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Who Is at Fault for My Construction Zone Accident?

Every driver is familiar with the orange cones and barrels that mark upcoming construction zones on roads and highways. No matter how experienced a driver is, or how cautiously they drive, construction zones are hazards that put drivers and workers alike at risk of being seriously injured. Despite the safety measures, like flashing lights and warning signs, no two construction zones are alike, making navigation difficult. Additionally, not all drivers obey the rules. Construction zones become even more dangerous at night, as visibility is reduced. This is also when the most construction workers are present, as crews try to take advantage of fewer cars on the road. This strategy attempts to not only minimize traffics delays but also to reduce the risk for the workers present. The thinking is fewer cars, fewer opportunities for an accident.
Florida ranks in the top three states for construction zone fatalities involving a motor vehicle, along with Texas and California. Incidents involving some form of transportation accounted for 66% of construction zone occupational fatalities in 2013 (The rest were from non-vehicle incidents like falling materials). In 69 percent of these transportation incidents, a pedestrian worker was struck by a vehicle maneuvering through the area. [1]
The state of Florida has invested a great deal of money into studies in an attempt to make road and highway construction zones safer for drivers, passengers, and workers. Traffic fines are doubled for violations committed in work zones while workers are present, and warning signs are posted accordingly [2]. Yet many drivers still speed and weave through the zones with disregard for the safety of others. One of the things that make these areas so dangerous is the complete switching or modification of lanes. These lane changes are marked with solid lines, indicating that lane changes are illegal, yet many drivers still change lanes. Add distracted drivers approaching a construction zone while texting or talking on the phone to the situation, and the chances of a disaster increase significantly.
Causes of Construction Zone Crashes
Construction zone accidents are not always the fault of a driver. Sometimes, it is how the area is setup or a workers negligence that causes the incident. Poorly marked zones can cause a driver to suddenly get confused and side swipe another vehicle, hit a concrete barrier, or collide with a piece of construction equipment. We have all been driving through a construction zone when, all of a sudden, we couldn’t tell which lane was ours. Similarly, the paint that marks those lanes is often removed (partially), moved, and repainted, compounding the difficulty in discerning where to drive.
Slow moving work vehicles that have improper or missing warning lights may not be seen until it is too late for the traffic driver to slow down. Often, dump trucks and similar equipment will back into the road in order to turn around or move the vehicle. Although traffic is expected to stop, it may not always be that easy. Also, high-intensity work lighting may be directed into the eyes of oncoming drivers, leaving them temporarily blinded and only guessing at what is in front of them.
Common Types of Crashes

  • Rear End Collisions Tailgating and distracted driving, along with the failure to recognize slow or stopped traffic, often causes rear end collisions. When traffic is moving along at a normal pace, and then suddenly slows dramatically for a construction zone, it has the potential to throw off some drivers.
  • Sideswipes Narrow lanes with erratic lane shifts are conducive to vehicle to vehicle, or vehicle to barrier, sideswipe accidents. Similarly, the roadway may change levels (sometimes denoted by an “uneven roadway” sign) creating an uneven surface. It is possible for a vehicle’s tire to catch this pavement and lose control, striking the vehicle or concrete barrier next to them.
  • Striking workers The close proximity of workers to moving vehicles presents a constant hazard. Of all the dangers in a construction zone, this is by far the most deadly. Workers often need to cross the road or walk close to traffic in order to do their job. Construction crews and the DOT have started to put out signs that say, “SLOW DOWN, MY PARENT WORKS HERE,” to remind drivers what’s at stake.
  • Collisions with equipment Slow moving work vehicles and construction equipment in or near the path of a vehicle are causes of serious accidents, also. A small sedan colliding with a 30-ton dump drunk filled with dirt and rock never ends well for the passenger vehicle. Similarly, equipment that isn’t technically a vehicle, like backhoes and rollers, may be left too close to the road also.
  • Collisions with warning equipment Signs, barrels, lights, and other warning devices may not be seen until it is too late. Many construction signs are heavy, motorized pieces of equipment that can total a car if struck, causing serious injuries. Similarly, misplaced or improperly placed warning equipment may cause a driver to swerve out of the way and strike any of the above examples.

Avoiding Crashes
Most road and highway construction zone accidents happen in a split second, but the results can last a life time. Keeping this in mind, construction zones should always be navigated with the most caution and care possible. Keep this list of tips—provided by the Florida Department of Transportation–in mind next time you are on the road.

  • Be Alert – Pay attention and expect the unexpected. Be alert and watching for sudden lane shifts, uneven pavement, other driver’s proximity and construction equipment suddenly entering the roadway.
  • Do not tailgate – Drive as if the vehicle in front of you might stop abruptly. Keeping this in mind, you should allow plenty of distance for braking, so that if the car in front of you completely locked up their brakes, you would still have plenty of room to stop safely.
  • Slow down Obey the posted speed limits approaching, and within, the work zone. Keep in mind that speeding tickets are doubled, if you need incentive. A $400 ticket could cost the average person an entire week’s pay.
  • Avoid distractions The best rule for paying attention while driving is “both eyes on the road, both hands on the wheel.” If you are not doing this, then you are probably distracted. Do not change the radio station constantly, reply or send ANY texts, nor talk on or answer your cell phone.

Current Construction Zones in Our Area Here is a current list of construction zone for Hillsborough and Pinellas County as of the end of August 2016 [3]: Hillsborough

  • SR 589 – Resurface Suncoast Parkway / Van Dyke Road to Pasco County Line
  • Toll 589 – Widen Veterans Expressway and Conversion to All-Electronic Tolling
  • Interstate 275 maintenance/short-term work
  • I-275 Resurfacing from the Kennedy Boulevard exit to State Road 60/Memorial Highway
Pinellas

  • US 19 – Improvements for the Future
  • 4th Street North (SR 687) – Work associated with Gandy Boulevard Project
  • 37th Street North & 38th Avenue North – Sidewalk/Ramp/Intersection Upgrades
  • 49th Street North – Manhole Adjustments

You May Have a Claim If you have been involved in a car crash within a construction zone, you may have a claim for damages. The bulk of the claim may be against the other driver, but at times, the construction company may share at least partial responsibility. If you are unsure, ask yourself: Was there adequate warning signs for the construction zone? What about warning signs for the types of hazards that were up ahead, such as changing traffic patterns, soft shoulders, uneven pavement, etc.? Were there warning lights present and were they working properly? Did a work vehicle suddenly pull out into traffic? Determining fault in construction zone traffic accidents requires an attorney that has the resources at hand to thoroughly investigate—and experience dealing with—these specific cases. It may be necessary to hire an accident reconstruction expert. This can be very costly and your attorney should be able to front the costs of the investigation over the long term. Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA has a legal investigative team that can peel away the layers in a construction zone accident and determine the faulty party or parties. It will cost you nothing out of pocket for an expert evaluation of your case. If you or a loved one was injured in a construction zone injury, reach out to Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA today. You pay nothing until we win your case and recover the financial compensation you deserve. Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33765

(727) 451-6900 https://www.dolmanlaw.com/legal-services/auto-accidents-attorneys/ Sources https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/highwayworkzones/ http://www.ghsa.org/html/stateinfo/bystate/fl.html http://www.dot.state.fl.us/publicinformationoffice/moreDOT/majorprojects.shtm