Poor road conditions are responsible for thousands of deaths every year in America. The Federal Highway Administration is a subdivision of the U.S. Department of Transportation, responsible for working with state and local governments to ensure that the roads under their authority remain safe for motorists. Although cities and municipalities are required to maintain safe road conditions, this is not consistently done in a timely fashion, and thus hazards remain prevalent.
Common examples of hazards found on public roads include damaged barriers, missing markings or signs, dangerous curvature, lack of or excess light, potholes, stray animals and snow/ice on the roadway.
If you’re involved in an accident because of improperly maintained roadways, and you know that the accident wasn’t your fault, you have the option of filing a claim against the locality whose jurisdiction under which the road falls. Typically, state and local governments are protected through sovereign immunity, which preempts them from being sued. Of course, there are exceptions to sovereign immunity. If a government agency was reckless or grossly negligent, they are still susceptible to being sued.
If you decide to pursue a lawsuit against the locality, you’ll probably need to get in contact with an attorney. However, before you do this, you can do some research on your own. In doing so, you need to identify who was primarily responsible for your accident. This can be difficult because one road may be managed in part by several different agencies. Sovereign immunity may apply to all or none of these; it’s common for there to be mixed levels of liability in this situation. A stop by the county clerk’s office can help you start to piece together exactly who is responsible in your situation.
The Road Forward
After you’ve determined precisely which agencies are responsible for the poor road conditions, you’ll need to start gathering evidence.
You should have filed a police report when the accident happened. This is especially important to do if you feel that the accident was because of poorly maintained road conditions, as you can request that the police officer include that as a causal factor in your accident. You should also be sure to get photographs/video, both of the point-of-impact damage done to your car, and the fault or damage in the roadway.
Also, be on the lookout for people that may have witnessed the accident. Don’t be afraid to knock on some doors near to where you had the accident. Residents may be able to tell you if accidents are frequent at that spot, which would be a likely indicator that the fault lies with the construction or maintenance of the roadway, and not with you.
If you do decide to file a claim, be sure to do so before the statute of limitations is up. Unlike in civil claims where the statute of limitations may be several years, a statute of limitations against the government may only be a few months, thus it is important to proceed in a timely manner. Our network of experienced accident attorneys can explain to you what your legal options are. Call us at: 855-272-6990.