Road Defects and Bicycle Accidents
As a bicyclist, you have to be cognizant of many types of road hazards including the actions of other motorists. Another hazard to be wary of and to avoid are road defects. These can be open and obvious or hidden and pose real hazards to you.
A road defect is a foreseeable hazard that was created either by a responsible party or developed over time and was not eliminated.
Examples of road defects include:
- Uneven pavement
- Cracks and fissures in pavement
- Missing signs
- Signs obscured by graffiti or vegetation
- Improper or confusing signage
- Absence of retaining walls or guard rails
- Speed limits set too high
- Poor drainage
- Unmarked construction
- Improperly placed sewer grates
Potholes are created when water under the road surface freezes and then thaws, weakening the pavement or asphalt. Temporary road fixes can create them as well when road repairs cause the surface area to shift or crack.
Sloppy or incomplete road repair can create ridges in the roadway. In urban areas, a sewer or storm drain whose bars go in the same direction of traffic can cause a bike’s tires to get stuck. They should be horizontal to traffic or covered with safety bars to specifically prevent this from happening.
Liability for a road defect falls usually falls upon the municipality, county or state responsible for constructing the road, designing it, for signage and placement and in maintaining it. Private contractors are sometimes delegated this task and may also be responsible for creating a hazard that leads to an injury.
Generally, the liable party in these cases had to have notice of the hazard, either directly or by constructive notice whereby the party should have been aware of the hazard because it has existed long enough. If the hazard was from improper signage or speed limits, the high incidence of accidents should have alerted the authority that a study of the problem was needed to arrive at a solution.
If a government entity was involved, then you need to follow the proper steps in filing a claim. Most states have a tort claims statute that you must follow in filing a claim. It generally requires written notice to proper agency or department responsible for the negligent conduct that led to the accident and which must be filed within a certain time period. The entity will consider the claim for a certain time, and either accept your claim, reject it or not respond. If rejected, you can file in court or if no response is given, file after a certain time has passed.
If the party is a private contractor, you can either notify the company of your claim for injuries and attempt to deal with it or its insurer, or file directly in court so long you do so within the statute of limitation in that jurisdiction.