Major car accidents occur every day in the United States. While many are due to driver negligence, some are due to a lack of proper road maintenance.
Who is responsible for road maintenance? That is a question that many drivers have asked themselves. In general, the state or federal government is responsible. While it may seem simple, the truth can be difficult to determine and often leads to disputes over which party has responsibility.
If an accident occurs due to a poorly maintained road, premises liability law can be enforced. This allows the victim to sue the negligent party for any injuries suffered. However, it is not a straightforward practice.
If you have been injured due to poor road maintenance, call Lytal, Reiter, Smith, Ivey & Fronrath today to speak to our premises liability lawyers. We offer free consultations to help victims like you understand their rights to damages.
What is negligent road maintenance?
Road maintenance refers to the caretaking of all parts of a roadway. Consider all of the things you encounter when driving on a public roadway: potholes, erosion, guardrails, traffic lights, turns, and speed limits. These are all maintained to ensure that it is safe to drive.
When this road maintenance is not kept up, it can have disastrous consequences for drivers. With inadequate signage, a driver may not notice a hidden exit, causing a collision. Broken or missing guardrails can add to injuries from collisions, where a guardrail should have prevented a vehicle from going off the highway. And unkempt roadways can cause damage to vehicles that lead to rollovers.
When the parties responsible for road maintenance neglect their job, the roadways become an even more dangerous place for drivers.
Who is responsible for road maintenance?
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration, state or local governments are responsible for maintaining all public roads that are under their jurisdiction.
However, different responsibilities could be shared by multiple government agencies at the municipal level. A state may be in charge of potholes and road paving, while a city takes care of snow plowing and de-icing roads.
While it may seem simple, figuring out who is actually responsible for maintaining the roads can be difficult to determine and often leads to disputes over which party holds liability. You must determine which agency you are filing a lawsuit against if you are going to be bringing a premises liability case against the government.
Negligence is required to bring a premises liability case against the government. While road maintenance requires inspections, warning signs, road marking, road widening or narrowing, traffic lights, road closures, and other preventative measures, negligence occurs when one of these precautions are not taken for whatever reason.
To prove negligence in road maintenance, the defendant must prove that the government agency first had a duty of care. A duty of care is a legal obligation to protect road users from harm.
Second, the defendant must prove that the road maintenance agency breached this duty of care by failing to enact preventative measures or take down a temporary closure sign. Inadequate road conditions are not proof of breach on its own, but it is evidence for your claim.
You must also prove that the government bodies had ample time to repair the roadways that were neglected once they found out about the issues. For example, if a lightning strike knocks over a lamp post and a car immediately collides with it, the driver cannot sue the government for not replacing the lamp post. They did not reasonably have enough time to do so. However, if it occurred two days prior, then the government agency could be held responsible.
Once you have proven breach of duty, you must prove that the negligent road maintenance directly caused your damages – property damage or an injury. Then, you must prove the financial hardship that you faced as a result of your damages and/or injuries.
What is premises liability?
The premises liability laws of several states hold that all property owners owe the public a duty to maintain their premises in a safe condition. This includes keeping up with basic repairs such as fixing broken stairs and ensuring that railings are secure. If they fail to maintain these premises in a safe condition, they can be found guilty of premises liability.
This is also true of roadways. The government bodies who oversee the maintenance of roadways act like a property owner. If they do not maintain the roadways appropriately, then they can be found liable for any injuries that occur as a result of their negligence.
Can the at-fault party be sued?
In the case of negligence, the at-fault party can typically be sued for the damages that they caused you. However, certain government agencies have immunity and cannot be sued without permission.
Road maintenance negligence is one of the few cases where it is generally possible to seek justice from a government agency whose negligence caused damages to civilians. The negligence must be “clear” or “gross”, or very obvious, to justify the lawsuit.
Filing a lawsuit against a government entity is extremely complicated. You will need to understand the special sets of rules in your state and city to ensure that you qualify for your claim.
Additionally, you will need to have the know-how to face an organization with a strong legal team and insurance company. You don’t want to do this alone.
Hire a Premises Liability Lawyer
When you ask who is responsible for road maintenance, the answer is usually a government entity. And when you have to take on a government entity due to road maintenance negligence, you need a legal professional on your side.
Lytal, Reiter, Smith, Ivey & Fronrath are here to defend your rights. We believe that justice should be served, no matter how important or powerful the defendant is. We don’t back down from any fight in the pursuit of maximum compensation. Call us today to find out how.