A not uncommon but often overlooked factor in numerous car accidents is defective roads, which can refer to highways, suburban, urban or rural roadways, and ramps. Roads are generally designed and maintained by the state or local governments. Moreover, this is whom you will look to for compensation if you have been injured because of a defective road. Provided of course that the elements of liability are met and comply with that state’s tort claims law.
Most accidents occur because of negligent driving such as speeding, making unsafe lane changes, going the wrong way on a one-way street, failure to see a traffic device or striking something in the roadway. An observant and knowledgeable attorney will always consider not only the human factors in a car accident but will look at possible mechanical or equipment breakdowns as well as the roadway itself as causes.
Examples of defective roads include:
- Improper or insufficient maintenance leading to holes and crumbling infrastructure
- Inoperable traffic lights
- Traffic control devices that are hidden by overgrown vegetation or other obstacles
- Inadequate or lack of signage or missing or broken signs
- Failure to warn of road construction
- Worn pavement, dips and grooves, uneven pavement
- Poorly designed or inoperable railroad crossing equipment
- Steep shoulder drop-offs, weather or erosion causing shoulders to collapse
- Debris from falling rocks or trees following a storm
Any of these circumstances can cause motorists to lose control of their vehicles and result in single or multiple car accidents.
Although we trust our government officials and professionals to properly and safely design roadways, they do not always succeed. Negligent road design includes the following examples:
- Dangerous curves
- Narrow roadways
- Lack of guardrails or barriers
- Poor quality material used for guardrails or barriers
- Insufficient acceleration time for passing at exits
- Poor or lack of drainage leading to flooded roadways
- Obstructed sight lines
A municipality that maintains and is responsible for the roadway should be on notice if a particular site is the scene of too many similar accidents.
Municipal or State Liability
Proving that a state or subdivision such as a county or city is responsible for the accident-causing defective road usually requires testimony or an opinion from a roadway engineer or similar credentialed and knowledgeable person.
Tort law in whatever state your accident occurs will dictate how and when you are to file a claim against a public entity and requires that you allege certain facts and provide particular information so that the department or agency handling the claim has sufficient notice and information.
All states require that you prove certain elements before a cause of action will stand. Variations on what must be proved are:
- the road defect is unreasonably dangerous or creates an unreasonable risk of harm or injury
- the condition existed long enough so that the responsible entity had constructive notice and failed to repair or remove the defect within a reasonable time
- the defect was the proximate or legal cause of the accident that led to your injuries.
If private contractors or engineers designed the road or were hired to perform roadway maintenance, then you can bring a lawsuit against the contracting or engineer group that is not governed by tort law.
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