Road Design and Construction Zone Crashes

Crashes caused by the chaos of road construction changes, lanes that suddenly end, poorly placed signs with no warning and general terrible design are completely preventable and that makes them all the more tragic. It is one thing when a driver errs in decision making for a moment and causes a crash. It is quite another when a construction crew ignores the industry standards on design or sign placement and people end up getting hurt or dying because of it. 

So, what are the key elements to a case like this going forward? How do you know a viable one from one that has no chance legally? Here are some common types:
  • Guardrail design and placement
  • Road shoulders that are too steep or have the wrong material
  • the failure to maintain properly functioning traffic signals 
  • failing to cut back bushes to see a stop sign 
  • Clogged up drain and culvert systems that lead to standing water on the highway
  • Failing to maintain a clear zone of recovery next to the road so that when a driver goes off the road they don't strike brick mailboxes, trees etc. 
  • Failure to follow the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (the MUTCD) when laying out signs for roadway construction. 
There are a couple of essential steps once you have identified the type of negligence above. 
  • Get to the scene ASAP and take photos and measurements, preferably with an expert roadway engineer. Engineers can provider expert testimony about failures in design or maintenance that led to the crash that are not obvious. 
  • Send Open Records Requests to the controlling government authority and get all of the plans for the roadway. 
  • Make sure your lawyer has a working familiarity with the key treatises in the field such as; the AASHTO highway design text, the GDOT Standards specs, the GDOT Manual of Guidance and Construction Manual 
Now that you have locked the scene down and hired an expert to focus on what went wrong, you need to decide who was in control and created the problem. It is far easier to pursue private contractors than governmental entities as you will see in a moment. 

The State DOT

The state is protected from most lawsuits and to proceed you must go under the State Tort Claims Act. OCGA 50-21-20. The State is immune from suit over:
  • Highway Design: the exception protects them if the project was designed within accepted standards. 
  • Inspection Exception: You cannot sue the State for failing to make certain inspections for safety that it was supposed to make. This does not preclude a negligent maintenance claim. 
  • Discretionary Decisions: The State cannot be sued if the employees were using their discretion rather than following a bright line rule. Basically if the rule is "shall" do it and they don't, you have a case. If it is "may", you often lose. These cases focus heavily on the distinction between Policy and Design/Operational decisions. 
Remember there are strict Ante Litem Notice requirements for all governmental entities; 6 months for cities, one year for County and State.

Private Contractors

Private roadway contractors can be sued for negligence in design, implementation and maintenance but beware the acceptance doctrine that says once the government accepts the work, then the contractor is immune from suit. There are a few rare situations where we can get around this, but it is a challenge.

Is it a Case?

These cases are very expensive because of all of the expert costs; upwards of $80,000 at least. Because of this, law firms cannot afford to pursue these cases where the injuries are anything less than severe. Remember that damages against the State are capped at $1,000,000. 

The most important thing to remember is there are ticky tacky defects in roads but unless its a big deal to a jury, you won't win. A road being 1% too steep is not going to win a verdict in a case where the plaintiff was also speeding. This brings up an important point. The plaintiff must be fairly innocent in the whole case to prevail. That means no drunk drivers or people going at absolutely reckless speeds.

Examples

We handled the death of a woman who turned left out of her church at an intersection that the City of Douglasville had changed so that she could not see oncoming traffic. She passed away from her injuries. It took 2 years and multiple expert depositions but the reality was, it was a terrible roadway design. 

We are handling the death of a young college student who went off the road an hit a stone fixture that was not supposed to be within 10 feet of the roadway in an area controlled by the City. That lawsuit is still progressing but we have already made a substantial recovery for the client. 
Client Reviews
★★★★★
My wife and I were hit by a tractor trailer in 2014. After extensive research online, we were deeply impressed with the various reviews we read on Google and Avvo and chose Chris to represent us. We could not have a made a better decision. Chris and his firm treated us like we were their only clients, soothed our worries, and instantly gained our trust. Chris settled both of our cases for more than we expected. James
★★★★★
A co-worker of my wife recommended Chris to us. At the very beginning Chris showed that he cared and his knowledge is priceless. Going through this process can be aggravating but Chris did a great job guiding me through this and was always available to answer my questions. Chris fought to get what I deserved even though at times I wanted to give up. Tracy
★★★★★
I want to express my deepest sense of gratitude and appreciation to Attorney Chris Simon & Attorney Chris Carsten, for all the hard work that they put forth into my case (car accident filed after being hit by drunk driver). Their attention to detail and professionalism far surpasses their firm's reputation. Because of their diligence and dedication to their craft, they were able to bring my case to a successful close, one that I could live with. You will not find a better team for your case. Should I have a need for their services again in the future, or know of anyone looking for a top notch Auto Accident Law Firm, I would not hesitate to recommend them!!!! Elle
★★★★★
Wow...Chris is a very good attorney. Me and my son was in a very bad car accident an I was clueless on how to handle the situation. It's very hard to find an attorney who allows you to contact them personally instead of you contacting their asst. I was told that I didn't have a case because the hosiptal put a lien on my acct. Chris prove different and I was able to file my case with the insurance company. The process was very quickly and Im glad I selected the right attorney..Thanks Chris A Car Accident client
★★★★★
Chris is a great lawyer and the most people friendly attorney I have ever delt with. He handled my case with great attention to detail and did so in a very short period of time. He is very consice, efficient, patient and understanding. He has a strong passion for what he does and he does it well. I recommend Chris Simon as legal representation for anyone who has suffreed damages or a loss at the negligence of others. He really cares about you and your case. A Car Accident client