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Government Negligence: Proving a Dangerous Roadway Case!

Rhode Island dangerous roadway accidents

Dangerous roads in Rhode Island

From Rhode Island to California, much of our nation’s street and highway infrastructure is safe and sound. Millions of Americans travel along these thoroughfares every year without incident. However, thousands of traffic accidents occur every year in Rhode Island , California and other states. When these continue to happen in and around the same stretch of highway, intersection or surface street, and especially when those incidents cause catastrophic injury or death, a personal injury attorney should be consulted. The RI or CA Negligence LAWYER WILL determine if claims lie against one or more government entities based upon a theory that the roadway is dangerous by design and should be improved by local government officials.

Such a claim has many hurdles to overcome including potential governmental immunity defenses. If successful, however, they can not only result in substantial compensation to the victims or the family of a wrongful death decedent but, can also serve to spur improvements that can reduce future accidents and save lives.

Examples of Dangerous Road Conditions

Examples of when a road is poorly designed or maintained can include any number of scenarios as follows:

-Inadequacy of lane widths or configurations
-Poor street lighting for the area
-Lack of or malfunctioning traffic lights, signs and other signals
-Construction zones where inadequate warnings of reduction in lanes or other travel hazards are present
-Wear and tear of the road including potholes, cracks and other road defects
-Inadequate or poorly maintained guard rails

Poor Street Design or Negligent Failure to Maintain A Highway

Investigation and Discovery Necessary for Proving that A Poor Street Design or Negligent Failure to Maintain A Highway Was the Cause of A Catastrophic Injury or Wrongful Death The standard for proving negligence of a government entity related to road design or maintenance is fairly uniform across most states. In both California and Rhode Island, it is necessary to prove that the entity responsible for highway maintenance (most often a state entity such as California Department of Transportation (CALTRANS) or Rhode Island Department of Transporation (RIDOT)) failed to protect the public from a reasonable forseeable condition for which they knew or should have known. This requires not only a thorough investigation of the facts and causes of the incident in question but, a detailed history of prior accidents in and around the area where the traffic mishap occurred. There are any number of potential sources of information for this type of data including the following:

State Department of Transportation Manuals:

Every state transportation dept. has detailed manuals regarding highway design, construction and maintenance standards. Much of these records can be found online at state government websites.

Project and Development Records:  Whenever a government entity decides to start a roadway project, plans are drawn up as to how this highway improvement will be implemented. The design and construction process typically include many types of documents that may be useful in a crash investigation.

Documentation of Prior Accident History:  This type of information is available in sources such as accident databases that are maintained by each state known as TASAS (Traffic Accident Surveillance and Analysis System) and identify segments of roadways with any significant higher number of traffic accidents than other areas.  In addition, most state agencies have documentation of investigations they have performed following a prior notification of an alleged problem road or stretch of highway. In addition to state agencies, county and municipal public works departments also maintain their own history of accidents in any given region.

Photographs: Included within many of these government records are also “photologs” and aerial shots of state highways and roads.

Prior Studies and Other Publications: Most state agencies conduct regular studies on highway safety which are usually public record.

 Investigate and Prosecute a Dangerous Condition of Public Property Claim

These claims are difficult to investigate and even more difficult to prove. Government agencies have immunity on many acts or alleged omissions and 9 times out of 10 will file motions to have the claim dismissed based upon a statutory protection afforded to them. Experts such as civil engineers and accident re-constructionists are required to analyze data and to come up with evidence and arguments that can refute claims of governmental sovereign immunity. It is essential, therefore, to promptly consult and retain a lawyer familiar with road design defect and negligent maintenance claims in these cases. Oftentimes, individuals will have limited insurance policy limits and pursuing a claim against the public entity can mean the difference between only being compensated for a small portion of the medical bills, lost income and pain and suffering or obtaining full compensation for all damages.

Steven M. Sweat is a  personal injury attorney based in Los Angeles, CA with an emphasis on accident and injury claims He is a regular contributor to this and other blogs on car accident claims and tort law