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How to Prove Your Injuries Occurred Due To a Road Defect and Who is Liable?

Jun 30, 2020 | Car Accidents

The planning, building, and maintenance of roads all over New York is the responsibility of the State of New York and its various municipalities. Whenever an accident or injury is caused directly because of design flaws, poor construction, and inadequate maintenance, the government body overseeing these activities can be held accountable.

Roads that are designed with safety, built with integrity, and maintained with care are a right for every driver. It is unfortunate that government bodies like the New York State Thruway Authority sometimes derelict their duties to properly maintain roads, repair hazardous sections, and fix roads with defects. People in New York incur hundreds of millions of dollars in expenses as medical costs and vehicle repairs arising from these accidents annually.

How Do You Define A Road Defect?

Road defects directly or indirectly cause more traffic deaths than other conditions, according to the experts. Problems like speeding, not wearing a seatbelt, and driving under the influence, therefore, all contribute less to the death toll than the fatalities occurring from road defects.

Some of the common road defects that can contribute to less than ideal driving conditions include:

  • Road debris and objects that are not removed timely
  • Lack of adequate lighting
  • Not enough median barriers or correction zones
  • Dearth or malfunction of signals and warning signs
  • Authorities failing to post warning signs
  • Missing or inadequate guardrails
  • Rainwater accumulation
  • Large cave-ins or cracks in the road
  • Ill-designed or ill-marked intersections
  • Potholes
  • Sloping shoulders
  • Badly designed roads
  • Roads with unclear lane lines that need repainting
  • Roads with uneven pavement
  • Places with overgrown shrubs and trees that impact proper vision

Burden Of Proof for Recovering Compensation After An Injury

Lawsuits or personal injury claims filed against government bodies entail a higher burden of proof than usual personal injury cases, owing to the special immunity these bodies enjoy. Establishing the presence of a hazard is not enough. You need to either prove that the road design itself was flawed and lacked the adequate safety measures before construction, or that the government body was well-aware of the dangers and had enough time to fix things before the crash.

In most cases, the decisive factors in these cases include establishing proof that the government entity had prior knowledge of the hazard, or determining the length of time the hazard has posed a threat to drivers. As an example, the Pothole law in New York City mandates written notice of a minimum of 15 days about a pothole before it can be cited as a cause for damage or injuries. If your injuries occur on the 16th day or later and your lawyer unearths the complaint, only then would the liability lie with the government body tasked with repairing the road.

Usually, in cases involving road hazards, the key element is solid evidence that clearly establishes negligence and liability. Meeting the high standards of proof requires demonstrating that the liable party had prior knowledge of the hazard, arranging for experts to testify, and collecting and storing evidence. This evidence usually includes:

  • Photos of the road hazard
  • Photos from the accident scene
  • Previous reports regarding the hazard
  • Police reports about the accident
  • Reports related to prior accidents in the same place
  • Eyewitness testimony and expert testimony

Who Can Be Held Responsible For A Road Defect Accident?

Filing a claim against the wrong entity can be grounds for the state of New York to dismiss the case with prejudice. This closes the door on you being able to file another claim regarding this matter even in the future. Therefore, it is important to ensure that you file against the correct entity. An experienced New York road defect accident lawyer can help accomplish this.

It is not always easy to establish a clear cause behind a car accident. An accident that seems to have been caused by driver error may well have actually been caused by a road defect. Relevant municipalities have the responsibility to correct such defects with regular inspection, maintenance, and repair.

A municipality can be held legally responsible for a road defect accident if it had prior knowledge about it but failed to make timely repairs. This can happen even in cases where other factors contributed to the accident if the road defect had any role to play in it.

It is required to prove beyond doubt that New York State or the concerned municipality had a previous notice about the defect. Claims concerning road defects usually need to prove prior awareness of the responsible party and demonstrating the duration of the dangerous road conditions. The longer the dangers have been present, the stronger your case can be.

Some of the prime requirements to have a strong case for recovering compensation after a road defect accident can include:

  • Proof establishing the role of the road defect in a personal injury.
  • Information relating to the government body managing the roadway. This can be New York State, a county, or a local municipality.
  • Evidence of prior knowledge of the defect and adequate time to repair it on the part of the government body. A previously written complaint can be used as proof.

Common Challenges Concerning Defective Road Accidents

The government can be held liable for accidents and injuries resulting from dangerous or badly maintained roads. However, a legal claim against the city or state is markedly different from a legal claim against a private citizen. You need to follow certain rules while bringing a personal injury claim against a government entity. Here are a few things to keep in mind.

1. Properly research your right to bring a claim.The Court of Claims Act can waive the immunity from liability enjoyed by the government in New York. This means that you can bring a lawsuit against them exactly like you could bring one against a private citizen if their negligence results in a personal injury.

This waiver is usually applicable to local governments and the City of New York. However, there can be exceptions to this waiver. The best way to determine your course of action would be to consult a reputed personal injury lawyer.

2. File a notice of claim.As opposed to suing private citizens, you are required to provide prior notification before filing a lawsuit against a government entity. This provides the agency with information about your grievance and time to respond.

The agency in question can either accept your claim, thereby assuming responsibility and offering compensation, or deny it. In the event of a denial, you can then file a formal lawsuit. The New York City Comptroller’s office outlines the norms for filing claim notices and you should file your notice in all haste after the accident.

3. Do not waste time. Unlike usual statutes of limitation, claims against the government come with a much shorter time limit. In New York, a notice of claim relating to personal injury needs to be filed no later than 90 days from the incident.

The time limit and the added complications can add to the challenge of bringing a personal injury lawsuit against government entities on account of a road defect accident. This is why it is important to get in touch with a competent attorney as soon as you can.

For road defect accident victims with injuries, it is important to ensure that their claim is valid and in compliance with the strict guidelines. Attorneys with substantial experience in this area of the law from a reputed law firm like Rosenberg, Minc, Falkoff & Wolff, LLP can be a great help.

New York Rules in Road Design Cases

In cases that involve highway safety issues and design defects, the rule states that the road only requires to comply with the standards of engineering and design prevalent when it was built. However, this rule has two exceptions:

  • In the event of a major repair or reconstruction project, the government entity overseeing the project might be required to also make upgrades to the design to conform to current design standards and best practices
  • If the road or highway in question has a history of road accidents, the government entity controlling it might be required to upgrade the design to the latest safety standards

Working with trusted New York attorneys well-versed with all the nuances of these laws and rules can be decisive for your successful claim for damages.

Contact Our Seasoned Personal Injury Law Firm in New York

Every defective road accident has unique elements that need careful handling. If you have had an accident fully or partly caused by road design or maintenance issues, consult one of our capable attorneys here at Rosenberg, Minc, Falkoff & Wolff, LLP in New York.

We have vast experience dealing with car accident cases against government bodies that were caused by road defects. The government can be a difficult defendant and we can give you the right legal support you need to win your rightful compensation. Get in touch with us using our online contact form or call us at (347) 504-1246 to start a consultation.