Dangerous road conditions are a significant contribution to accidents on California roads. When roads are improperly maintained, have faulty designs, or the lanes are too narrow, the chances of causing a fatal accident are high.
You can recover damages from a dangerous road condition accident by suing the government body responsible. The process of collecting these damages works a little differently from other personal injury lawsuits. Deadlines in such cases and following the right procedures are crucial to the success of your lawsuit. Also, the government likely has several strong defenses and resources to prove that you engaged in an activity that led to the accident.
The LA Personal Injury Law Firm understands the complexities of suing the government for damages resulting from dangerous road conditions. We know how to prove the contribution of a dangerous road condition to car accidents. Read on to find out more about dangerous road conditions and how you can get in touch with us for help.
Dangerous Road Conditions Overview
Governments and citizens place great importance on the role of drivers in ensuring that roads are a safe place to be. Governments introduce laws to curb reckless behavior on the roads and reduce the occurrence of accidents.
The federal, state and local governments must also play their part by ensuring that these roads are as safe as they can be. They must either create roads free of dangerous conditions or provide sufficient warnings to drivers about the potential danger of that road.
Dangerous road conditions create unsafe conditions, even for the most careful driver by increasing the likelihood of a traffic accident happening. These conditions are usually outside the driver’s control. Unsafe road conditions arise when a responsible body fails to maintain the roads or notify drivers of the presence of unsafe road conditions.
Other unsafe conditions arise from confusing road signs and poor design implementation. The design of roads should take into account the type of vehicles, the direction of movement, and other traffic patterns related to road use.
Dangerous road conditions arise from several factors, including:
- The nature of the landscape: some roads go through difficult terrains such as steep slopes or rugged hillsides. Such roads can be dangerous and create risks for drivers. Even with such natural conditions, the government must employ contractors who will design the safest possible road in such areas. In addition, it must ensure that there are signs instructing drivers on the proper speed limits and other dangerous conditions. Above all, it must maintain these roads in good condition.
- Weather conditions such as snow, ice, and storms
- Human error in the design, construction, maintenance, and upgrading of roads
- Erosion, wear and tear: wear and tear on roads occurs due to regular use, weather, and the weight it withstands from different vehicles. Once the road wears off, dangerous conditions such as ruts and potholes appear and can cause car accidents.
The common unsafe conditions on roads include:
Potholes occur due to wear and tear of the roads. Continuous use of a road creates a strain on the material leading to small cracks. When these cracks interconnect, cars can easily dislodge the materials on the road creating bowl-shaped openings.
Potholes are a leading cause of car accidents, especially during the rainy season when water accumulates in a pothole, concealing its presence from drivers. Potholes can also cause damage to your vehicle by straining the suspension and shock systems of your car. Such damage exposes you to additional injuries as you navigate the rough road.
Unexpected potholes on the road can also cause a driver to lose control of his or her vehicle. Losing control of a vehicle increases the risk of crashing into oncoming traffic or causing other cars to collide.
2. Missing Barriers and Guardrails
Barriers and guardrails along highways are designed to prevent head-on collisions with oncoming vehicles. Traffic barriers absorb the impact of a crash and reduce the severity of the injuries in an accident. They protect cars on both sides of the road.
Guardrails on the other side are common along roads with slopes or steep embankments. These structures also reduce the severity of a crash and prevent some rollover accidents.
Guardrails can fail and cause severe injuries if they have a poor design or are designed using poor quality materials. You can sue the party responsible for the installation and maintenance of a barrier or guardrail if it is either missing or poorly installed.
3. Dangerous Curves
Dangerous curves create problems when navigating them, especially when a car is at high speeds. When driving at high speed, such a curve will lead you to lose control of the vehicle. In that case, you can either crash into oncoming traffic or fly off the road.
Weather conditions, including snow or storms, increase the risk of such curves. It is crucial, therefore, that drivers be warned of the approaching curves using clear, visible, and well-lit road signs to reduce these accidents.
The relevant transport department must install cautionary signs to warn of the approaching curve. If such signs are missing, you could sue the responsible party, especially if you were driving carefully.
4. Missing or Confusing Road Signs
Road signs provide direction and instructions to drivers to keep them safe. They create order on the road by warning drivers of changes in road conditions. These signs must be clear, visible, and maintained properly. Missing, incorrect, or confusing road signs can confuse drivers who take the wrong actions based on the signs, leading to road accidents.
5. Damaged or Malfunctioning Traffic Lights
Traffic lights are essential in controlling traffic, especially at intersections. Without them, pedestrians would not know when to cross the road; neither would cars move in any order. A similar situation of chaos and, in severe cases, accidents and death, occurs when these traffic lights are damaged, absent, or malfunctioning.
