Headlights and Windshield Wipers

Date: May 4, 2011
Posted In: DLP Law

            Cathy was traveling towards Scranton on the Casey highway in a very thick fog with heavy rain. Cathy was going well under the speed limit but began to approach a vehicle in front of her that was only going about thirty miles per hour. Cathy put her blinkers on and started to pull out into the passing lane when she was impacted by Tom heading in the same direction. Tom had his windshield wipers on, but despite the poor visibility conditions, he had not bothered to put his headlights on.

            Tom suffered some injuries in the accident and bought a suit against Cathy. The attorney representing Cathy alleged that Tom was at least equally at fault for causing the accident because Tom did not put his lights on despite the weather conditions.

ISSUE:          Does Cathy\’s attorney have a point?

ANSWER:     Yes. The law in Pennsylvania is that if you have your windshield wipers on, you must have your headlights on. The reason behind the law is clear: to make your car as visible as possible during times of poor visibility. In this case, not only was it raining, but it was also foggy outside. Had Tom put his lights on, in all likelihood Cathy would have been able to see his car before attempting to pass the car that was in front of her.

            Ultimately it will be up to a jury to decide the percentages of negligence, but it is quite possible that Tom will be found more negligent than Cathy under the circumstances.

Disclaimer: The above article is for instructive purposes only and each case is fact sensitive.  Consultation with an attorney should be obtained instead of reliance upon the legal issues discussed in this column. 

Tom Cummings
Thomas P. Cummings has been a Partner with Dougherty Leventhal & Price, LLP since 1996 and has been with the firm since 1991. He focuses his practice on workers’ compensation, Social Security Disability and personal injury cases.