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How to Recover Compensation in Road Design Accidents

How to Recover Compensation in Road Design Accidents

Road accidents are undoubtedly the most frequent type of accidents. They also cause the most damage. Usually, when a road accident occurs, people instinctively try to find out what driver was responsible for the mishap. There’s nothing much wrong with this default outlook, according to statistics. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) confirms that driver error is the major cause of road accidents. In fact, it accounts for 90% of all road accidents.

However, there are other factors that do contribute to road accidents, other than driver error, such as defective road design. And what many don’t know is that they can be far more deadly than driver error. An unduly steep road, a weak embankment, a poorly designed cliff road; all can lead to road accidents, and even death, in the blink of an eye.

If you have been injured in an accident caused by these factors, then you may be entitled to file a road design accident claim. The law, in relation to these claims is that the authority responsible for constructing or managing the roads should keep them safe. They should not be in a condition that causes or materially increases danger for road users. And when these conditions exist, the authorities can be held responsible for the negligent harm caused to road users.

There are many factors that will need to be considered in these types of claims. In fact, due to their complexity, they are fairly difficult to make and recovery of compensation may not be so straightforward. You would need to rely on road accident attorneys with a deep understanding of road accident design cases.

At Oshan and Associates, we have over 20 years’ experience holding corporations and government bodies accountable. In the area of road accident cases, we have helped hundreds of clients obtain redress for their injuries and recover fair compensation. We have all the resources you would need to make a successful claim.

Read further to understand how defects on road design can lead to accidents and what you can do to recover compensation.

The Link between Poor Road Design and Accidents

The rule is that roads must be constructed and maintained in such manner as to safeguard every road user from critical hazards. When negligently constructed or maintained, roads can quickly become death traps. This can especially be the case when these unsavory conditions are allowed to continue. Here are some of the hazards that can result.

  • Banked Roads: When roads and highways curve, the outside edge of the road is usually raised at an angle for safety reasons. They are specially designed to allow vehicles maneuver on the outside edge or curve of the road without careening. This banking can however result in an accident if the bend is either insufficient or more than required.
  • Entry and Exit Ramps: Even though entry and exit ramps are designed to help ease congestion and increase vehicle accessibility. But poorly constructed ramps can impede vehicles from safely merging and changing lanes.
  • Barriers and Guard Rails: Barriers, guard rails, speed bumps, medians, and curbs are necessary safety features on a road. They help separate lanes of traffic and prevent vehicles from crossing the median or swerving off the roadway. If these structures are not properly constructed, they may contribute or even lead to road accidents.
  • Road Markings and Signage: Reflective markings can help drivers stay in their lanes at night or in poor weather conditions. Road signs make it easier for drivers to anticipate upcoming intersections and hazards. Where roadway markings and signage are not visible or properly illuminated, the risk of accidents increases.
  • Traffic Control Problems: When traffic signals malfunction or are not properly placed to control the flow of traffic, they may in turn cause serious accidents. This is why it is important for relevant agencies to ensure that these devices are strategically placed in a visible area.

Pointers to Defective Road Designs

Except where a road defect is clearly visible to all observers, it will often be difficult to tell that road design is to blame for an accident. Despite this, there are some factors which, if present, may point towards the possibility of a defective road design. It may be necessary to ask:

  • Was the accident near a construction zone?
  • Did a vehicle cross the center median?
  • Was the incident in a marked crosswalk?
  • Did the vehicle go through a guardrail or became impaled by the guardrail?
  • Did a vehicle careen off the roadway?
  • Was there a complaint of loss of vehicle control by the driver?
  • Did the accident involve a pedestrian struck in a public parking lot?

Common Injuries Due to Road Design Accidents

Road accident injuries can vary from mild to severe injuries. In the extreme accidents caused by poor road design can be fatal. Even when they are not fatal, they can lead to terrible injuries including broken bones; neck, back, or spinal cord injuries. They can also involve head trauma, permanent scarring or even lost limbs.

If you or your loved one has suffered any of these injuries, you may be able to hold the responsible agency liable for your injuries. You have the right to file a claim for adequate compensation.

Elements of a Defective Road Design Injury Case

Personal injury cases in road accidents are usually filed against the person, driver, or company that caused the road accident. This is because they would usually either be directly at fault in the case or responsible for controlling the party at fault.

Defective road design case, on their own, involve a special action brought against the government for the road accident. In these cases, the victim lays a claim that the design of the road caused or contributed to the accident. It may also be a claim that the poor road design caused or made the injuries worse than they would ordinarily have been.

The defendant in these cases is the state, city, county, municipality or other government entity that administers the roadway. Your case, as it will be alleged by your attorney, will be that the road features were constructed in a manner that caused or contributed to the accident.

The Difference Between Defective Road Design Cases and Negligent Maintenance Cases

Poor road design is different from lack of road maintenance. Even though in both claims, the government may be held liable, there are material differences between them. A skilled and experienced attorney will help with the details of these distinctions.

In negligent road maintenance claims, your case would be that the government negligently failed to maintain the road. This can be as a result of failing to repair potholes, culverts or drainages. The claim can also allege government liability for allowing the roadway to freeze up by failing to properly apply salt or plow snow.

Conversely, road design cases claim that the construction, design or layout of the roadway was inherently unsafe.

