A car accident can have a number of different causal factors. Almost always, there is some degree of driver error by at least one motorist. In some cases, these crashes might also be the result of poor road design.
Poor road design and poor road maintenance are two different things, but they can sometimes overlap in litigation.
Government agencies that own the streets, roads and highways have a responsibility to make sure they are reasonably safe for motorists. That means using the appropriate care in the design of the roads, and also in road maintenance.
Some examples of negligence in this regard include:
- Overgrown trees and/ or other vegetation obstructing one’s view or important signage;
- Missing/ obstructed signs;
- Bridges that don’t have height warnings;
- Malfunctioning traffic signals;
- Use of improper building/ repair materials;
- Missing/ broken/ defective guardrails;
- Potholes/ pavement defects;
- Inaccurate road markings;
- Issues with exit/ entrance ramps;
- Roadway debris;
- Inadequate signage in construction zones.
- Inadequate lighting.
In many of these type of cases, defendants will often try to deflect liability on some third party: i.e., another driver, a trucking company, etc.
Each case will be fact-specific, but the negligence of one individual or entity does not necessarily cancel out that of another.
A recent poor road design lawsuit is being weighed before a trial court in California, and involves a former UCLA football player whose leg had to be partially amputated as a result of the traffic crash.
According to court records, plaintiff alleges the intersection in the suburb of Los Angeles had issues with poor visibility that was allegedly known to officials prior to the auto accident and which played a causal role in this incident.
CVN reports the collision occurred in 2012 when the former athlete was riding his motorcycle on the Pacific Coast Highway. He was struck by a driver who failed to yield to the right-of-way while making a left turn onto a cross street, according to plaintiff’s complaint.
Plaintiff’s lawyer says that while the other driver was cited, the big problem at this intersection was that drivers traveling southbound – as this motorist was – faced an incline that made it all but impossible to see oncoming traffic until they reached the intersection.
He reported that the problem has been made worse over the years as the intersection has been repaved many times over.
Plaintiff suffered significant personal injury as a result of the collision. He was forced to endure more than a dozen surgeries, and he now walks again, but only with the assistance of a prosthesis. Although plaintiff’s attorneys have declined to assert an exact amount of damages, it has been stated they would likely be “substantial.”
Defendants, however, say that the intersection was not poorly designed as there have been no fatal crashes at the site in more than two decades. The state has also made a number of improvements to the site over the years in an effort to make it safer. (These assertions are meant to undercut any allegation of poor road maintenance.)
Further, the state argues it should not be liable for poor design because state officials inherited the road from the county, which is the entity that actually designed the highway and is not a named defendant.
Finally, the state is trying to pin the blame on the driver making the left turn, asserting reckless driving was the root cause.
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