Can A Road Be At Fault In An Accident?

When an accident occurs on our Florida roads, almost invariably the investigation into trying to pinpoint the cause will look at human error first. This is the most common cause of accidents, whether it is someone texting on the phone while driving, or a driver not realizing that changing lanes is about to cause a collision with a much smaller, harder to see motorcyclist. In some rare cases, an accident may occur due to a design or manufacturing defect in a car, such as safety devices not working, as intended, thus causing injuries to occur when they shouldn’t or making injuries more serious than they should be.

But there are some instances when it’s not human error that is the result of an accident, nor is it a manufacturing or design flaw in a vehicle. Sometimes the cause of an accident may be the environment itself. But if that’s the case, then who is at fault and what are the legal options?

Sovereign Immunity

In most cases, when we look at government infrastructure such as dams, railroad tracks, military bases and other examples of facilities built and maintained by either the national or state government a legal status known as sovereign immunity is in play. This means, in theory, that the structures and property of government cannot have civil or criminal liabilities applied to them. In other words, if someone were to trespass on a military base, and injure themselves trying to get through the barbed wire, they could not sue the American government, or the military for premises liability, even if a private property owner might be liable in the same situation.

But the state law in Florida has managed to narrow down the scope of sovereign immunity. So while a naval or army base may still enjoy total legal protection due to this status, the roads of Florida do not. That means that if a poor design or maintenance decision has been made with a road, and accidents—and even injuries—result from that decision, road design can be a factor in a viable lawsuit.

The Hazards

There are several ways that a road itself can actually increase the likelihood of accidents:

Road Condition

If a road has been poorly maintained, this can be a big factor in accidents. Pot holes for example, don’t just make for a bumpy ride, they can interfere with proper steering, braking and acceleration. Improper application of any of these aspects of driving can result in a collision, or loss of control that takes a car or motorcycle off the road itself.

Broken Traffic Signals

This, obviously, is a dangerous situation for everyone on the road. The traffic law explicitly requires you to obey the directions given by traffic signals, but what happens when those same signals are malfunctioning? If a traffic light is green for all lanes, then in one sense, drivers are legally required to crash into each other, but pragmatically speaking, that’s not viable at all. If a traffic signal remains damaged and not working properly, without a quick repair, any accidents that occur as a result of that malfunction may be taken to court.

Bridges With Insufficient Warning

This does happen from time to time on the roads of Florida. In most major metropolitan areas, bridges will have clear signs indicating the maximum height advised for vehicles to safely pass under. In some areas, however, those signs are not present, or have fallen off and are yet to be replaced. That means that some larger vehicles—especially cargo hauling trucks—may inadvertently damage themselves, their cargo, and even people behind them, due to impacting a bridge.
If poor road design has resulted in an accident for you, get legal help immediately. Contact an auto accident lawyer and find out what your legal options are..