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Liability when Poor Road Conditions Cause Car Accidents

Poor Road Conditions and Car Accident Liability: What You Should Know

While negligent drivers cause most car accidents, poor road conditions are another common factor in car accidents. State, local, and federal agencies may be held legally responsible for road accidents. Poor road conditions may include anything from missing guardrails, erosions, or portholes, to name a few. Poor roadway design can also increase the risk of danger to motorists. Although proving fault in these kinds of cases is no easy task, it isn't impossible.

Here are some hazards that create dangerous driving conditions:
  • Pavement erosion 
  • Potholes 
  • Missing traffic signs
  • Faded lane markings 
  • Poorly maintained construction zones 
  • Damaged guardrails 
  • Malfunctioning traffic signals 
  • Road shoulder 
  • Failure to plow, salt, or de-ice roads 

Some roadway design flaws that can raise the risk of accidents include:

  • Overly sharp curves 
  • Dim lighting 
  • Short on-ramps or merge lanes 
  • Lack of warning signs for dangerous conditions 

If you are injured due to these issues, a government entity may be held responsible for your injuries. Cases against government agencies tend to be more complicated than a typical car accident. One of our experienced attorneys at West Coast Trial Lawyers can help you determine precisely what entity should be held responsible.

Who is Responsible for Road Maintenance?

In California, state, local, and federal government entities may be held responsible for safely maintaining roadways. These government entities must always ensure that the conditions are safe for motorists. Government agencies may be liable in automobile accident cases and subsequent injuries when poor road conditions are directly responsible for the collisions. An injured person must prove that dangerous road conditions were directly responsible for the accident, showing how the agency or company responsible was negligent before determining if they can sue the responsible party or file a special claim against them.

For example, a well-documented erosion occurs near a local lake. Although multiple reports have been made about potential safety problems, the state does nothing. You’re driving along the road when suddenly it starts to buckle underneath you, causing an accident. In this case, the state may be responsible for the damages or injuries resulting from the incident. If dangerous weather conditions or a natural and unavoidable occurrence, like a tree falling into the road, prompts the accident, it is much more challenging to prove negligence.

Proving Negligence 

To recover compensation for damages or injuries, you'll need to prove that the agency responsible for road maintenance was negligent in its duties. Identifying the responsible entity is the first step. You can often discover this information. However, the criteria of "reasonably safe" conditions are often subject to interpretation, which is why these types of lawsuits are often challenging to win. It is necessary to demonstrate that the agency responsible failed to act on its obligation to make the repairs in a reasonable amount of time. 

The best way to do this is to search government survey records collected and conducted regularly to evaluate road conditions. These records can help identify that poor conditions on the road existed before the date of your accident. The records will also show how long the responsible agency has known about the problem. Additionally, the road's location and the type of hazard are essential factors to consider in your case.  

 Government agencies are granted ample time to make repairs or respond to a hazard that exists on the road. Suppose you can demonstrate that the agency failed to properly notify motorists of a risk or a safety-related defect associated with the road's construction. In that case, they can be held liable for the accident. 

Multiple government agencies can be liable for a roadway hazard. One agency may be responsible for making repairs to potholes, while another is responsible for snow removal tasks. Having one of our trusted personal injury attorneys on your side provides a considerable advantage. One of our attorneys can speak with someone at the county commissioner's office on your behalf and determine who is responsible for road maintenance. 

Filing a Claim

Once you or your lawyer has determined the entity that will be held liable for the accident, the entity should be notified of your claim immediately. The government agency you're filing against may have its own form for you to complete or simply require a list of information. This process can vary and depends on the rules set in the state, county, or city where the accident occurred. You can start by doing your research, searching phrases like "claims against [name of state/city/county]" to gain more information. 

Even if you decide against filing a claim, reporting dangerous road conditions is crucial to ensuring other motorists' safety. Your report could not only potentially help others avoid damages to their vehicle or severe injury it could also get the road repaired. 

If you want to consult with one of our personal injury attorneys, they can help you navigate the tricky waters of dangerous road condition lawsuits. To prepare for your consultation, collect all information relevant to your case. 

Some examples of relevant information or evidence include:
  • The location and name of the road and where the accident occurred
  • Contact information for witnesses to the incident
  • The direction in which you were driving
  • A description of the physical characteristics of the hazard (depth, length, width, etc.) 
  • Any and all records, including medical bills, police reports, tickets, and vehicle repair costs

In every state, a statute of limitations exists, limiting the amount of time in which you can file a claim. Allowing the statute of limitations to pass could result in you losing your opportunity to move forward with your case and gain financial compensation. Most states, cities, and counties have a short statute of limitation periods that are often considerably shorter than claims made against non-governmental agencies. 

Contact a WCTL Today

Filing a claim with multiple entities may be necessary if you're unsure whether the state, county, or city where the accident occurred is legally responsible for the poor road conditions. It is imperative to contact an experienced attorney who can adequately assist you with these often tricky claims. Our dynamic team of talented public injury attorneys can help if you've been injured in a car accident caused by poor road conditions. We will thoroughly review your claim and explain the legal options available in your situation. Our attorneys will fight for the compensation you deserve, including medical bills, lost wages, pain, and suffering. 

Contact us by calling  (888) 679-1973 or emailing [email protected] for a free consultation today.

You may also use this form to schedule a complimentary consultation with one of our exceptional and compassionate lawyers.


If you have been injured in an accident, you can count on the legal team at West Coast Trial Lawyers to fight for your rights every step of the way. Contact us today to schedule your free case evaluation with a personal injury attorney.
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