Experts have long been sounding the alarm that infrastructure in the United States is aging and putting people at risk. This includes everything from the electrical grid to hydroelectric dams. However, nowhere is the country’s slowly failing infrastructure more visible in daily life than on the road.
Nationwide, roads, bridges, and other structures are starting to pass their intended lifespans. That puts drivers at risk every day. For example, on December 6th, a routine traffic accident led to a fence falling off an overpass onto busy northbound Business 80 and hitting multiple vehicles.
The incident happened at about 9 p.m. An unknown driver on the overpass veered into the fence, knocking it loose and causing it to fall. The driver proceeded to flee the scene. Meanwhile, the fence broke free from the overpass and fell onto the busy freeway below, where it landed on one car and hit at least one other vehicle.
The fence and damaged cars blocked all northbound traffic for several hours as crews cleaned up the debris and inspected the bridge for additional falling hazards. No injuries were reported, but if the incident happened at a busier time or the fence had fallen seconds earlier or later, it could easily have been fatal.
This type of accident should not be possible on well-maintained roads. Bridges must be designed with barriers that are strong enough to withstand impacts at standard road speeds. The fact that a single impact was enough to cause the fence to break free and fall on the road below demonstrates that the bridge may have been poorly designed or maintained.
When accidents like this happen, there’s a fundamental question of liability. If poorly maintained roads or bridges lead to accidents, the public agency responsible for that infrastructure may partly be liable for the losses victims suffer. In this case, the driver who hit the fence and the agency responsible for the bridge’s maintenance may share liability for the incident.
However, holding public agencies liable for their negligence is often difficult. Specific laws and regulations in place to protect government institutions from lawsuits by the public make the process of filing these claims significantly more complex.
It is still worthwhile, though. Holding government agencies accountable for neglecting infrastructure allows you to pursue compensation for your injuries and encourages them to invest in preventing future accidents. Here’s what you should know about the risks of faulty infrastructure and how you can hold public agencies accountable for their failure to maintain the roads.
How Faulty Infrastructure Causes Accidents
Infrastructure such as roads and signage must be constructed and maintained correctly to minimize the risk of accidents. When this doesn’t occur, drivers are at significantly greater risk of accidents. Common ways dangerous infrastructure leads to accidents include:
- Incorrectly constructed features encourage crashes. Roads, bridges, onramps, traffic signals, and other elements must be designed carefully to promote safe driving. Problems like blind intersections, traffic signals at the bottom of steep hills, and other fundamental design flaws can make accidents more likely by making it harder for drivers to follow traffic laws and react to road conditions. For example, blind intersections can lead to crashes
- Lack of maintenance causes the infrastructure itself to cause harm. Correctly built roads still need routine maintenance to remain safe. Potholes can lead to accidents and injuries if they make drivers lose control of their vehicles, for instance. Meanwhile, failing barriers can make accidents worse if they fall on other cars or block roads. In the case of the falling fence, it is unclear whether the issue was poor maintenance or faulty construction.
- Poorly maintained roads may mislead drivers. Road striping fades over time, and signs may be damaged or stolen. If these critical elements aren’t repaired, drivers can’t tell where they are supposed to go. This can lead drivers to turn in a no-turn lane or drive the wrong way on one-way roads through no fault, increasing the risk of crashes.
If an agency is responsible for a specific roadway, it must maintain it in good condition. If the road is neglected and the neglect leads to accidents, then that agency could be liable for the crashes that result.
Hold Public Organizations Accountable for Dangerous Roads
If you have been in a car crash and the road itself was the cause, you may have grounds to sue the government organization that maintains it. However, you will need to file your claim according to state and federal guidelines. To hold a public institution liable for your injuries, you will need to:
- Document the motor vehicle accident. Take pictures and record videos of the conditions around your accident if possible. Pay particular attention to the neglected or damaged infrastructure that led to the accident.
- Learn what agency is responsible for the infrastructure involved in your accident. Municipal, state, and federal agencies share responsibility for caring for roads. You will need to determine which organization is responsible for the road you were driving when you were injured.
- Contact an experienced car accident attorney. A knowledgeable lawyer will help you build your case against the agency that neglected the roads. They will also explain the specific restrictions and requirements for lawsuits against the agency you wish to sue to help you file your claim successfully.
Expert Legal Counsel in Faulty Infrastructure Accidents
All the safe driving tips in the world cannot protect you from accidents if the roads themselves are dangerous. If you’ve been hurt in an accident caused by faulty infrastructure, you can take action against the public institutions that failed to maintain it appropriately.
At Abramson Smith Waldsmith LLP, we have over 80 years of combined experience representing clients who have been seriously injured in car accidents or due to government negligence. Learn how we can help you by calling 415-421-7995 or emailing us to schedule your consultation.