What Happens When Bad Roadways Cause Accidents? March 23, 2021
Every motorist knows how aggravating it can be to drive on a road filled with potholes. However, bad roadways can be more than just a minor annoyance. Potholes and other road hazards may kick off a chain of events that lead to a serious car accident. When bad roadways cause accidents, injured drivers or passengers may be able to file a claim against the property owner or government agencies responsible for maintaining the road. However, these claims can be complicated and are best handled by an experienced car accident lawyer.
How Do Bad Roadways Cause Car Accidents?
Most car accidents can be attributed to driver error, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). However, bad road conditions also play a significant role in causing a fair number of car accidents each year. The ways in which bad roadways cause car accidents include the following:
- Drivers lose control of the car. Potholes and uneven road surfaces can cause drivers to veer off the road or into another lane. Under the best of circumstances, drivers can regain control before crashing into another car or a tree. However, a lack of guard rails on curves or overpasses can easily turn simple driver errors into fatal accidents.
- Drivers become confused by changing traffic patterns. Drivers may crash into other vehicles in construction zones if traffic control is inadequate.
- Drivers cannot distinguish traffic lanes. Drivers may drift into another lane if painted traffic lane markings are faded. On highways, rumble strips can prevent drivers from drifting off the road.
- Drivers fail to stop or yield because of obscured signage. An accident can easily happen if overgrown bushes or trees make road signs difficult to see.
- Drivers are unaware of dangerous conditions. Ice may form on bridges, overpasses, or at the bottom of a hill before it appears on other nearby road surfaces. Proper signage can help prevent accidents if these conditions are known to exist.
What Causes Bad Roadways?
Bad roadways may be caused by forces that cannot be fully controlled, such as harsh weather, natural disasters, or the ongoing erosion of road surfaces and underlying substrate. However, these causes do not automatically absolve governments or owners of private roads from their responsibility to repair the roadways to ensure public safety. The causes of bad roadways primarily fall into the following categories:
- Lack of maintenance. Bad roadways may be caused by the failure to fix potholes, repaint lane lines, trim foliage, or repair damaged guardrails.
- Lack of signage. When unsafe road conditions cannot be eliminated, at minimum, the parties responsible for the road should erect signs warning drivers about the danger.
- Flawed design. Some roads were poorly designed to begin with. In other situations, roads constructed years ago to handle lesser amounts of traffic traveling at slower speeds are now hazardous because of increased traffic volume.
Many of the common roadway design hazards arise from this history, including the following:
- Entrance and exit ramps that are too short
- Narrow lanes
- Narrow or missing road shoulders
- Dangerous curves
- Road dips and slopes
Other common roadway design hazards include road surfaces that lack resistance, poor drainage that leads to pooling of water, which may freeze, and road shoulders that are too difficult to see.
How can I Prove a Bad Roadway Caused My Accident?
Because most car crashes are assumed to be caused by driver error, it can be difficult to prove that an accident was caused by bad road conditions. To prove that bad roadways caused an accident, an individual must first collect enough evidence to demonstrate that driver error alone did not cause the crash. This can be an arduous process requiring a full investigation. The best way to prove that a bad roadway caused an accident is to enlist the help of an experienced car accident lawyer. A qualified lawyer will likely take the following steps:
- Document the condition of the roadway. Photographs of the accident scene are vital to establishing the existence of a dangerous condition.
- Demonstrate that the dangerous condition caused the accident. Photos and police reports can furnish proof. It may be necessary to enlist the help of an expert with experience in reconstructing accident scenes.
- Prove that the accident resulted in injury. Proof may include medical records and testimony from doctors.
If an investigation reveals that a bad roadway caused an accident, the next step is to identify the party responsible for maintaining the road. This may be an agency of the federal, state, county, or local government; a private road owner; or a combination. Multiple agencies may share maintenance responsibilities for a given stretch of road.
In one case involving an icy road, Galfand Berger LLP obtained a settlement for a car accident victim in which a state agency, as well as a private road owner, was held liable for damages. The client was injured when a car in which he was traveling hit an icy patch on a stretch of road that was at the bottom of a steep driveway. Galfand Berger LLP maintained that the owner of the driveway was aware that water often collected there but failed to install a grated drain at the base of the driveway to prevent the dangerous condition. Galfand Berger LLP further argued that state agency was also liable, as the poor roadway design encouraged water to collect at the base of the driveway. Galfand Berger LLP obtained a settlement of $590,000 for the client.
Can I File a Claim Against a Government Agency?
Injured motorists may sometimes be able to file a claim against a government agency. However, the process is complicated and requires the skills of a qualified car accident lawyer who is familiar with the agency. Many state, federal, and municipal agencies have immunity from certain types of lawsuits.
The first step is to ascertain exactly which agency or agencies are responsible for maintaining the road. Next, a plaintiff must be able to prove the following:
- The agency was aware of the dangerous condition.
- The agency was negligent in addressing the dangerous condition or at least failed to warn drivers about the dangerous condition.
It takes significant effort to prove that the agency was aware of the unsafe condition. To do this, lawyers often request road survey records and/or search for evidence showing that other individuals complained about the dangerous road or its hazardous conditions.
It may also be difficult to prove negligence, especially if the agency argues that it did not have enough time to address the bad road condition. In Pennsylvania and New Jersey, for example, new potholes appear everywhere in the spring. It may take a few weeks or more before road crews address the damage done by winter weather.
The circumstances under which individuals can legally sue for injuries will vary according to the agency. Each agency establishes its own statute of limitations for filing claims against it. In some cases, a person must file a claim within a few months or less from the date of the accident.
What Should I Do if I am Injured in a Car Accident on a Bad Roadway?
Motorists who are injured in a car accident on a bad roadway should call 911 and obtain medical attention. If possible, they should also document the location and circumstances of the accident as soon as they can, including the following:
- The name of the road and the nearest intersection or landmarks closest to the bad road condition
- The direction in which the car was traveling
- The exact time of the accident and the weather conditions at the time
- Photos of the road condition and car damage
- Contact information for any witnesses
The next step is to contact an experienced car accident lawyer. A qualified lawyer can provide advice regarding preservation of evidence to support a strong claim. It is also important to report the bad road condition to the agency or persons responsible for maintaining the road to help prevent future accidents.
Philadelphia Car Accident Lawyers at Galfand Berger LLP Provide Skilled Assistance in Filing Complex Claims Involving Bad Roadways
When bad roadways cause car accidents, injured parties may have the right to file a claim against government agencies responsible for maintaining the road. However, the laws governing these types of claims can be complicated. The Philadelphia car accident lawyers at Galfand Berger LLP provide skilled guidance to clients seeking to recover from car accidents caused by bad roadways. To schedule a free consultation, call us today at 800-222-8792 or contact us online. From our offices in Philadelphia, Bethlehem, Lancaster, and Reading, Pennsylvania, we proudly serve clients throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey, including Allentown and Harrisburg.