Many car accidents are reported to be caused by negligent drivers. However, there are many causes of road accidents, with one of them being dangerous road conditions. Unrepaired potholes, insufficient lighting, lack of proper road signs, missing guardrails are some of the conditions that can result in accidents. A road accident can lead to significant injuries and damage to your car. There are serious financial obligations an accident victim has to deal with following the crash. However, the law allows the victim to sue the liable party to get compensated for the damages and injuries. Should you find yourself or a person close to you involved in an accident as a result of dangerous road conditions, you will need to get compensated. Hiring a personal injury lawyer is critical to succeeding in the process. At San Diego Personal Injury Law Firm, we have years of experience and can help you get compensated.
Safe Roads – Whose Responsibility is it?
Generally, the federal government, county, city, or state has the obligation of maintaining all the roads under their jurisdiction. When a government entity fails in its duty to keep the roads in the right conditions, liability theory states that they are liable for the failure of carrying their duty. This means that when an accident happens due to poor or dangerous road conditions under the jurisdiction of a government entity, they are responsible for the damages and injuries.
When an accident occurs, a driver or other people sustain injuries and damages from it. When the cause of the accident is dangerous road conditions, the victims of the accident can institute a lawsuit. A personal injury suit raised by your attorney will help you get compensation for your injuries and damages.
How the Government Learns About Dangerous Road Conditions
Different states or cities have laws permitting them reasonable time to know about the dangerous conditions of a road and reasonable time to respond to this knowledge. Various factors dictate what reasonable time would be, based on specific circumstances or facts of the case. A government entity will discover these dangerous conditions in multiple ways. These are:
- Having regular road surveys
- Receiving reports from the public or individuals that have seen a road hazard somewhere
- When carrying out routine maintenance on the roads.
Sometimes a government entity may not know of the dangers of a particular road. An accident from these roads may have the government denying responsibility because they did not know about the road condition. However, despite their claim, they may still be liable because they should have discovered the danger within the period of reasonable time.
The condition may have been in existence for a long time. This means that the government had all the time required to discover and correct the situation. When this is established, the government will be responsible for the damages and injuries as a result of the dangerous road conditions.
The government is responsible for various road conditions. Should it not discover or repair the dangerous conditions of the road, it is held liable for injuries and damages due to this. Some of the dangerous road conditions include:
- Potholes or cracks on the way that cause a driver to be unable to control their car
- Fallen road signs or those covered by foliage that has not been trimmed in a long while
- Various guardrail issues on corners, overpasses or ditches
- Lack of having rumble strips on certain parts of the highway
- Damaged overpasses or bridges
- Lack of clear warning signs
- Dangerous bends or curves
- Lack of adequate traffic control in areas under construction such as placing of cones, clear marking, among others
- Fading lane markings like center lines, turn lanes or edge lines
- Poorly done road signs and lighting
- Flooding on the roads due to clogged drainages
- Intersections with defective stop lights
Causes of Dangerous Road Conditions
Over time, roads are subjected to weather conditions that can damage them. The everyday use of roads can also lead to their wearing down over time. There are other causes that the government or its entity can be held liable for. Some of these conditions will include:
- When the road is poorly designed and planned
- Poor construction like when cheap materials are used to construct the roads and bridges
- Negligence in routine maintenance and repair of roads
The government has a responsibility to protect its people. One way they carry out this responsibility is by ensuring the roads are in proper conditions for its citizens to drive on. When an accident occurs, and injuries are sustained due to the government failing in its responsibility, it can be liable for the damages and injuries you sustain.
Starting a Compensation Claim Due to Dangerous Road Conditions
Before filing a claim, you must first consult an attorney that understands how claims and lawsuits for dangerous road conditions are carried out. As you head for your meeting, you must have gathered all the information that is crucial to your claim. Some of the information would be:
- The locations of the dangerous condition
- Pictures of the scene of the accident showing the various angles, the road itself and the surrounding area
- When or if you can, a video would also be very helpful
- Description and the name of the road where the accident occurred
- What direction you were coming from and heading to
- Were there any witnesses? If so, their addresses and contact information
- Aspects of the condition, for instance, if a pothole, how deep, wide, or long was it?
- Other records, like police statements, cost of vehicle repairs, medical bills, are also necessary.
A lot of details must be gathered from the scene of the accident. When injuries occur, or other cars are involved, details of the same are important. This is best captured through the taking of photos as well as having the doctor’s report on the injuries you may have sustained.
Establishing the Responsible Entity
After an accident, you may be wondering who or which government entity to seek damages from. You must determine the specific government entity liable for the road maintenance where you had the accident. Your lawyer is knowledgeable in investigating to establish the responsible government agency for the road.
