Who Is Liable for a Car Accident Caused by Bad Road Conditions?
Not all roads in Richmond are suitable for traffic. Many contain bad road conditions, such as cracked asphalt and uneven surfaces, that increase the odds of car accidents. If a dangerous road condition caused your car accident in Virginia, you may still have grounds for an insurance claim – even without a second driver available. Proving liability, however, may take assistance from a car accident attorney.
Common Road Conditions Involved in Virginia Car Accidents
The safety of a roadway relies in large part on proper maintenance. When the person or party responsible for roadway maintenance neglects his or her duties of care, accidents can happen. Failing to replace a missing guardrail months after it was reported, for instance, is a breach of duty that could lead to liability for a related car accident. Many different dangerous road conditions in Virginia contribute to serious vehicle collisions, injuries and deaths each year.
- Road surface issues
- Uneven shoulders
- Missing guardrails
- Missing or obscured road signs
- Missing reflectors
- Faded paint
- Ice and snow
- Confusing detours
If you get into a car accident due to a bad road condition or an unsafe roadway design, pull off of the road to wait someplace safe for the police. Call 911 and request paramedics if you have any injuries. Take photographs of your damaged vehicle and the setting of the crash, if possible. Be sure to include the bad road condition in your photographs. If you have to go to the hospital right away instead, return to the scene of the car accident later to capture photographs of the dangerous condition. This could help you prove liability.
Liability for a Roadway Hazard in Virginia
Legally, the owner of the roadway is responsible for its maintenance and upkeep. This responsibility comes with duties of care such as inspecting the roads regularly, responding promptly to complaints, warning drivers of known risks and making effective repairs. If the owner of the road breaches any of these duties of care, and this contributes to a car accident, the owner could be liable for damages.
Liability for roadway hazards in Virginia often goes to the government. On a public roadway, the city, county or state that owns the road will be liable for poor road conditions. It is the government’s job to adequately maintain public roads. Thus, the government will also be responsible for any injuries that result from a negligent failure to keep the roads safe. If another reasonable and prudent party would have noticed the defect and repaired it prior to the accident, the government will be liable. On a privately owned road, the private landowner would be liable instead based on the same law.
An exception exists if the owner of the roadway did not have an adequate amount of time to notice or repair the bad road condition. If your car accident was the result of a tree limb that had only fallen a few minutes ago, for example, it would not be reasonable to expect the road owner to have fixed the situation prior to your crash. Thus, you may not have grounds for a claim. If, however, you or your lawyer can prove that the road owner knew or reasonably should have known about the defect, or that the owner caused the defect through an act of negligence, you would be able to file a claim for your losses.
When to Hire a Car Accident Attorney
Going up against the government during a car accident claim is no simple matter. These cases involve unique rules and statutes compared to ordinary car accident cases. Most government agencies have immunity from liability, meaning you must submit a notice of intent to sue to the agency before going to court. A lawyer in Richmond can help you with this and all other tasks connected to bringing a claim against the government for a bad roadway condition. Your lawyer will negotiate with the at-fault party while you focus on healing.