Poor Road Conditions and Car Accident Liability

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 What Are Dangerous Road Accidents?

There are many factors which can contribute to any automobile accident. One of the most common causes of automobile accidents is negligence.

Negligence in the context of an automobile accident includes, but it not limited to:

  • Failure to obey traffic laws;
  • Distracted driving;
  • Failure to maintain control of the automobile; and
  • Failure to properly use a vehicle’s equipment, such as turning signals and hazard lights.

The actual cause of an automobile accident, however, may not be obvious. In certain cases, the accident may have been caused by a dangerous road condition instead of a driver.

If there are many automobile accidents which occur in the same area on a highway or roadway, the road itself is likely to blame. Accidents which are caused by dangerous roadways are generally due to:

  • Failing to properly maintain the road;
  • Failing to quickly make necessary highway repairs;
  • Failure to repair or install safety measures, such as traffic signals or road signs;
  • Highway construction zones;
  • Objects located on or next to the road that obscures vision, such as poles, trees, or vegetation;
  • Unsafe crosswalks;
  • Insufficient warning signs, such as near a highway construction zone;
  • Faded paint, such as a center dividing line or stop line;
  • Poor lighting, such as over a busy highway;
  • Poor water or sewage draining which causes pooling in the road; and
  • Potholes or large cracks in the road.

Is the Government Liable for Car Accidents Caused by Poor Road Conditions?

When an individual is involved in an automobile accident, it may be easy to point the find at another driver or even at themselves. Aside from typical fender-benders or a driver who runs a red light or drives while intoxicated, the question of liability may be harder to determine.

If there were multiple factors which contributed to an automobile accident on a given day, poor road conditions may also be the cause or a contributing factor to the injury. In these cases, the government may be to blame for the accident and not a driver.

What are Poor Road Conditions?

Poor road conditions may include a variety of hazards or problems which make driving on the road more dangerous or more susceptible to creating a crash, collision, or damage to:

  • A motor vehicle;
  • A pedestrian; or
  • A cyclist.

Examples of poor road conditions which commonly occur include the following:

  • Potholes which are caused by:
    • A lack of maintenance;
    • changes in the natural environment; or
    • destruction;
  • Weather, including:
    • rain;
    • hail;
    • snow; or
    • ice;
    • Roads which are subject to weather conditions that are easily predicted and occur annually in an area need to be protected or restored with a certain amount of regularity;
  • Changes or problems arising from ongoing construction work, including;
    • narrowing of the roadway;
    • temporary removal of shoulder access;
    • freshly poured asphalt or gravel; and
    • missing road signs, labels or lined lanes;
  • Broken or missing:
    • guardrails;
    • medians; or
    • other barriers;
  • Broken or missing traffic lights or signs which would otherwise assist automobile 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
  • Hazardous spills of dangerous or flammable liquids or accidents that have not been cleared from the roadway.

Although certain poor road conditions may be effectively managed by routine and emergency response of the proper officials. Some conditions, however, may never be completely eliminated no matter how properly a government agency responds.

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

In the majority of cases, the government entity who is tasked with maintaining that particular roadway is responsible for correcting poor road conditions as well as preventing future ones. Typically, the state or county is responsible for building and maintaining public roads.

Because the government is responsible for roadways, they are tasked with allocating public funds and employing workers to regularly inspect roadways under their charge and facilitate repairs as needed. If the repairs cannot be completed and ensure safe travel in a timely manner, the government may be required to shut down portions of roadways which may cause serious dangers to the public.

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

If an individual has been involved in an accident which they believe was caused entirely or at least linked to poor road conditions, they should take the following steps:

  • Record as much information as possible regarding the conditions surrounding the accident, including:
    • date;
    • time; and
    • the specific intersection or mile marker where the automobile accident occurred;
    • it is important to include details about conditions including:
      • weather;
      • damage on the road;
      • missing signs or barriers; or
      • Any other issues which may have contributed to the accident;
  • Take photos or have another individual take photos immediately following the accident;
    • Include shots of the particular poor road condition that contributed to the accident as well as the damages to property;
  • Take note of the size of the dangerous condition, for example, the width and the depth of a pothole;
  • Obtain names and contact information of any potential witnesses at the scene;
  • Determine which government entity is responsible for maintaining the road where the automobile accident occurred;
    • An individual may be able to call their local city or county office for the information; and
  • Notify the responsible government of the accident.

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

Simply because a poor road condition existed at the time of an individual’s accident, it does not mean that the government is liable for the accident. Wildlife and weather cannot always be controlled and, therefore, these types of conditions are rarely factors an accident victim may use to hold the government liable for their accident.

An individual will be required to show three main elements in order to hold the government liable for their accident:

  • The government was aware or should have been aware of the dangerous condition. If the condition just occurred right before the accident, that may not be enough time for the government to be held responsible for the condition;
  • 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, the government may be liable; snd
  • The poor road condition was the causal link to the accident. An individual 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 essential for an individual to consult with a car accident lawyer regarding any issues, questions, or concerns regarding poor road conditions which may have caused your automobile accident. Your lawyer can review your case, determine whether the government should have taken steps to correct the condition, and advise you whether they may be held liable in a lawsuit.

If your case is eligible for a lawsuit, your attorney will represent you in court. Your attorney will also represent you during any negotiations which may occur related to any settlement attempts.

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