Last year, the United States was on pace to have its most deadly year for traffic since 2007. According to the U.S. National Safety Council, as of June 2015, auto accident-related deaths were up 14 percent from the same period a year ago, and were only expected to climb as injuries and costs related to accidents also spiked.
Though the report pointed to a number of key factors as the driving force behind the escalated figures – such as lower gas prices, an improving economy and increased cumulative miles traveled – it failed to account for a key area of concern for drivers on the road today. That is roadway maintenance and safety.
Who Is Responsible for Roadway Maintenance?
Roadway safety is a critical concern for both drivers and their communities alike. However, when it comes to the maintenance of city, county or state roadways, it’s not always easy to determine liability.
Most state laws require the government, whether it be at the local or state level, to maintain roadways and keep them reasonable safe for the driving public.
When issues pop up on roadways, it is important that they are addressed in a timely manner, in order to avoid accidents or other incidents that lead to driver injury. For example, governments or other municipalities responsible for maintaining safe roadways are typically tasked with overseeing the repair (and ongoing maintenance) of issues like:
- Construction zones
- Shoulder drop-off
- Oil and chip
- Icy or snowy roads
- Wet roads
Such entities are also responsible for displaying the appropriate signage, indicating a risk or other danger that drivers may face. On areas like bridges and highways, where there may be large stopped or slow-moving construction vehicles, it is important to have proper signage that communicates the need to slow down, stop or avoid surrounding traffic.
But what happens when the responsible agencies become negligent, such as failing to address pothole issues, or clearly mark construction zones for area traffic?
Unfortunately, these situations have the potential to be catastrophic. This is especially true for incidents involving large vehicles, like semi trucks or tractor-trailers that are sharing the road with smaller, more vulnerable vehicles.
Dangers and Injuries Due to Improper Maintenance
In areas like the City of Houston, where traffic density is among the highest in the nation, keeping safe, functional roadways is essential. The region is also home to a number of high-traffic transit hubs, including Interstates 10, 59 and 45, which all experience regular preventative or expansion maintenance.
It is also a popular leg of commercial routes for drivers of semi or 18-wheeler trucks.
When accidents occur involving vehicles of this size, or vehicles traveling at high speeds, victims can experience devastating or debilitating injury. It is not uncommon for traffic accidents to result in:
- Brain injury
- Spinal injury
- Bone fractures
- Internal injuries
- Loss of limbs
Additionally, those dealing with injury from a traffic or roadway-related incident may require extensive medical or rehabilitative care, which can place significant financial pressure on victims and their families. Some injuries can also cause reduced or lost wages, which victims may attempt to recover through a liability claim against the responsible party.
Because state laws are (typically) very clear when it comes to responsibility and roadway maintenance, determining fault in these cases tends to be a little easier. The key thing to remember in any liability situation, including government-funded and operated roadways, is whether or not the environment could be considered “reasonably” safe.
Essentially, that means that the government will not always be considered responsible when based simply on the fact that a vehicle was damaged due to the condition of the road, however questionable. Because it is not possible to constantly assess the state of the roads, state laws typically allow governments a reasonable amount of time to identify and repair roadway issues.
This is most commonly achieved through:
- Drivers or other individuals reporting dangerous conditions
- Conducting regular surveys of area roads
If the government has not identified (or been informed of) a dangerous road condition, odds are it will not be considered liable for any damages that the roadway causes.
Finding A Personal Injury Attorney
If you or someone you love has been injured in an auto or truck accident, or if you believe you have experienced injury due to improper roadway maintenance, the most important first step should be consulting with a medical professional. It is important to identify any and all injuries as early as possible.
Once an injury has been diagnosed, it is in your best interest to enlist the expertise of a personal injury attorney, who can assist with the filing of a personal injury claim.
If you reside in Houston, Texas or the surrounding communities, the attorneys at the Argento Law Firm can help. For more than two decades, our firm has successfully represented victims of personal injury accidents, including auto and truck accidents. Our attorneys are well-versed in Texas state laws regarding these types of injuries, and possess the skills, experience and commitment you need to see your case through to a successful end result.
As a convenience for new clients, we are happy to offer a complimentary initial consultation to help assess your case, and we speak both English and Spanish.
To get started, call our attorneys today at (713) 225-5050. We also offer our services on a contingency basis, meaning our clients do not pay any fees until we successfully negotiate your settlement.