Based on the facts or circumstances of the case, other parties can be liable for the damages. Such parties may include:
- A company contracted to work on the road or carrying out repairs
- The manufacturer responsible for the faulty stoplight
- A truck owner that spilled oil on the way and caused you to skid
- The company responsible for developing faulty asphalt
As earlier discussed, the government can be held liable, but other parties can be responsible for your injuries, as well. With your skilled lawyer, he or she will be able to establish the right entity to sue for your compensation.
How to Sue Government Subcontractors
In most cases, the government hires subcontractors or contractors to carry out construction projects on its roads. When the poor workmanship of the subcontractor is responsible for your crash, the contractor is held liable for the damages and injuries suffered. However, the government can also be held accountable for the same since they were the ones that hired the contractor.
Without a lawyer, it can be frustrating to know which the right entity to sue is. Your lawyer can subpoena records from the government that will help establish the contractors or subcontractors of the road. The records will also help determine if they can be held responsible for your injuries or not.
Your attorney, in this case, will carry out thorough research and in the process of discovery, will be able to all the parties responsible are mentioned in your suit. This means that it is possible to sue more than one entity for your damages and injuries. With proper legal work, your lawyer will ensure every entity responsible is petitioned.
Proving Your Case
When you file your lawsuit, you will be expected to demonstrate two things to get compensated. You must show the government or its entity was liable for keeping the road safe, and it failed in its duty. You must also prove that the dangerous condition of the road was responsible for the accident that resulted in your injuries and damages.
Not all injuries following an accident are identified immediately or are apparent. This makes it challenging to know the exact reason for the damages you may suffer. However, visiting a doctor immediately will help in determining what injuries you may have sustained, both physical and internal. This makes a doctor’s report crucial when proving the injuries are as a result of the accident.
When an accident occurs, most people feel they know the cause in their minds. This may be true. However, one is required to prove to the court that what you believe is truly the cause of the accident. The government, in its defense, can argue that you were recklessly driving, or you were negligent in your driving. This they will argue was the cause of your accident, not the condition of the road.
According to the comparative law of California, if you are found to be partially responsible for the accident, you will recover partial compensation. The jury or court must establish the party or parties accountable for the accident that leads to your damages. If only the government is responsible, you will get your full compensation. However, when a fault is shared, the court will establish to what degree and compensation will be received based on this.
In proving your case, you will be expected to provide certain information in court. The facts around your claim will determine the evidence you present. There is, however, common evidence in suits involving dangerous road conditions. The proof will include:
- Witness reports – earlier, we mentioned the importance of getting the details of any witnesses to the accident. Their account of the accident is taken into consideration in court when determining your case.
- Police statement – typically, police are called to an accident scene by yourself or a witness. A police officer that responds to the call will generate a report based on the facts of the case, their observation, and opinion on what caused the accident.
- Photos from the accident scene – pictures are also paramount. Have pictures showing damages to your vehicle, the injuries sustained, the road condition responsible are all crucial for your case. When you claim a road condition caused by your accident, the jury needs to see it, to be convinced that it was responsible for your accident.
- Personal testimony – you will also be allowed to give your account of what happened. This will also help in proving your case notably if collaborated by a witness or police report
- Survey records – government entities have the responsibility to conduct periodic surveys and maintenance of the roads. Records of the same are maintained in their offices, and your lawyer can subpoena for them. These records will help show if the government had knowledge of the condition and for how long they knew. The records will also show if any action was taken following this knowledge.
- Medical Records – after an accident, it is essential to go to a hospital for treatment and thorough medical evaluation. To help determine the amount of compensation, you will need to present your medical report, bills, costs of rehabilitation, if any, and estimated medical bills in the future.
- Cost of Vehicle Repairs – when your car is damaged in an accident, you will take it for repairs. Ensure you have an invoice from your auto repair shop indicating the damages to your car and the cost of repair.
- Prove the government was aware of the condition. – To successfully sue the government for the damages, you must show evidence that they were aware of the road’s condition and neglected to repair it. You should also show if the government failed to discover the situation in a reasonable time and failed to correct the condition on time.
Possible Government’s Argument
No defendant wants to be blamed for any offense. Similarly, the government will hate to be responsible for the injuries or damages you sustain. Because of this, it will attempt to prove that the accident was caused by something else but not the road’s condition. Some of the arguments from the government might include:
- You drove in a dangerous manner resulting in the accident
- The government can claim you drove while intoxicated by alcohol or drugs
- Your crash was as a result of negligent and distracting behavior. Some of the claims may include that you were on the phone, eating or tending to your children as you drove
- Another external cause was responsible for the crash, such as the negligence of another motorist, an act of nature that was sudden or poured coffee on yourself
- The government can also argue it did not know about the road’s condition or it had no reasonable time to repair it.
