liable for any damage and I should file a claim with my insurance.

If I file a claim, would it be considered At-Fault? Based on the evidence I have, would my insurance company find me not at fault and subrogate against my employer to recoup my deductible?

FYI US Citizen, New York Resident, NY Registered car.

  • 1
    1. What does "crowning" mean? 2. How could you hit a pole if your car was not moving? 3. The insurance company wouldn't subrogate your deductible, they would subrogate your claim minus your deductible. Feb 20 '19 at 16:53
  • @Acccumulation The plaza probably has a slight slope out to its edges with a high point (crown) near the center. That would aid run-off. OP's car lost traction and slid into a pole. The car slid sideways but that could be due to weight distribution in the car.
    – mkennedy
    Feb 20 '19 at 17:59

The owner is generally subject to premise liability, and they have a duty to keep non-trespassers safe. They also have a duty to not negligently make conditions worse, which leads to confusion over whether you should plow or not plow. The answer is, you should plow successfully, not negligently. In both cases, the guiding consideration is negligence (both action and non-action can be negligent). This overview is for New York and if full of leading case citations.

This does not mean that the owner of the property is liable, because you also have to look at the facts (there is no absolute duty to prevent accidents). For example, if the defect is "open and obvious", the property owner is not liable. If you were driving too fast for conditions, you will have contributed to the accident and may bear full responsibility (your description of spontaneous movement is a little unclear, but I assume that you were hardly moving – but this will be an issue). These are factual issues that would be hammered out in court. Your insurance company would then analyze the situation (using their lawyers) and pursue the owner, or not, depending on how likely it is that they would succeed in court. They don't necessarily have to go to court to recover from the property owner or their insurance company.

  • 1
    The fact that it was OP's employer complicates things. If the damage to the car was due to the OP acting in accordance with their employer's requirements, then that is a further case of action beyond what liability would normally be incurred by premise liability. Feb 20 '19 at 16:59
  • There is no mention of spontaneous movement. He clearly states there was freezing rain, he was at a complete stop, there was no salt put down in the area, and therefore he slid into the object. While it is true his vehicle moved without him intending it to, I don't think sliding on an icy road can be considered "spontaneous" movement.
    – A.fm.
    Feb 21 '19 at 9:17

As you're supposed to be in control of your own vehicle at ALL times you are liable for not being in control of your vehicle, even IF nobody hits you, and you're completely stopped.

In MN I was hit by a snow plow who wasn't salting the road in MN, and there was a big dispute over it because MN is a no fault state.

  • It's far less cut and dry than that.
    – A.fm.
    Feb 21 '19 at 9:18

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