Car accidents may occur due to the poor condition of roads, including potholes, missing guard rails, eroding roads, construction zones, oil spills, and more.
If you suffer from injuries related to a car accident that was, in part, caused by poor road conditions, you may require compensation due to missed work and lost wages, medical bills, and pain and suffering. Although seeking compensation due to poor road conditions is a complex issue, there may be options available to you.
Accidents Caused by Poor Road Conditions
Drivers do not cause all auto collisions. In fact, poorly-maintained roads and highways account for around 50 percent of all motor vehicle accidents. The Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation released a study conducted over 18 months that revealed road issues cause more than 42,000 deaths each year in the United States.
Poor road conditions cause accidents. The question is what legal recourse do you have to recover the costs of getting involved in a car accident? You have the right to file a lawsuit against the government agency that is responsible for properly maintaining the roads or highway where you got involved in a vehicle collision.
Can Poor Road Conditions Cause Accidents?
Poor road conditions can certainly cause accidents. Some of these accidents are weather related, such as heavy rain, tornados, snow and ice. Drivers do need to check road conditions in advance if bad weather has been forecast and drive to the conditions.
Badly maintained roads can also cause accidents. Things like pot holes, uneven surfaces, broken concrete, cracking of the road surface, and even sinkholes, can damage vehicles and injure occupants. The worst accidents occur when the driver does not expect the road conditions to be so dangerous. Hitting a large pothole or crack at speed can cause a serious road accident, e.g. losing control of the vehicle, veering off the side of the road or into oncoming traffic or a rollover.
Public road maintenance is the responsibility of a city, county, state or federal agency. Poor road conditions may be due to deferred maintenance, budget cuts, the wrong use of materials and poor design.
If you have been injured because of an accident caused by poor road conditions you may be able to claim compensation from the agency responsible for maintenance, if you are sure that there was no clear warning about poor road conditions. A personal injury claim is possible if negligence on behalf of the authority responsible for the road conditions can be proven. If you have been clearly warned of poor road surface conditions and decide to ignore the warning, you would be unlikely to have grounds for a claim.
Let’s look at some of the common accidents caused by poor road conditions.
A driver who hits a pothole temporarily loses control of a vehicle. How long a driver loses control of a vehicle depends on the depth and width of the pothole. Typical reactions to hitting a pothole include swerving into another lane and slamming on the brakes. The first reaction can trigger a side-impact crash, while the second reaction can lead to a rear-end accident.
Snow and Ice
Local and state governments have the legal responsibility to remove ice and snow from roads and highways. Failing to remove snow and ice can cause vehicles to spin out of control, especially on rural roads. The result can be a devastating impact that produces serious, even life-threatening injuries.
Construction Work Zones
Operating a motor vehicle legally requires drivers to slow down when they approach construction zones. However, even slowing your car down before reaching a construction zone might not prevent an auto collision. Maybe you encounter unexpected debris or hit a stationary object that should be located far away from the road.
Common Injuries Incurred In Car Accidents Due to Poor Road Conditions
There are injuries commonly associated with accidents caused by poor road conditions. For instance, you may suffer from minor injuries such as bruising, whiplash, and cuts and scrapes. More severe injuries, such as brain and spinal cord damage, broken bones, and back and head injuries can also occur.
The medical treatment you will need to treat your injuries, as well as the time at work and wages you will lose, depend on the severity of the injuries you suffer from due to your car accident.
Seeking compensation for personal injuries due to a car accident caused by poor road conditions requires the following tasks:
- Prove the road conditions actually caused the accident, and therefore your injuries
- Prove that the organization responsible for the road failed to keep it in good condition, or failed to warn drivers of a potentially hazardous road
- Determine that you are able to file a claim against the organization responsible for the road in question, and that it falls within a certain period of time
What are Poor Road Conditions?
Poor road quality can be a major factor in an automobile accidents. Even if they were not the cause of the auto accident, they can make the accident much worse. Roads can be affected by bad weather such as heavy snow and rain, which can cause the roads to be very slippery, especially if they are untreated
Another common poor road condition that can contribute to an auto accident is that actual condition of the road. Some roads aren't properly managed over the years and that negligence can be dangerous and can lead to auto accidents.
Depending on where you live, another common poor road condition that can lead to serious car accidents are ice patches. Ice patches can even form when there is no snow or rain.
Ice patches often form on roads that do not sustain much traffic, so if you're driving on a road like that it's important to be cautious.
Another poor road condition that drivers need to be cautious about are oil patches. You may see rainbow color patches in the road, that could have came from a passing car or truck. Those are very slippery and could lead to an accident.
Slick and wet roads during the rain can cause very poor road conditions as well. If roads are wet, that could lead to hydroplaning, which is when a vehicle starts to slide uncontrollably on a wet road. Hydroplaning is a common car accident scenario.
Other common poor road conditions include potholes, faded road markings, road debris and missing or damaged signs.
Your personal injury attorney will be able to help you prove that poor roads contributed to your auto accident.
What Are The Causes Of Poor Road Conditions?
Any road is susceptible to suffering damage. Poor road conditions can lead to damage to vehicles and can contribute to motor vehicle accidents. Usually, poor road conditions are caused by the deteriorating conditions caused by the elements. What are some of the causes of poor road conditions?
