Driver errors are responsible for more than 90 percent of all car accidents in the United States. If you were hurt in a crash with a negligent motorist, you can file a claim against the at-fault individual’s insurance company for any lost income, property damage, and medical bills you incurred as a result. But what if poor road conditions were to blame for the collision?
Read on to learn the answers to four FAQs about car accidents caused by dangerous road conditions:
1. Who Might Be Liable for a Car Accident Caused by Poor Road Conditions?
There are many parties who might be liable for such a collision. Depending on the specific cause of the crash, you might have grounds for a claim against:
- A Government Entity: If the accident occurred on a public road, the government agency responsible for maintaining the road may be liable for the resulting damages. Suing a government agency tends to be far more complicated than suing a private citizen or corporation. In California, public roads are maintained by either the city, county, or state government. In some cases, more than one government agency maintains the same road but in different ways. For instance, the county might maintain guardrails while the city fills potholes. The best way to determine liability is to consult an attorney who has extensive experience handling car accident claims filed against government entities. Your lawyer can help you gather the evidence needed to prove the government knew or should have known about the dangerous condition and that governmental immunity should not prevent your case from proceeding.
- The Owner of the Road: If the road was privately owned, you might have grounds for a claim against the owner of the road.
- Another Motorist: All drivers have a duty to take reasonable steps to prevent accidents. That means when the road or weather conditions are dangerous, motorists should reduce their speed and drive cautiously. If they fail to do so and cause an accident, they may be held at least partially liable for the resulting damages.
In some cases, multiple parties can share liability for a single collision. For example, if a driver was drunk but had to swerve to avoid a pothole on a public road and this led to an accident, the victim might have grounds for a claim against both the driver and the government entity responsible for filling potholes.
Because of California’s joint and several liability law, one defendant can be held partly or entirely liable for a claimant’s damages. That means if two defendants were each 50 percent responsible for a crash but one party only has the insurance coverage to pay for 25 percent of the resulting damages, the other defendant’s insurance may have to cover the remaining 75 percent, even though their policyholder was only 50 percent at-fault.
Because of joint and several liability, it’s important to identify all potentially liable parties before filing your claim because this may increase the likelihood of recovering the full compensation you deserve. A seasoned personal injury attorney can review the facts of your case to determine whether multiple parties may have been liable for the crash.
2. How Is Suing a Government Entity Different from Suing a Private Citizen?
There are some key differences between tort claims filed against government entities and those filed against private citizens. Some of those differences include:
- Filing Procedure: Before you can file a personal injury lawsuit against a government entity, you must file an administrative claim with the appropriate agency within six months, or one year in some cases, of the accident. You do not have to file an administrative claim to sue a private citizen or corporation.
- Deadlines for Filing the Lawsuit: After you file an administrative claim with a government agency, you must give the agency 45 days to respond. If your claim is denied and you receive a rejection letter, you must file your lawsuit within six months of the date when the letter was mailed or personally delivered to you. If you never received a rejection letter, you have two years from the date of the accident to file suit. But if the defendant is a private citizen, you typically have two years from the date of the accident to sue. That means in most cases, you have a much shorter timeframe in which to sue a government entity than a private citizen.
- Governmental Immunity: Most federal and state government agencies have immunity from lawsuits, but many of these agencies make exceptions that allow lawsuits to be filed against them under certain conditions. For example, if an agency was grossly negligent in maintaining the roads, anyone who is injured as a result can sue. Of course, governmental immunity does not apply to lawsuits filed against private citizens.
3. What Kinds of Dangerous Road Conditions May Warrant a Personal Injury Claim?
When you think of dangerous road conditions, potholes and faulty traffic signals probably come to mind. But there are many hazards that could increase the risk of accidents. Below are a few examples of dangerous road conditions that may warrant a personal injury claim:
- Poorly designed exit and entrance ramps that don’t allow safe merging;
- Poorly designed curves, slopes, or dips in the road;
- Pavement that lacks sufficient skid resistance;
- Missing or defective guardrails;
- Inadequate warning signage;
- Inadequate drainage that leads to hydroplaning;
- Erosion of painted markers; and
- Road cave-ins.
4. How Soon Should I Hire an Attorney After an Accident Caused by Poor Road Conditions?
The short answer: as soon as possible. It is important that your attorney is able to visit the scene of the accident and document the hazardous condition before it can be fixed. Also, your lawyer will want to evaluate your vehicle and may need to bring in an accident reconstruction expert and traffic engineer to assist with the investigation.
Besides gathering evidence, your car accident attorney can help you avoid critical mistakes such as accepting a settlement too early or missing important deadlines. Your lawyer can also calculate your damages and handle settlement negotiations on your behalf.
Discuss Your Claim with a Long Beach Car Accident Lawyer
Your Injuries Are Personal to Me
If you or someone in your family was injured in a crash caused by dangerous road conditions, turn to the Law Office of Michael D. Waks for representation. Attorney Michael Waks has more than 30 years of experience and a history of success in tort claims filed against government entities.
Michael can help you fight for the compensation you need to cover medical bills, lost income, vehicle repairs, and other damages. To schedule a free consultation, call (562) 206-1939 or use our Contact Page to send us a message. We are available 24/7 to take your call, and a member of our team can come to you if you cannot come to us.
Download Our Car Accident Emergency .PDF
Anyone who’s been in a serious car accident knows just how nerve-racking the experience can be. It’s not easy to think clearly at the scene, but your statements and actions can have a huge impact on your subsequent claim. Our Car Accident Emergency .PDF outlines the information you need to gather at the scene to give your claim the best chance of success. Click Here to download it, and be sure to keep it in your glovebox so you’re always prepared.
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