Who is Liable for an Accident Caused by Dangerous Roads?
A car accident can happen due to many factors. Negligent driving behaviors, from drinking and driving to running a red light, are among the most common causes of these collisions, and California’s insurance laws reflect this reality. California follows a fault-based insurance system, which requires drivers responsible for car accidents to pay for their victims’ damages.
However, not all accidents occur due to the actions of a negligent driver. In some cases, poor road conditions, such as loose gravel or cracked asphalt, cause these collisions. If you are in an accident due to poor road conditions, multiple parties may be liable for your injuries. A Bakersfield car accident lawyer can help.
Who Is Liable for Road Maintenance?
If you are in an accident due to poorly-maintained or poorly-designed road, you do not have an at-fault driver you can hold accountable. Instead, the entity responsible for maintaining or planning the road will be liable for the damages you sustain.
In cases where poor road conditions cause your accident, you may file a claim against the city, county, or state government agency responsible for the road’s maintenance. The liable entity may vary based on where your accident occurred and the exact cause of the accident. In some cases, multiple agencies may share liability.
For example, say you suffer an accident on the road due to a pothole. While your city government may be responsible for de-icing the roads or removing gravel, the state government is responsible for paving the roads and fixing defects such as potholes. In this situation, you can hold the state agency accountable. However, if you skid on ice that road maintenance workers failed to clear and strike a tree, you could hold the city agency responsible.
Government agencies have a responsibility to keep roads in reasonably safe conditions. However, to prove your claim, you will need to establish that the government either knew about the condition or that the condition had been around for so long that the agency should have discovered it. You will also need to prove that the government failed to take action and repair the road in a reasonable amount of time.
Establishing Liability for Poorly Planned Roads
Your accident may occur due to a planning and development defect instead of a dangerous condition on the road itself. In these cases, you will need to prove that the agency’s road design is inherently dangerous, and this defect directly caused your accident and injuries.
For example, say that a state government agency decides to build a road next to a lake suffering obvious and well-documented erosion. You suffer an accident when the road buckles underneath your vehicle due to this erosion. In this situation, you can establish that the state government should have reasonably known about the erosion and should have not built the road in that location in the first place. As a result, the agency is liable for your injuries and damages.
Filing a Lawsuit Against a Government Agency
While the government may be responsible for the poor road conditions that caused your accident, filing a lawsuit against these entities can be challenging. Most agencies have immunity from lawsuits, which means they cannot face lawsuits unless they provide permission. You will first need to file an administrative claim against the agency; if you do not receive compensation through this process, you may be eligible for a civil lawsuit.
These administrative claims can have very short deadlines and follow different procedures depending on the agency. To navigate this process and ensure you preserve your right to compensation, contact a California car accident attorney as soon as possible. Your attorney will evaluate your claim, explain your legal options, and take the necessary steps to file your claim.