Understanding Sovereign Immunity
Not all government entities can be sued; this is what the sovereign immunity means. Some agencies of the government are protected from having civil suits raised against them. This means an individual is not allowed to sue them for any damages. Sovereign immunity or government immunity bars against any litigation. This means that when an accident occurs, you can only seek compensation from your insurance company or any other party, such as a contractor working on the road.
Fortunately, the law has created exceptions where the agency with sovereign immunity can be sued. In the state of California, this is possible under the Torts Claims Act. In this act, it is possible to petition the government agency for gross negligence in its duty to maintain the roads. If the negligence were ordinary, the suit would not succeed. You must prove the level of oversight to have been gross.
Statute of Limitations
Statute of limitation contains the time given to a victim to file their claim or a lawsuit. Typically, the period given to file a suit or claim against a government entity is shorter than when the claim is against a private entity.
In California, the statute of limitations for bringing a claim or lawsuit against the government is six months. If the time to raise your complaint expires, you will not be able to file them later or a lawsuit, even when the suit would have succeeded. Speaking to your lawyer is essential because he or she will advise you on the limitations.
Financial Compensation to Expect
When you and your lawyer can prove your claim or case, you will be given monetary compensation for the damages and injuries sustained. Some of the damages you will be seeking compensation for and will be awarded include:
- Medical costs – an accident can result in significant injuries that will require medical attention. The cost of the doctors, medication, and any treatment should be included in the bill.
- ER Treatment – immediately following an accident, a victim is rushed to the ER for first aid or treatment. The cost of this treatment is also included in your claim and will be compensated.
- Surgical costs – should you undergo any surgical procedure, all the costs associated with the surgery should be compensated. For instance, if you broke any bones or had fractures, doctors may perform surgery to repair them. Sometimes you may suffer from internal bleeding, or an internal organ is damaged and needs treatment. This will also call for surgery, and the costs are also compensated.
- Medical costs in the future due to the injuries – following an accident, a victim may suffer traumatic injuries that may require extended treatment and in some cases, rehabilitation. An estimate of this cost is arrived at by your doctors after a thorough evaluation.
- Lost current and future income – following an accident, a victim can take time off work to recuperate. The days they miss work will mean they lose income for that period. Compensation will take care of this, as well. Other times, a victim may have significant injuries that may cost him or her income in the future. When a person sustains injuries that may require them to undergo rehabilitation, during this period, they may be unable to work.
- Loss of Earning Capacity – an injury can lead to a person losing their capacity to make a living. For instance, if a person’s job involves the use of their hands, and the accident cost them to lose a hand, the person may not be able to work again. This means they have lost their capacity to earn a living and should be compensated for the income they will lose.
- Lost Consortium – this compensation is given to family members that lose a loved one because of the accident. The loss of their companionship, love, care, guidance, and the emotional distress of the loss is compensated under this.
- Lost limbs, scarring or disfigurement. – Some injuries are substantial where a victim can be disfigured or lose a body part or suffer from scaring. If any of these happens, compensation for the same should be claimed.
- Cost of damaged property – your car is likely to suffer damage following an accident. The damage to repair it or replace it if need be can be claimed as well.
- Suffering and pain – when a person sustains injuries, they undergo excruciating pain and suffering before they recover. Some injuries can be life-altering, and the victim is left to manage the pain for the rest of their life. The suffering following the accident is not only physical but psychological too. Compensation can be sought for the pain suffered and the psychological damage. This includes the cost of therapy to ensure the victim can deal with the consequences of the accident.
When a fatality results from the accident, the family of the deceased can also sue for wrongful death. With this lawsuit, the family will expect compensation for:
- Burial and funeral costs
- Loss of financial income from the deceased
- Lost companionship and support from the deceased
Find a San Diego Injury Lawyer Near Me
An accident can have devastating repercussions on a victim. The financial burden notwithstanding, psychological suffering can also be overwhelming. It is essential to get monetary compensation for the damages and injuries suffered. Money may not return your body to where it was neither can it fully compensate for what a victim would go through. However, it helps in bearing the burden that comes after the accident. You will need a skilled lawyer to fight for your claims from the parties responsible. At San Diego Personal Injury Law Firm, we are qualified to help you get your compensation. Call us at 619-478-4059, and let us help you with your claim.