While most other motor vehicle accidents are caused by other drivers, some accidents can legitimately be caused, at least in part, by poor road conditions. Roads can be dangerous as a result of negligent maintenance, poor design, or other conditions that create a hazard for motorists. In a case that was settled for $550,000 earlier this month, a motorcyclist sued the Georgia Department of Transportation for injuries that were sustained due to a poorly maintained stretch of roadway. If you’ve been in an accident that you believe was caused by road conditions, this post will identify a few issues for you to consider.
Identifying the Hazard
The first step is identifying the hazard that you believe caused your accident. Here are some common types of hazards that lead to accidents:
- Maintenance issues: potholes, deteriorating surface pavement, ruts, or broken concrete or asphalt
- Faulty or missing safety equipment: missing guardrails, missing signage, malfunctioning traffic lights
- Poor design: unsafe turns, poor drainage, insufficient visibility, insufficient signage
Hazards aren’t always apparent, especially on a roadway where traffic travels at a high rate of speed. As a result, be sure to carefully document what you believe caused your accident. Write down the time of day, weather conditions, and specific location where your accident occurred. Photographs can be especially helpful, particularly when taken from multiple angles.
Who is Responsible?
In order to successfully bring a claim, you need to identify the entity or entities responsible for the roadway. Roads and streets are maintained by state, county, and local municipalities, and it’s often difficult to tell who is responsible for which roads.
If you believe that your accident was caused by poor road design, this issue gets even more complicated. In addition to identifying the responsible government agency, you may also have to bring a claim against the engineering or construction firm that designed or built the road.
Proving Your Case
In order to receive compensation for your claim, you will need to prove that the road conditions caused your injury. This can be more difficult than you think, even if you feel that it’s obvious. You will need to prove that the government knew the hazard existed and could have taken steps to prevent an accident but failed to do so. In the motorcyclist’s case we referenced above, the road surface had been deteriorating for quite some time and was in a state of serious disrepair. Other cases may not be so clear.
If your claim is based on an unsafe design, you may need an engineer or other expert to testify that the road did not meet commonly accepted safety standards.
The Question of Sovereign Immunity
Sovereign immunity is a concept that basically prohibits a government from being sued by its citizens without its consent. Because this often leads to shocking results, government agencies have created exceptions allowing themselves to be sued in certain situations and under specific conditions. For example, Georgia has a two-year statute of limitations for personal injury claims. If you are suing a government entity, however, you may have only six months to a year to bring your claim. In addition, you may also need to file an administrative claim before you can file a lawsuit.
Contact an Atlanta Personal Injury Attorney Today for a Free Case Evaluation
If you’ve been injured in an accident caused by an unsafe roadway, an experienced personal injury attorney can help you sort through these complicated issues. The attorneys at Slappey & Sadd have been helping accident victims across the state of Georgia since 1992, and we can help you get the compensation you deserve. If you’d like a free consultation with one of our attorneys, give us a call at 888-474-9616 or contact us online.