While many things can cause road damage, such as heavy equipment and machinery, severe weather, such as snowstorms, heavy rains, and hurricanes can cause major and sudden damages. Rainstorms and snowfall combined with poor maintenance of roads can also lead to damaged roads.
These damages can include falling shoulders, potholes, cracked pavement, and even sinkholes. Any of these damages can result in damaged vehicles, such as problems with the suspension or tires. Hitting a pothole or dip in the road can lead to a tire blowing out and then throw the vehicle out of the roadway, causing a crash.
Roads that are properly maintained are much more likely to suffer less damage over time and can withstand more bad weather occurrences. Major roadways, such as interstates or larger, more heavily traveled state highways are going to be given more attention by highway departments and maintenance crews.
All roads need to be properly maintained as damage and wear are expected over time. While some damage can be delayed, minimized or corrected, routine maintenance and regular efforts are required to ensure the safety of drivers and passengers.
What Are The Different Kinds Of Poor Road Conditions?
There are different kinds of poor road conditions that a driver could encounter. The key to safety is to be prepared, learn how to drive in different conditions, and be ready for anything that you could encounter out on the roadways. At one time or another, you will face off against bad weather and bad roads.
When it rains, roads get wet and slippery. Speed should be adjusted, and it can take longer for braking. When there is heavy rains or flooding, the road can be overwhelmed by water and the pavement can be damaged. The pavement can crack and break, and when water is flowing, it could wash cars off the roads. When the road isn’t visible, you shouldn’t attempt to drive on it.
Potholes, cracked pavement, and collapsing shoulders are traffic hazards that all drivers encounter at one time or another. Hitting a bump, dip, pothole, or crack could result in damage to the vehicle or even cause a crash. Stay on the lookout for these obstacles and be ready to slow down or take evasive action.
If the weather is cold, there is a risk of ice. Especially if there has been snow and it has started melting, there is a risk of ice. Ice patches are dangerous. Often ice isn’t visible to drivers, so it is referred to as being black ice. This is a real danger to drivers during the winter months.
Shoulder drop offs can be major problems. If the shoulder drops off while you are driving close to the line, it can cause your car to exit the roadway. In steep areas, it could cause your vehicle to overturn down an embankment. If there are signs of pavement cracking near the shoulder, or if there are indicators of shoulders having sunk down or dropped, use extreme caution and stay away from the shoulder so you don’t risk an accident.
Construction work zones can also be dangerous. There are more obstacles and you must slow your speed because of the vehicles, equipment, machinery, and workers. Also, there are risks from the construction itself. Remember, it is a work in progress so there could be rough areas in the roadway, and you need to travel at a slower speed so you can watch for any risks that might exist because of the construction that is underway.
What Kinds of Damages Can A Vehicle Suffer From Poor Road Conditions?
If your vehicle is involved in an accident because of poor road conditions, it could result in a variety of damages. These damages can vary from the more minor, such as a small ding or scratch, to the more extensive, such as suspension damage, tire and wheel damage, deployed air bags, and even frame damage.
While some damages suffered by vehicles are an easy fix, there are damages that could end up costing more to repair than your car is worth. In that case, your car is considered a total loss. The insurance company will pay you the book value for your vehicle in that situation. Always stay alert and watch for poor road conditions, but remember, not all problems can be noticed far enough in advance to avoid a collision.
Automotive damages are often expensive to repair, so you will need to make sure you have a licensed automotive repair facility to inspect your vehicle and prepare a written estimate for fixing the damages. Most auto repair shops charge $70 or more per hour to do body work, and of course, the costs of the parts and the hardware must be included in the estimate for fixing the damages.
Some road conditions will result in a claim against your own auto insurance, but others may warrant a claim against another entity or agency. You may be able to file a claim against the highway department that is responsible for the road in question, or the construction company that is supposed to be handling the repairs. They have specific responsibilities and guidelines that must be followed to ensure the safety of the travelers is protected.
Anytime you have been involved in an accident caused by the road conditions, you should call the police. Filing an accident report is essential to your personal injury claim. Regardless of who is held liable for the damages that your vehicle suffered and the other losses, you will need to make sure you maintain thorough documentation to support the claim and to show what happened and how it happened.
What to Do if You Are Injured in a Car Accident as a Passenger
If you are injured in a car accident due to poor road conditions, you must first make sure to note all of the details involving the accident. These details include:
- The general area where the poor road condition is located
- The name of the road you were driving on
- The direction you were driving
- The physical characteristics of the hazardous conditions
- The contact information of eyewitnesses, if any
Calling the police and having them file a report may also be helpful in making your case.
Next, determine which organization is responsible for the road in question to see if you are allowed to file a personal claim against them.
For instance, most government agencies have immunity against personal injury claims. A state may be responsible for filling potholes on a certain road, but due to immunity, you will not be able to file a claim against them if that was why you were injured.
You must also be able to prove that the organization was negligent in keeping the road in proper conditions. This means that they must have had knowledge of the problem, yet did not take any action to improve it.
Finally, you need to prove that the hazardous road conditions directly caused your accident, and therefore your injuries. This is where the evidence you collected at the time of the incidence will be helpful.
Your claim must also fall within the time limit, or statute of limitations, for which you can make a personal injury claim in your state. For accidents caused by poor road conditions, this period is usually short, and can range from six months to two years.