It is often easy to figure out liability issues when your car accident is caused by another driver, but what happens when there is no other driver, but the accident is caused by the road condition itself? It has been estimated that potholes alone cost motorists more than $6.4 billion per year. Will you have to eat the cost of your repairs, or will you be able to go after the governmental agency responsible for fixing the road? The answer to these questions is often determined by the facts you are able to prove and how well your accident attorney presents your case.
What Constitutes A Poor Road Condition?
If you drive, it is only a matter of time before you encounter poor road conditions such as the following:
- Missing guardrails
- Shoulder drop-offs
- Improperly graded shoulders or curves
- Confusing, damaged or missing signage
- Lack of, or poorly placed, traffic signals
- Lack of appropriate road materials
- Roads unsalted or unplowed during winter weather
Poor road conditions not only present a significant risk to your safety, but are costing you money you may not even realize you are spending. It is estimated that poor road conditions could be costing you $1,100 to $1,200 per year. In addition to the additional cost, it has been estimated that poor road conditions contribute to as many as one third of all serious, as well as fatal crashes. But who is to blame, is it mother nature, or is it the agency whose responsible for fixing the roads?
Can You Sue For Bad Roads?
As you travel around your city and your state, you will travel on roads that are maintained by several different entities. Some of these roads are maintained by the city, others are maintained by the county, and still others are maintained by the state. The most well known of these agencies is the U.S. Department of Transportation, or DOT. No matter which agency is responsible for that particular stretch of road, they all have a responsibility in keeping the roads around you safe. To do this, they have several specific duties, including:
- inspecting the streets
- making repairs to the streets
- notifying motorists of unsafe conditions
Many times when there is a lawsuit alleging negligence on the part of the agency, it is usually due to the breach of one or more of these basic duties. Unfortunately, even if there has been a breach in these duties or responsibilities, you may not be able to file a case against the agency who is responsible for the breach.
What Is Sovereign Immunity?
Many city, county, and even state agencies cannot be sued because they fall under the doctrine of sovereign immunity. Under this doctrine, these agencies are literally exempt from being sued, and the agency itself is not held liable for any of the actions of their employees. This means that even if the agency is negligent in maintaining the road conditions of the street you incurred damage, or were injured on, you may not be able to go after them in court.
Luckily, this is not always the case, even if the state agency is protected by sovereign immunity, an experienced auto accident attorney may still be able to file your case, and help you to receive compensation. They will often know of ways to get around the sovereign immunity of the agency, as this immunity is no longer as clear cut as it once was. Some agencies will even consent to being sued under specific cases, although this varies from state to state.
If you want to know if you have a viable case for the road conditions which caused your accident, speak to an experienced accident attorney. They will be happy to review your case, and give you their opinion.