Who Is Liable When Poor Road Conditions Cause a Car Accident?

When two or more vehicles are involved in a car accident in Tucson, it is fairly simple to determine liability and who is responsible for paying for damages. However, when a driver hits a pothole, pops a tire, swerves into oncoming traffic, and runs head first into an oncoming vehicle, is the accident really the driver’s fault, or is it the pothole’s fault? Poor road conditions can cause any number of accidents, ranging from popped tires to full-on collisions and pileups. Because of this, it is the job of the Arizona government to maintain roadways and keep them relatively safe (Tucson.com). But where does the State’s liability begin, and where does it end? Arizona’s Liability for Poor Road Conditions According to ARS 12-820.03, neither a public entity nor its employers shall be held liable for any injuries sustained as a result of a poor plan or design for road construction, maintenance, or improvement to highways, roads, streets, bridges, or rights-of-way if the plan was prepared in accordance with the most up-to-date engineering and design standards. However, the State may be liable if it fails to provide adequate warning to drivers of road construction or any other dangerous hazards that lay ahead. Poor road conditions, or “dangerous hazards,” may include:
  • Confusing, damaged, or missing signs;
  • Unsalted or unplowed roads during the winter time;
  • Blind curves and poorly banked roads;
  • Missing or poorly placed traffic signals;
  • Uneven shoulders or improperly graded curves;
  • Vision obstructions, such as poor landscaping;
  • Overly bright street lights;
  • Unclear or missing road markings;
  • Wrong road materials;
  • Low bridges or incorrect measurement markings; and
  • Broken guardrails.
It is important to note that while the state and city governments are responsible for maintaining safe road conditions, they can and do subcontract out a majority of the roadwork. In the event that they do, both the government agency and the agency that was hired to build or maintain the roads may be held liable. Bringing a Personal Injury Claim Against a Government Agency It can be extremely difficult to bring a claim against the government, which is why we recommend hiring a Tucson personal injury lawyer to help you. At Hofmann Law Offices, PLLC, our experienced attorneys understand the laws protecting government entities, and regularly help clients navigate those laws so that may file a claim and achieve a successful outcome despite any immunity that the government agency should have. When it comes to personal injuries sustained as a result of poor road conditions, most government agencies have immunity from lawsuits, meaning that they cannot be sued. However, those same agencies have exceptions to their immunity laws, and allow themselves to be sued if certain conditions are met. Most states and cities consider gross negligence to be an exception. In order to prove that your accident was the result of gross negligence, you must be able to submit evidence proving the following:
  • The roadway hazard was unreasonably dangerous and posed an unreasonable risk of harm;
  • It was obvious that the roadway hazard would lead to an accident;
  • The city or state government agency was informed of this hazard, or had prior knowledge of it and still failed to remedy it; and
  • The defect or hazard was the direct cause of the accident.
If you can prove each of the above following circumstances, you may have a successful personal injury claim on your hands. However, because you are dealing with a government agency, you must adhere to strict statutes of limitations, which, according to ARS 13.5.1.3, is 180 days after “the cause of action accrues.” Or in other words, “when the plaintiff discovers or by the exercise of reasonable diligence should have discovered that he or she has been injured by a particular defendant’s negligent conduct.” Additionally, filing a claim against a government entity requires much more diligence and jumping through hoops than filing a typical personal injury claim in Tucson. For instance, a notice-of-claim must be hand-delivered to the proper recipient, be it an employee, officer, group, or body (ARS 13.5.1.2). Consult a Tucson Personal Injury Attorney At Hofmann Law Offices, PLLC, we can help you file a successful claim against the state or government agency that was responsible for your car accident and personal injury. Our Tucson car accident attorneys can review your case and determine what evidence is necessary to prove gross negligence by the state, as well as adhere to the stringent guidelines for suing a government agency. If you have recently been involved in a car accident that was the direct result of poor road conditions, contact our Tucson personal injury law firm at 520-797-1041 to schedule a private consultation today.

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