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Personal Injury Claims Involving Defective Road Conditions

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Missouri Personal Injury Specialists

Learn how to navigate the legal landscape of personal injury claims involving defective road conditions with Buchanan, Williams & O’Brien. Book an appointment with us today.

Buchanan, Williams & O’Brien have been a trusted law firm serving Missourians for over 40 years.

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Overview of Defective Road Conditions

Each year, countless Americans suffer injuries in car accidents caused by road defects. These defects include various issues, such as potholes, uneven pavement, cracked or damaged roads, poorly designed intersections, and inadequate signage. When these hazards exist on our roadways, they create dangerous conditions that put drivers at risk of accidents and injuries.

Road defects often arise due to insufficient maintenance, which can be viewed as negligence by the municipality. Understanding the legal framework surrounding personal injury claims related to defective road conditions is crucial for seeking rightful compensation for injuries sustained in accidents caused by these hazards. 

This article offers a detailed and informative guide to navigating personal injury claims related to road defects. It provides insights into the legal aspects and offers step-by-step guidance through the claims process. At Buchanan, Williams & O’Brien, we bring over four decades of experience, handling numerous cases involving injuries caused by road defects. We understand the intricacies involved and are here to support you every step of the way.

Overview of Defective Road Conditions

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Understanding Defective Road Conditions

What Constitutes a Defective Road Condition?

A defective road condition is any issue on the road that can cause an accident or damage a vehicle. Some of the common road defects include:

Potholes

Accidents can happen due to inadequate road conditions, even when the responsible government entity diligently maintains the roads. For instance, a pothole can unexpectedly form after a freeze-and-thaw cycle. Governments are given a “reasonable” time frame to identify and repair hazardous conditions without being held liable.

Poor Road Maintenance

Road defects and maintenance are interconnected factors that contribute to accidents. When a road develops defects, such as crumbling asphalt, it can pose a dangerous situation if not promptly addressed through regular maintenance.

Uneven Surfaces

To drive safely, well-maintained, level roads are essential. Smooth and straight roads allow drivers to maintain control of their vehicles without any issues. However, some roads lack the necessary safety measures and may develop defects that pose a risk while driving. 

One common defect is uneven pavement, often caused by poor construction or maintenance practices. This defect can lead to cracks, hills, or potholes, creating hazardous driving conditions. If left unaddressed, uneven pavement deteriorates over time due to environmental factors and usage.

Lack of Signage

Signage provides drivers and other road users with vital information about potential dangers. However, if the signs are incorrect or lacking, accidents can occur due to confusion. For example, if there’s no warning sign for a sharp turn-up ahead, drivers might not slow down in time and end up crashing.

Understanding Defective Road Conditions

Confused about Personal Injury in Missouri? We are here to answer your questions.

The Impact of Defective Roads on Safety

In Missouri, the number of traffic fatalities has seen a disheartening trend, rising for the third consecutive year in 2022. According to the Missouri Coalition for Roadway Safety, 1,057 fatalities occurred on Missouri roads in 2022, marking the highest number since 2006.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that approximately 2% of all crashes are attributed to environmental factors. Half of those crashes are due to slick roads.

View obstructions are a critical factor in 11% of environment-related crashes, significantly contributing to deteriorating road conditions. Additionally, other contributing elements, including highway-related conditions, problems with signs and signals, and suboptimal road design, play a role in a smaller percentage of accidents (9%, 3%, and 1%, respectively)

Although these numbers may appear insignificant, they represent thousands of avoidable accidents and injuries. Each case involves individuals whose lives can be significantly impacted by crashes resulting from inadequate road maintenance or unfavourable road conditions.

Legal Framework for Personal Injury Claims

Who is Liable for Defective Road Conditions?

Local city governments and state transportation agencies ensure roadways’ safety and proper maintenance, design, and construction. In many cases, the local government in charge of road maintenance can be held responsible for injuries caused by road defects. If you’ve been affected by such issues, you might have the right to pursue financial compensation through a personal injury lawsuit. 

Private parties can also be held responsible for accidents caused by poor road conditions. In general, the potential defendants in a personal injury claim related to road defects can include the following:

  • Government agency responsible (State, local) for designing, maintaining, or repairing roads

  • A private company that entered into a contract with the local or state government for road construction, repair, or maintenance

  • A private landowner if the accident occurred on a private road

  • The producer of a faulty product, such as guardrails or signage

Proving Negligence in Road Condition-Related Injuries

Bringing a lawsuit against government agencies can pose significant challenges due to sovereign immunity, which protects them from civil actions. However, the courts have gradually eroded sovereign immunity by allowing lawsuits against government agencies demonstrating gross negligence or recklessness. 

A reasonable time frame is provided to agencies for identifying and repairing hazards, as failure to do so within this time frame could be considered negligence. In the event of a car accident caused by a pothole, for instance, the government may be deemed negligent for you to seek compensation for vehicle damage resulting from the pothole. 

This implies that the government had knowledge of the pothole’s presence but should have adequately addressed it. If a new pothole appeared on the road just minutes before you encountered it, it is unlikely that you will be eligible for compensation. However, if there is a large pothole in the middle of the road that has been present for several months and has caused damage to multiple vehicles, it becomes more probable that you can seek compensation. 

You need to prove that the government knew or should have known about the pothole’s existence but failed to take appropriate action. An attorney can help you gather necessary evidence, including photos of defective road conditions, medical records to prove sustained injuries and potential eyewitness testimonies. 

Filing a Personal Injury Claim

Missouri’s general personal injury statute of limitations is five years from your accident. However, it’s important to note that special rules apply when filing claims against the state or a municipality. In such cases, you have 90 days to file a compensation claim after discovering the injury, and you will need to fill out the government’s claim form. 

In light of the differing rules that govern governmental claims and the uncertainty about whether you should file your defective road damage claim with the state or the municipality, your best bet might be to hire an attorney. Additionally, an attorney can help you understand the key factors in traffic accidents that may impact your claim.

A car accident lawyer will also promptly gather the necessary evidence, handle all interactions with insurance companies, and ensure that all paperwork is filed accurately and on time.

Finally, it is essential to note that claims against the Missouri Department of Transportation and other cases related to hazardous roadway and road design defects can be complex. In many instances, professional testimony becomes necessary to establish the inadequacy of the highway and comprehensively ascertain the accident’s causes.

Securing Justice for Road Condition-Related Injuries

Dealing with the intricacies of personal injury claims arising from defective road conditions can be daunting. The legal landscape surrounding this issue is complex, involving government entities, private contractors, and various statutes of limitations. 

At Buchanan, Williams & O’Brien, we get it. We understand the seriousness of the situation and are here to fight for justice for injury victims caused by road conditions. Our team of experienced attorneys knows the nuances of handling these types of cases and will be by your side every step of the way.

We’ll gather evidence, handle paperwork, and represent you in court. With over 40 years of experience dealing with similar cases, we know all the tricks defence attorneys and insurance companies use to reduce compensation and how to counter them effectively.

Contact us today to schedule a consultation and allow our personal injury lawyers to assist you in securing the compensation you rightfully deserve.

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