When you are involved in a car accident, it may seem easy to point the finger at the other driver or maybe even yourself. Outside of a typical fender-bender or a bad driver running a red light or driving while intoxicated, the question of liability may get harder to determine.

If multiple factors went wrong on a given day that led to an accident, poor road conditions may be the cause or a contributor to your injury. In that case, the government just might be at the other end of that blaming finger.

What are Poor Road Conditions?

Poor road conditions include a variety of problems or hazards that make driving on the road more dangerous or more susceptible to creating a crash, collision or damage to a motor vehicle, pedestrian or cyclist.

Common examples of poor road conditions include the following:

  • Potholes caused by lack of maintenance, changes in the natural environment, or destruction;
  • Weather including rain, hail, snow or ice;
    • Roads that are subject to weather conditions that are easily predicted and occur annually in that area need to be protected or restored with a certain amount of regularity.
  • Changes or problems arising from ongoing construction work
    • These can include narrowing of the roadway, temporary removal of shoulder access, freshly poured asphalt or gravel, missing road signs, labels or lined lanes.
  • Broken or missing guardrails, medians or other barriers;
  • Broken or missing traffic lights and signs that would otherwise assist drivers, pedestrians and cyclists with effective communication and facilitate an access of a right of way;
  • Wildlife crossing into the roadway;
  • Obstructions such as dead animals, fallen trees or broken down vehicles; and/or
  • Hazardous spills of dangerous or flammable liquids or accidents that have not be cleared from the roadway.

While some poor road conditions can be effectively managed by routine and emergency response of officials, some conditions can never be completely eliminated no matter how attentive a government agency responds.

Who is Responsible for Poor Road Conditions that Caused a Car Accident?

In most cases, the government entity tasked with maintaining that particular road is responsible for correcting poor road conditions and preventing future ones. In most cases, the state or county will be responsible for building and maintaining a public road.

Because the government is responsible, they are supposed to allocate public funds and employ workers to regularly inspect roads under their charge and make repairs as needed. If repairs cannot be completed to ensure safe travel in a timely manner, the government may be required to shutdown particular stretches of roadways that cause serious danger to the public.

How Do I Make a Claim Against the Government for Poor Road Conditions?

If you have been involved in accident that you believe was entirely caused or at least linked to poor road conditions you should do the following:

  1. Record as much information as possible regarding the conditions: date, time, and specific mile marker or intersection where the accident occurred;
    1. Also include details about the conditions including weather, damage on the road, missing signs or barriers or anything that you think contributed to the accident.
  2. Take photos or have another person take photos immediately after the accident; 
    1. Include shots of the particular poor road condition that contributed to your accident as well as the damages to your property.
  3. Take note of the size of the problematic condition such as the depth and width of a pothole;
  4. Get names and contact information of any potential witnesses at the scene;
  5. Find out which government entity is responsible for maintaining the stretch of road where the accident occurred; and 
    1. You may be able to call your local city or county office for the information.
  6. Notify the responsible government of your accident.

How Do I Prove a Claim for a Car Accident Caused by Poor Road Conditions?

Just because a poor road condition existed at the time of your accident does not mean the government is liable. Weather and wildlife can not always be controlled and thus these types of conditions are rarely things an accident victim can use to hold the government liable. You will have to prove three main things to hold the government liable for your accident:

  1. The government knew or should have known of the dangerous condition. If the condition just occurred right before your accident, that may not be enough time for the government to be responsible for the condition.
  2. The government failed to use reasonable action to correct or warn the public of the condition. If the government has not been doing regular checks of the area but such an inspection would have timely revealed the condition, they government may be liable.
  3. The poor road condition was the causal link to the accident. You must prove that the condition caused the accident or that the accident would not have occurred had the condition not existed.

Do I Need an Attorney to Sue the Government for Poor Road Conditions that Caused My Car Accident?

It is recommended that you consult a personal injury lawyer regarding a poor road condition that caused your car accident. A lawyer can assist you in determining whether the government should have taken steps to correct the condition and whether they will likely be held liable in a lawsuit.