Determining who is at fault for car accidents is usually a simple matter of establishing if a driver did not follow the rules of the road. But when accidents occur on ill-maintained roads, it is possible that local government entities may be liable.  

When road repairs are neglected by local governments, or severe weather has caused dangerous driving conditions, it is important to practice extreme caution while operating a vehicle. Accidents that occur as a result of icy or snowy roads, pot holes, unmarked shoulder drop-off zones and mismanaged construction areas may be the fault of the government or other entities as they are responsible for maintaining the roadways. The following information from the experienced accident attorneys at the Law Offices of Eldridge and Nachtman will help to determine who is at fault when poor road conditions contribute to an accident.

Who is Responsible?

Many people believe, because road maintenance is the responsibility of local and state governments, that those same entities may be held liable for an accident caused by a poorly maintained road. However, there are laws in place which protect government and subsidiaries from liability to a certain extent.  Such laws dictate that governments have a reasonable amount of time to discover poor conditions, whether through surveys or specific reporting. The responsible party—government or delegated subsidiary—then has an allotted amount of time to execute maintenance or repairs as needed. Nevertheless, if the responsible party has not discovered the road issues, or has not had ample time to fix the issues, they cannot be held responsible for any damage related to accidents due to the conditions.

Making a Liability Claim

In the event that a driver has an accident, and believes that road conditions may be at fault, there are ways to make a claim against the entity responsible for road maintenance. Such a claim would need to prove the following:

  • The government or subsidiary had knowledge that the road conditions causing the accident were in bad condition, or that they, under reasonable circumstances, should have had knowledge
  • That same entity did not make repairs to the roads within a reasonable amount of time

There are several steps a driver should take in order to file a strong claim. Immediately following the accident, the affected driver(s) should make note of pertinent information such as the location, name, and direction of the road where the poor conditions existed. The more detailed the description of where the condition is located and the physical characteristics of the condition,  the better chance a driver will have of having any damages compensated. Additionally, detailed pictures of the accident, the road conditions, cars, settings and injuries would all be vital to making a claim. It is important to take down names and contact information of anyone else who was involved in the incident, or who may have witnessed it take place.

A driver will then need to determine what government agency or subsidiary is responsible for the road maintenance where their accident took place. It is necessary to give that agency notice of the claim, and provide evidence that they are legally liable. An agency may admit to being negligent of the poor condition. However, if they don’t, there are a couple of ways that this may be proved. First, a driver or representative thereof can request records of local government’s routine road surveys. If the knowledge existed, a thorough examination of these records may show that someone documented the condition prior to the accident.

If this method does not yield the desired proof, a driver or representative thereof could research the area where the accident happened in order to prove that the government agency or subsidiary should have known about the condition. This method is often tedious and challenging because it will require interviewing those who reside within the vicinity, and searching through items such as records and pictures.

ENLawyers Bottom Line

Even if a driver decides not to pursue a liability claim for an accident caused by poor road conditions, it is vital to the safety of other drivers to report the conditions to the appropriate authority. In doing so, many other accidents, damages, and injuries can be prevented, in addition to the lives that can be saved. If you have been in an accident, and believe it to be a result of ill-maintained roads, you may be eligible to file a liability claim and recover damages. To have a free review of your case, or for any questions pertaining to Baltimore automobile accident law, don’t forget to contact ENLawyers by phone at 443.559.4384 or via email at info@enlawyers.com.