News reports have indicated that poor road design or conditions played a role in more than half of all fatal automobile accidents in the United States, resulting in more deaths than any other single factor, including speeding, drunk driving, and not using seat belts. Despite such a dramatic impact on traffic safety, state and local governments frequently do not correct road problems or warn drivers of the hazards ahead. These design and maintenance flaws—combined with a lack of warning of hazards ahead—can lead to serious traffic accidents.
When two cars are in an accident or one car is in a single-vehicle crash, it is easy to want to blame one or more of the drivers involved. However, crashes can still occur when all individuals operated their vehicles in a safe manner and followed all traffic laws. Sometimes, it is important to look beyond driver error and examine the roadway where the accident happened to determine liability. An experienced car accident lawyer will know to look at every possibility to identify the cause of your crash.
Common Road Hazards
Localities and property owners have the duty to ensure that roads under their jurisdictions are properly inspected, maintained, and repaired when necessary. The Chicago area has thousands of roads, however, and it is all too common that roads fall into a state of disrepair and become dangerous for drivers.
Accidents can result from numerous factors involving poor road design or maintenance, including:
- Significant drop-offs at the pavement edge
- Improper banking of curves
- Failure to install traffic signals
- Missing or defective guardrails
- Inadequate lighting
- Potholes and uneven pavement
- Poor drainage and standing water on freeways
- Narrow shoulders or steep shoulder drop-offs
- Faded center lines and lack of reflective markers
- Insufficient warning signs
These and other design and maintenance flaws and shortcomings can make roads unreasonably dangerous. The key to recovering damages for an accident caused by an unduly dangerous road, though, may also be insufficient warnings of the hazards.
You May Be Able to Recover Damages for Failure to Warn of Dangerous Roads
You may be able to make a claim for damages against the government agency responsible for designing, building, or maintaining a hazardous road. The design or maintenance problems might not be as important to recovery as the failure to warn drivers of the hazards ahead.
When signs are not visible because of vegetation or damage—or there are no signs at all—the lack of warning becomes more critical. Standing water on roadways in known low-lying areas, narrow shoulders, rough pavements, construction zones, or dangerous portions of the road such as curves with insufficient advance warning or blind intersections are all conditions that can cause accidents. They are also all conditions that drivers should be warned about by clearly visible, easily understood highway signs, though this is often not the case.
Recovering After an Accident Caused by Dangerous Road Conditions
Like any other negligent parties, agencies that negligently fail to maintain roads should be held liable for any accidents and injuries that result. These cases can be quite different than a car accident claim against another negligent driver, however.
Because most roads are built and maintained by government agencies, sovereign immunity laws often guard the agency against being sued. However, it is possible under certain circumstances to sue the government for negligent acts. Failure to warn of known hazards is often found to be such a circumstance, and if you were involved in an accident on a dangerous road that lacked warning signs you should consult an attorney to see if you may have recourse.
Legal action against the government has significantly shorter deadlines than most other types of legal claims. Illinois also has specific courts that handle this type of case and limits on how much an injured victim can recover. Depending on the situation, there may be different legal claims you must prove to prevail against a municipality or the state of Illinois. Because these cases can be so complex, you always want help from a law firm that knows how to represent clients in this type of claim. You also do not want to delay in contacting an attorney due to the possibility of missing your window to seek financial recovery.
Crashes Can Cause Serious Injuries
Many accidents due to road hazards involve a car that departs its lane because the driver lost control after hitting the hazard or trying to avoid the hazard. A lane departure can cause a head-on collision with oncoming traffic or could send a car careening off the right side of the road, possibly into a guardrail or down an embankment. Either of these situations can cause devastating injuries to all motorists involved.
In addition, hazardous conditions such as potholes can rip a tire and cause a vehicle to roll over. Rollover accidents are extremely dangerous, even with modern safety features such as seatbelts and airbags. Rollover accidents often result in severe head, brain, or spinal injuries that can require long recovery periods and may leave victims dealing with permanent disabilities.
No matter what type of crash you were in, however, it is vital to seek medical attention for any injuries. Your health and safety should be your top priority, and then you should contact an experienced car accident lawyer as soon as you can.
If You Believe You Have a Car Accident Case in the Chicago Area, Contact the Attorneys of Abels & Annes
If you have been involved in an accident on a defective road or because there was insufficient warning of the dangers, you should consult a Chicago car accident lawyer to determine what your rights are under the circumstances of your accident.