6. Unsafe Work Areas
Construction zones create dangerous safe conditions in several ways, such as:
- Misplaced signs
- Debris and machinery on the road
- Misplaced barrels
- Poor lighting
- Confusing instructions
Constructions zones along the road typically transfer traffic to other routes, including the edge of the construction. Failure to control the traffic can result in collisions. In addition, the design of the created path could make it difficult to maneuver, causing property damages and injuries.
7. Ice or Snow on Roads
Ice and snow create unsafe road conditions by reducing friction between the tires of your car and the road. While ice and snow are a weather phenomenon, there are authorities responsible for clearing the ice from roads.
You could also sue a driver who fails to control his or her vehicle when driving on ice or snow. For instance, drivers are expected to take the following actions when driving on snow or ice:
- Reducing the driving speed
- Increase the distance between your car and the lead vehicle
- Use headlights to increase visibility
- Maintain your car tires to ensure they have enough grip
8. Fading or Absent Lane Markings
Road markings, like road signs, provide direction to the driver. They provide important information, including:
- Lanes for cyclists and buses
- Road hazards
- The lane parameters
- Give way instructions
- The direction of traffic
- Prohibited crossing areas
Lane markings are particularly crucial during the night when visibility is low. However, if they are missing or faded, drivers are likely to move to other lanes or create unsafe conditions leading to injuries.
9. Shoulder Drop Offs
Shoulder drop-offs are areas of change elevation between a road and its adjacent roadway. They provide a safe area for drivers to pull over for any emergency. However, poor maintenance or poor construction of the road could create dangerous conditions on the streets.
Erosion or poor resurfacing can create a sudden drop on the shoulder. The sudden drop in elevation can cause a jerking movement and cause you to lose control of the vehicle. Drop off accidents are a significant cause of rollover accidents, often with fatal injuries.
Shoulder drop-offs are especially risky for small compact cars. Also, speeding drivers or those reentering the highway may lose control of their vehicles due to the drop-off. Some of the other effects of a shoulder drop-off include:
- Tire blowout
- Damage to the suspension and steering system
If such a drop off causes or contributes significantly to an accident, you can sue the responsible state agency or contractor.
10. Wheel Ruts
Wheel ruts are uneven road surfaces created by the weight of cars. Wheel ruts are common on roads that accommodate a heavyweight, such as that of trucking vehicles. A wheel rut can cause a hydroplaning accident if the rut traps rainwater.
In other cases, a rut can impede the forward or backward steering of the vehicle creating a risk of colliding with oncoming vehicles. Ruts are likely to cause accidents at night when drivers cannot see a road.
11. Missing or Malfunctioning Lights
Visibility is key to proper driving. Poor visibility is especially an issue at night. Lack of or malfunctioning streetlights can eliminate a driver’s liability in an accident. The liability for any accidents that happen on a poorly lit road falls on the government body responsible for maintaining or installing these lights.
12. Poor Design of Roads
The design of the road is as important to the safety of these roads. Poorly designed roads can lead to many car accidents. Some of the bad designs that cause accidents include:
- Blind curves (bends that cannot see) are often a leading cause of head-on collisions. Due to their invisibility, turning is a very sudden decision, often with fatal consequences.
- Poor baking on the road: the effectiveness of the road relies on the application of science, especially on curves. A poorly banked curve increases the risk of losing control of your vehicle and rolling over or flying off the road.
- Narrow shoulder
- Poor landscaping of the road
The government also requires that road constructors conduct a road safety audit before opening it for public use. These safety audits are meant to:
- Identify and deal with any safety issues that the road presents
- Evaluate the safety of the road
- Remove temporary signage, barriers, fencing, materials, and debris that could cause accidents
- Identify any safety concerns that were missed during the construction of the road
The evaluation of the safety of the road involves examining the road and visibility during the day and night. Such evaluations are vital in identifying mistakes and removing dangerous conditions on roads.
Dangerous road conditions can cause significant changes to your life and that of your loved ones. In most cases, you can link the dangerous road condition to the negligent parties who have failed in the performance of their duties.
Determining Fault in a Car Accident Due to Dangerous Road Conditions
Several factors are responsible for car accidents in America. These factors could include dangerous road conditions. A dangerous road condition can be a 100% causative factor or be a contributing factor. Regardless, you can sue the responsible parties in the accident.
The first step in determining liability involves understanding the laws of negligence in California. California operates on several rules, including:
- The duty of care
- Comparative fault
The duty of care law places a responsibility on various actors in ensuring the safety of roads. Some people with the duty of care include:
- The city, state or federal government
- Car designers and manufactures
- Road construction contractors and agencies
- Manufacturers of materials used in building the roads
- Manufacturers of guardrails, lights, and signs
In a dangerous road conditions accident, the most common parties with liability are those involved in the design, construction, and maintenance of the road. Typically, such lawsuits are usually against a government body.
