The San Francisco area has the most poorly maintained roads in the United States, according to a 2018 report by TRIP, a transportation research group based out of Washington, D.C. 71% of roads in the area are in “poor” condition, according to TRIP, who says the average motorist in the area loses $1,049 per year as a result of the poor road conditions. Poorly maintained roads can lead to dangerous roadway conditions, which can lead to traffic accidents. The governmental agencies responsible for maintaining our roads can be held liable for injuries resulting from traffic accidents caused by dangerous roadway conditions.

What Kinds Of Dangerous Roadway Conditions Can Agencies Be Held Responsible For?

Governmental agencies can be held liable for dangerous roadway conditions if they are found to be negligent. Negligence in an injury case means that a defendant should have exercised reasonable caution to prevent a plaintiff from being injured, did not, and a plaintiff was injured because the defendant did not exercise said reasonable caution. Dangerous roadway conditions that governmental agencies can be held liable for include:

• Potholes and cracks in the road which can cause drivers to lose control of their cars;

• Guardrail issues on ditches, overpasses or sharp curves;

• Road signs which have fallen or are hidden;

• Highways without rumble strips;

• A lack of necessary warning signs;

• Overpass or bridge damage;

• Not enough traffic control in construction zones, such as cones, proper marking, etc.

• Dangerous curves;

• Inadequate lighting;

• Faded lane markings;

• Stop light malfunctions;

• Road flooding caused by clogged drains.

Governmental agencies can be held liable for these dangerous roadway conditions when these conditions are the result of poor construction, poor road planning and design or their failure to repair and maintain the road.

Can I Sue Whoever Is Responsible?

The governmental agencies responsible for maintaining our roads generally possess immunity from lawsuits. However, negligence is an exception to this immunity, so you can sue whoever is responsible for your injuries if they were negligent. The negligence must be “gross” (i.e. extremely negligent) in some cases for a lawsuit to proceed, however, and in some cases insurance must be present to cover the lawsuit. The exact circumstances under which one can and cannot sue governmental agencies for dangerous roadway conditions vary from state to state.

Motorists must file dangerous roadway condition lawsuits within the statute of limitations, which is typically short for this type of accident. Most states’ statute of limitations for these kinds of cases are six months to two years; California’s is six months. This means that it’s wise to contact an experienced personal injury lawyer as soon as possible after your accident to ensure you never run afoul of the statute of limitations.

A Governmental Agency Was Negligent. What Now?

It can be difficult to identify the party responsible for a dangerous roadway condition. Multiple governmental agencies can be responsible for maintaining different parts of the same road, and sometimes a dangerous roadway condition is the fault of subcontractors working for the government. It can also be difficult to prove that not only was a governmental agency at fault for a dangerous roadway condition, but that the condition was responsible for your injuries as well. These difficulties mean that it is wise for you to contact an experienced personal injury attorney if you’ve been injured as a result of a dangerous roadway condition.

Experienced personal injury lawyers can do the following for you to ensure you receive financial compensation for your injuries:

• Collect witness reports;

• Collect police reports;

• Prepare you for testimony, if needed;

• Collect accident photos and other accident evidence;

• Collect survey records, which can show the government was aware of or should have been aware of the dangerous condition;

• Collect medical records as evidence of damages;

• Collect vehicle repair reports as evidence of damages;

• Discover and present government knowledge of the condition;

• Hire expert accident reconstruction witnesses who can prove that your accident and injuries were caused by a dangerous roadway condition;

• Negotiate with insurance companies to obtain you a settlement.

You should collect as much witness information as possible immediately after the accident if you don’t require immediate medical attention. Do not discuss the accident with witnesses, though; only ask them questions. You don’t want to say anything to them which can be used against you later.

You should take photos of the accident scene immediately after the accident if you can. Take photos from up close which show important details, as well as photos from far away which provide important context.

Do not talk to the insurance company of whoever is responsible for your injuries. They are trained to manipulate you into saying things that they can use to pay you less or not pay you at all. Let your lawyer do all the talking with the insurance companies.

Author's Bio: 

Jeffrey Nadrich, Esq. is the founder and managing partner of Nadrich & Cohen, LLP, a California personal injury law firm with offices in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Fresno, Modesto and Tracy. His firm has recovered over $350,000,000 for its clients since it was founded in 1990. He has successfully represented San Francisco residents and victims of dangerous roadway conditions for decades.