Poor road conditions are costly and dangerous. One auto insurance industry study looked at car damage and injuries caused by poor road conditions from 2009 to 2014. It concluded that over five years, the price tag for automobile damage resulting from potholes was at least $27 billion. The study found that 50% of vehicle owners experienced auto damage attributed to potholes. In addition to vehicle damage, potholes can lead to serious head, neck, and spine injuries. The impact of hitting a deep pothole can be as severe as a low-speed car collision.
Road hazards like potholes can also cause car crashes. A tire blow-out can startle a driver or cause a driver to lose control of the car. Uneven surfaces may cause a driver to move unpredictably. Drivers often swerve to miss sinkholes or objects in the road. All these unexpected events can lead a driver to hit another car or a nearby object like a utility pole.
When drivers suffer car damage and injuries caused by poor road conditions occurs, or when poor road conditions cause an accident, drivers should seek the assistance of an experienced car accident attorney. A victim must answer the following questions before he or she can even pursue a claim:
- Who is responsible for maintaining the road where the damage occurred?
- Can a victim file a claim with or sue a government unit for the damage?
- Could any other entity or person be held responsible for loss?
- What are the rules and timelines for making a claim for compensation?
What Road Conditions Are Hazardous For Drivers?
State and local agencies are responsible for keeping roads safe for vehicles and pedestrians. The State of California, Department of Transportation (Caltrans) is responsible for the State Highway System and interstate highways within California.
Local governments, such as the City of Los Angeles Bureau of Street Services, are responsible for maintaining local roadways.
Safe and useable streets, roads, and highways mean that the following unsafe conditions should not exist. If dangerous conditions develop, the responsible agencies must fix the problems within a reasonable amount of time. If the problems persist long enough to create driving hazards, the agencies must provide appropriate warnings.
Unsafe road conditions include the following:
- Cracked or broken roads
- Construction debris in the road
- Poor maintenance of trees and vegetation resulting in blocked traffic signs or reduced visibility
- Inadequate or poorly maintained shoulders
- Faded centerlines
- Missing reflective markers
- Defective or missing guardrails
- Improper design for drainage resulting in standing water
Who Is Responsible For Injuries Caused By Poor Road Conditions?
Most drivers think that if road conditions cause car damage, the people who maintain the road must pay for the damage. Unfortunately, that is often not the case. Drivers with damaged cars must take multiple steps to obtain compensation. Even if they follow the steps, government agencies deny many more claims than they pay.
1. Determine who is responsible for maintaining the road
Caltrans maintains state highways. Local governments maintain city and county roads. Private communities may have privately or publicly maintained roads. Some roads may have joint caretakers, such as an interstate highway within California – while Caltrans is responsible for maintenance, the federal government also has a role.
An experienced car accident attorney knows how to determine who was responsible for road maintenance at the time the damage occurred. A skilled car accident lawyer can also determine whether any responsible government agencies are exempt from lawsuits because of immunity. Sometimes governments are protected from liability claims. It is important to know this before moving forward with a compensation claim.
2. Find out how long the road had been in poor condition
California has hundreds of thousands of miles of roadways. Governments cannot fix every problem as soon as it occurs. Because of shrinking state and local budgets, many road problems exist for months or years without being repaired. To establish liability, a victim must show that the responsible entity knew about the problem or should have discovered the problem. In addition, the victim must show that the responsible entity did not fix the problem within a reasonable time.
In response to these claims, governments will say that with their budgets and staffing, road problems linger a long time without being discovered. They will also say that given their limited resources, “a reasonable time” is as long as it takes them to do it.
In my 35 years of representing accident victims, I have faced these arguments many times. I work with expert witnesses and use the law to persuade insurance companies and juries that the government is responsible for car damage and injuries caused by poor road conditions, despite limited resources.
3. Show that the driver was not responsible for the damage
A typical government defense is that the driver is responsible for injuries caused by poor road conditions because the driver did not:
- Slow down enough
- Go around the problem
- Avoid the area
- Drive appropriately for conditions
Governments give many other reasons why drivers are responsible. In my auto accident law practice, I have found these responses to be merely excuses. The government does not want to pay for car damage and injuries caused by poor road conditions. Therefore, responsibility for the harm is pinned on the driver, rather than the government. Having a skilled car accident lawyer on your side significantly increases your ability to counter these excuses.
The burden of proving the driver’s responsibility for damage is on the government in these cases. However, a smart attorney will prepare in advance and be ready to show that the driver was not responsible for injuries caused by poor road conditions.
The Process For Seeking Compensation Is Not User-Friendly
California law specifies the steps that must be followed to obtain compensation for car damage and injuries caused by poor road conditions. If a local government entity is involved, drivers may have to take additional steps. The rules specify things like
- which agency a driver must notify about the claim
- where a victim must mail or deliver the notice of a claim
- how much time a victim has to file a claim or lawsuit
- how the agency must respond before a victim can move forward with a lawsuit.
An agency can deny a claim if a driver fails to follow any of these rules exactly. Furthermore, the victim can be barred from filing a lawsuit if he doesn’t follow the rules. So, sending a claim without a notice or mailing a notice to the wrong suite number of an agency could be fatal to the claim.
How a Long Beach Auto Accident Attorney Can Help
Your Injuries Are Personal To Me
Obtaining compensation from a government entity is hard. The process can take a long time and the rules can be difficult to decipher. The help of an experienced car accident attorney makes the process easier and increases the likelihood of full compensation.
Because your injuries are personal to me, I handle every aspect of your case. My 35 years of advocating for accident victims’ rights means that I understand all the steps needed to win a case. Let me put my experience to work for you.
You will be under no obligation and you will never pay any money unless you recover compensation for your losses.
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