Establishing Liability after a Car Accident in a Defective Roadway Design Case

According to the National Center for Health Statistics, every single year approximately 31 million people are injured throughout the United States, requiring medical treatment.

Car Accident

Of these 31 million, there are roughly 2 million injuries that are serious enough to require some form of hospitalization.

Additionally, 162,000 are fatal injuries. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) data reveals that about 5.5 million car accidents occur each year in the US, which result in 40,000 fatalities and 3 million injuries.

Roadway Design and Defects that Can Lead to a Car Accident

Although there have been many advances made in roadway design and engineering in the last century, design and construction errors are still a major contributor to countless motor vehicle crashes. Guidelines have been published by state and federal departments of transportation, and standards have been set by highway design engineers to ensure the safety of motorists, bicyclists, motorcyclists, and pedestrians.

However, unfortunately, these same state agencies and municipalities fail to follow their own highway safety standards and guidelines all too often.

Liability for Defective Roadways in a Car Accident Cases

When it comes to cases of unsafe roadways, there are two overall types – poorly maintained roads and poorly designed roads. Roads that are poorly designed can include a wide range of issues, such as:

  • Tight curves that are unable to accommodate posted speed limits
  • Merging lanes that are not sufficiently long enough
  • Unclear and inadequate road markings
  • Lanes that are overly narrow
  • Improper or hidden road signs
  • Dangerous potholes, trenches, or drop-offs
  • Blind intersections that cause risk to pedestrians and bicyclists
  • Uneven roadways or improper grading
  • Lack of or insufficient protective equipment, like guardrails

Generally speaking, a product that is poorly designed causing injury to another person falls under the umbrella of product liability. This means that the at-fault party in the manufacturing chain for a certain product can be found liable for the damage the product caused. However, things get more complex when public roads or government entities are involved.

Depending on the type of road that is involved, the responsibility for the defect in design could lie with a city/county municipality or the state-level transportation department. However, there are certain types of injury claims that government agencies are immune to.

Commonly known as “sovereign immunity”, this immunity can make personal injury claims difficult, but an attorney well-versed and highly skilled in personal injury claims that involve government agencies can help you figure out whether or not your case is a viable one.

Poor road maintenance can also result in serious motor vehicle crashes and injuries. Here is a look at some examples of defective, dangerous maintenance:

  • Debris on the roadway
  • Construction equipment, items, or debris left in the path of traffic
  • Severe potholes
  • Excessive oil or gravel
  • Warning signals that malfunction
  • Excessive debris or foliage that makes it challenging, or even impossible, to read road signs
  • Street lights that are defective or malfunctioning

The government agency that is responsible for maintaining that particular road could be liable for failing to make sure that the roadway is in good condition. However, you should keep in mind that proving that a problem in the road caused the crash is not enough – you need to prove that there was negligence in maintenance on the government’s part to ensure a successful claim.

In other words, you must prove that the agency failed in some way or another in its duty to ensure safety for drivers – this could include failure to send out maintenance crews or to supervise maintenance efforts, or a number of other factors.

When should you file a Car Accident claim?

Proving a claim against a government-related entity can often be a lot more complex than typical personal injury claims, and you need to follow special rules and time-limits. This is why it is essential to consult a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible. At Scott J. Sternberg and Associates, P.A., our attorneys can help review your situation to see if you have a case, and we will be by your side every step of the way to fight for your rights.

Additional Resources:

5 Terms Used in a Car Accident Settlement

Injury Symptoms You May Experience After a Car Accident

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