Winter weather brings hazards for Baltimore-area workers

Winter is here, and that means Baltimore-area motorists will be facing several months of wet and snowy driving conditions. Even though winters in Maryland are not as severe as in other parts of the country, cold snaps and winter storms can still pose significant hazards for drivers.

Since car accidents are more likely to occur in inclement weather, drivers must pay special attention to winter weather safety. The need for vigilance is even greater for delivery drivers, sales professionals and others whose jobs require them to spend a significant amount of time on the road.

Whenever winter weather hits, the most important thing is to be realistic about whether it is safe to get behind the wheel. If the roads have not been cleared or if visibility is limited, you may be better off waiting until conditions improve.

If you do need to drive when the weather is bad — either for work or for personal reasons — there are some steps you can take to help keep yourself and your fellow motorists safe:

  • Avoid the plow: Unlike other motorists, most snowplow drivers don't have a choice when it comes to going out in bad weather. Give snowplows the space they need to get their job done, and never try to pass a plow.
  • Slow down: The posted speed limit only applies to clear and dry conditions. If the roads are slippery or visibility is limited, you will need to drive more slowly
  • Leave more space: You need more time to stop on slippery roads, and it can be much harder to maneuver your vehicle around unexpected obstacles. Leaving extra space can help you avoid a collision if you lose control of your car.
  • Clear your windows: Good visibility is an important part of winter driving safety. It is not enough to simply clear part of your windshield. Instead, clear off all your windows and mirrors, and brush the snow off your roof and hood so it doesn't create a hazard while you are driving. In heavy snow, you may need to pull over periodically to clear your windows again.
  • Maintain your vehicle: Before you head out, check to see that your tires are properly inflated, that your washer fluid tank is full and that your windshield wipers are fully operational and free from debris. In addition, check your exhaust pipe to be sure that it has not become clogged with snow or ice.

Workers compensation benefits for car accidents

Workers who are injured in winter weather car accidents during work hours may be able to recover workers' compensation benefits to cover medical treatment and lost wages. Since Maryland has a no-fault workers' compensation system, injured workers are entitled to benefits even if their own negligence played a role in causing the accident.

In addition, if the accident was caused by another driver's negligence, the injured worker may also be able to pursue a third-party liability personal injury lawsuit. Third-party liability lawsuits can provide compensation for losses that workers' compensation does not cover, including pain and suffering and the full value of any lost wages.

If you or a loved one has been injured, talk to a Baltimore workers' compensation attorney who can help you understand your options.