Last Update: 02/03/16
South Florida – particularly Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties – is filled with roads, streets, and highways that move millions of vehicles each and every day. Some of these roadways have been in existence for years without any change in design or any improvement to increase traffic flow. Others, are new expressways, boulevards, or roadways that have been newly finished and introduced to Florida drivers.
Many drivers assume that these designs and roadways have been tested and are being properly maintained: why else would the government spend all those tax dollars to build them? Surely, everything was properly vetted for safety in design and use by transportation experts before any asphalt was poured? Maybe. Maybe not.
Does Design Cause Traffic Accidents and Car Crashes?
In Florida, both state and local government agencies are responsible for our roadways. There are also federal roads here: the interstate highway system is the responsibility of the federal Department of Transportation, for example.
While these agencies are expert at building roadways and maintaining them, this does not mean that they are infallible. There are times when people are seriously injured or even killed in auto accidents on a traffic path where the design itself causes danger (or where the failure to upkeep the roadway increases the likelihood of an accident). For example, car accidents sometimes occur because of:
1. Design Problems
- Confusing signs;
- No warning signs;
- A flaw in the road design;
- Missing road stripes;
- Guardrails aren’t in place;
- There are too few guardrails in a dangerous part of the roadway;
- Storm water collecting and pooling over the roadway because of a design error;
- Blind spots at intersections;
- Curves being too tight;
- No median or other barrier.
2. Road Maintenance Problems
- Missing or stolen warning sings;
- Road repair and maintenance is faulty and unsafe;
- Road construction warnings fail to give enough stopping distance;
- There is not enough warning of road construction to oncoming traffic (cones, etc.);
- Painted road stripes have faded so they are not easily seen in heavy rain or storms;
- Guardrails aren’t in their proper place or have been damaged;
- There are not enough guardrails in a dangerous part of the roadway;
- Trees or shrubs have grown to obscure warning signs;
- The shoulder of the road is overgrown and not accessible for emergency use;
- Potholes that have not been repaired;
- Traffic lights are not working.
Claims for Injuries Due to Bad Roadway Design or Maintenance
It is true that there are laws in place that prevent some lawsuits or claims from being filed against the government: there is a protection in Florida law and federal law called “sovereign immunity” that protects taxpayer dollars by limiting who can sue the government for damages and what claims can be made against government agencies.
However, “sovereign immunity” does not protect the federal, state, and local governments from having to pay any and all traffic accident claims that are caused by dangers in streets, roads, or highways that have resulted from the government’s actions (or failures to act).
If the government had notice of the problem, and the injured person can show this problem was a dangerous condition which caused the accident and their damages, then the government may have to respect that injury claim and pay for things like medical care, lost wages, and more.
Florida Injury Lawyer Helping Victims of Road Design or Maintenance Crashes
Often, these crashes will need the help and support of an experienced car accident lawyer to investigate and determine if there is a design or maintenance issue as the proximate cause of the accident.
The police on the scene, as well as accident victims and witnesses, may not understand at the time how poor highway design or a failure to maintain the roadway has contributed or caused the crash. An expert investigator and accident reconstruction expert may be needed to review the facts and analyze the accident to confirm that the design or maintenance caused the crash. (It may well be that one of the drivers of the vehicles involved in the motor vehicle accident is fully to blame for causing the crash.)
It’s only after the cause of the accident is properly investigated, that a reputable personal injury lawyer will proceed to file a claim against the responsible government agencies and, if necessary, take the case to trial in order for a jury to assess damages.
What Should You Do?
A good piece of advice if you have been harmed by in a car accident, is to speak with an experienced personal injury lawyer to learn about some of the issues that can arise with these claims, including the type of evidence needed to prove a claim and the type and amount of damages you can recover. Most personal injury lawyers, like Alan Sackrin, will offer a free initial consultation (over the phone or in person) to answer your questions.
Do you have questions or comments? Then please feel free to send Alan an email or call him now at (954) 458-8655.