The construction or maintenance agency breaches the duty of care by failing to design, create, or maintain roads for safety. Proving the negligence of the agency will include proof that:
- The agency knew about the problem
- The agency failed to take the necessary steps to fix the dangerous condition
Proving that the organization is aware of a road condition involves determining the duration the problem has been there and any complaints made to repair the road.
A personal injury attorney can help you in case you feel overwhelmed by identifying the at-fault party. You could help by providing as many details as possible about the accident, including photographs you took of the scene.
You might want to handle such a process as soon as possible. Most claims for dangerous road conditions are against the government and have a six months statute of limitations. Filing after the deadline will have the government deny your claim.
Establishing the fault of a government agency starts with determining the jurisdiction of the responsibility to maintain that road and deal with any unsafe conditions. The jurisdiction could be that of the city, state, or federal government.
The next step involves establishing that the government knew about the conditions or should have reasonably known about them. The government can learn about these conditions through:
- Regular surveys of its roads
- Reports from individuals who have seen the conditions
- When conducting regular maintenance on roads
Even if the government never learns about the problem, the court will establish the duration the condition has been present. If the court determines that it is reasonable that the government should have known, then the government will be responsible for any damages.
Sometimes, the government or liable party may point at you for distracted or dangerous driving. However, if you can prove that the dangerous condition still contributed, then you are still eligible for damages under the comparative negligence laws.
Fortunately, the government lacks the protection of sovereign immunity if the dangerous road condition is a result of negligence.
Filing a Personal Injury Lawsuit against the Government
Most cases of dangerous conditions are due to the negligence of the city, state, or federal government. Claims against the government require a different approach and deadlines; therefore, you must have an attorney working on your case as soon as the accident occurs.
Preparing your claim involves collecting the relevant details, including the name of the road you were on, location and description of the dangerous condition, the direction you were taking, witness information, and other relevant records, including a police report.
You can collect this information before leaving the accident scene. If you are suing on behalf of an injured or deceased loved one, then you must visit the accident scene soon before the evidence is displaced or damaged.
Your attorney will also investigate the contractors and subcontractors to whom the government contracted any roadwork. Such evidence could include reports of surveys conducted on the road and repairs or developments made on the road.
The evidence your attorney collects must prove that the government was at fault for allowing the dangerous condition to continue and that your damages are a direct result of the dangerous condition.
If you succeed in suing the government for your injuries, you will receive compensatory damages. The damages available to victims of accidents due to dangerous road conditions include both economic and noneconomic damages. The value of these damages varies on a case-by-case basis, including the medical costs incurred, the values of damaged property, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
If you lost a loved one due to the accident, you could sue for wrongful death damages. These damages recompense you for burial and funeral expenses, medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering due to your loss.
You must present sufficient evidence to support the claim you are making. Such evidence includes:
- Your medical records including the receipts for treatment offered and the medications you require
- Testimony of your doctor about future treatment you might need due to the injury
- An analysis by an expert witness about the value of any future recoverable damages that will result from the accident
- The testimony of your counselor or therapist and the doctor about the physical and mental pain associated with the injuries
In rare cases, the court might award punitive damages, especially if the responsible government body was grossly negligent.
Filing a Personal Injury Lawsuit against Other Parties
Some accidents occur due to several factors, which together cause harm to you, or your loved one. The law allows you to file a claim or lawsuit against multiple parties responsible for the accident. Instead of identifying the person largely responsible for the accident, you sue everyone who contributed due to negligence.
The court will then determine the joint or several-liability of the parties. Joint liability means shared responsibility for indivisible harm. The joint liability applies to economic damages. However, the parties are separately (severally) responsible for noneconomic damages resulting from the accident.
Once the court determines the value of the economic damages, the liable parties have to pay it in full. Joint liability allows you to get compensation from any liable party, regardless of the percentage fault. For example, if the car manufacturer and the other driver are both liable for the accident, but the driver cannot afford the amount. The manufacturer will have to pay the full amount. The manufacturer may then decide to sue the driver for his or her contribution.
However, each party is responsible for noneconomic damages arising from the accident. Here, the jury or court will determine the percentage fault of each at-fault party. The court will then divide the noneconomic damages among the parties based on each one’s fault.
Find a Car Accident Attorney Near Me
The physical and emotional turmoil of an accident caused by a dangerous road condition can interfere with the quality of your life, not to mention the wreck it creates on your finances. Fortunately, you can sue the party responsible for maintaining the road.
The LA Personal Injury Law Firm prides itself on providing professional services to our clients who have suffered losses due to dangerous road conditions. We not only fight for you, but we fight for the best possible outcome. We will stand with you throughout the way without you having to worry about paying us until the conclusion of your case.
We have handled claims against the government, which gives an edge when fighting for your compensation. Contact us today for a consultation at 310-935-0089.