One of the reasons why it is important to make this distinction is because there are usually tricky legal loops to avoid. In roadway maintenance cases, you may be barred from pursuing compensation unless it can be shown that the government had ‘prior written notice’ of the dangerous condition. This ‘prior written notice’ rule doesn’t apply to road design cases.

Apart from that, in a defective road design case, the government entity can raise a ‘qualified immunity’ defense. This defense offers immunity to the government entity if they can prove that the defective road was constructed ‘rationally’ and was not ‘plainly inadequate’. This ‘qualified immunity’ doesn’t avail the government entity in negligent road maintenance cases.

How Government Agencies May Be Liable for Road Accidents?

Governments are largely responsible for the maintenance of roads. The particular entity that will be held liable will depend on whether the road is administered by the state, county, or city.

For instance, New York City is legally responsible for ensuring the safety of its roadways, intersections, crosswalks, and sidewalks. Failure to perform this obligation will be deemed to be negligence of duty. The comparative negligence laws in New York also means that more than one party can share liability for your poor road design or maintenance accident. This signifies better or even bigger odds for you to get the compensation you deserve.

This information is not known to many victims of road accidents. The personal injury attorneys at Oshan and Associates can help you investigate your accident and aid you in determining the party or parties at fault.

Note however that if you or your loved ones are involved in road accidents, you would have to file a claim against the government entity within 90 days of your accident. Failing to file within this deadline may lead to a forfeiture of your claims and compensation.

Proving Government Liability for your Defective Road Design Accidents

To successfully claim compensation in defective road design cases, it will be necessary to provide cogent proof of a dangerous situation. Usually, your case would require proof from experts that the roads were defective as they did not comply with well-known and acceptable safety guidelines and rules. Some of the experts needed may include engineering, health or safety professionals.

Proof may also be adduced by showing that a particular road has a history of accidents that shows its danger. This evidence can help ground the conclusion that the government entity ought to have amended or reconstructed the particular road defect.

Evidence Required in a Road Defect Accident

Time delay is very detrimental in a road design case. Unlike claims against an at fault driver, evidence may be more difficult to obtain in road defect cases. More than this, the evidence you require to make your claim may be “corrected” or “disappear” before you make your claim. This is why you have to act fast to preserve the evidence as soon as possible. Here’s some of the evidence you would need to ground your claim.

  • Photographs: Take pictures and even videos of the scene and environment of the accident. This should be done as soon as you can, if possible, immediately after the incident. This is to make sure that the conditions and scene as at the time of the accident is documented.
  • Original designs: Blueprints may need to be located and reviewed to determine if the design itself is defective. The blueprints may also disclose fault if the design was adequate but was not followed correctly in constructing the road.
  • Construction/Maintenance schedules and orders: Construction or maintenance records of the road may have to be requested for. Other than clearly showing whether the road was only recently modified, the records will also reveal whether the road was properly maintained. This record will be most useful if the road was under construction when the accident occurred or if complaints about the road had been filed and subsequently ignored.

Can A Pedestrian Sue in Road Design Accidents?

It is not uncommon for pedestrians to sustain injuries in road accidents. If the design of the road contributed to the accident, pedestrians may also sue the responsible government entity.

Whether the accident occurred due to defective street signs or design, if they caused or contributed to the accident, there may be options for recourse. Whatever the cause of the road accident, there are legal options open to you as a pedestrian if you ever become a victim of a road accident.

Procedure for Filing a Claim in Road Design Cases

If your claim is against a city, town, village, or county, the law is that you have to issue the government a "notice of claim". If the claim is against a state, you must first serve the government entity a "notice of intention to file a claim" within 90 days of the accident.

Also, in road design cases, the statute of limitations is usually shorter than usual. Instead of the usual three years, the statute of limitations is often one year and 90 days for a municipality or two years if the claim is against the State.

There are however flexibilities and different limitations offered to a child or a victim who is disabled. This flexibility also applies in circumstances where the accident results in the death of the victim. Your road accident lawyer will be able to advise you on how the procedure affects your case.

When Your Right to File a Claim May Be Invalidated?

Your right to file a claim may be threatened under three circumstances. All three circumstances highlight the importance of only hiring experienced road design attorneys if you or your loved one get involved in a road accident:

  • Filing Against the Wrong Entity: The court may dismiss your case if you file against the wrong person or entity. Your case may get dismissed ‘with prejudice’. This means that you won’t be able to file a claim on the same matter in another court.
  • Disqualification Under the New York State Pothole Law: Winter wreaks havoc on roads. Asphalt roads can become transformed into horrible and deplorable landscape. These are ‘acts of God’ that the state cannot be held liable for. This is why the state of New York has a law that exempts the state from liability on road defect accidents during specific periods in the year. Article 58 of State Highway Law specifically states the state shall not be liable for damages in state highways, except between the first day of May and the fifteenth day of November.
  • Statute of Limitations: Road design cases have a shorter lifespan than typical personal injury cases. Under New York law, you have one year and 90 days to file most injury claims against a government office.

The Next Line of Action after an Accident

Don’t delay in contacting a personal injury attorney immediately after your involvement in a car accident. Obtaining an award against the government in cases like this is tricky enough without complicating your claim by delay.

Your attorney would have to gather sufficient evidence to help substantiate your claim. This will entail not only inspecting the vehicles involved, but also examining the road and environment where the accident occurred.

If you want to know more about how we can help you achieve the positive outcome you desire, please contact us today. Fill our online form or call us on (206) 335-3880 or (646) 421-4062 to schedule a free case review.

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