Car Accident Claims Involving Road Hazards
When a road hazard sends your car out of control, the resulting accident can cause serious or life-threatening injuries. Before you report the accident to your insurance company as one that was your fault, however, take a closer look at the circumstances. Although you were the one behind the wheel, a serious road hazard can make an accident unavoidable.
The road hazards that cause accidents usually exist because of someone’s error, omission or negligent act. They’re dangerous because they’re not always easy to spot or anticipate before they send your vehicle out of control. When road hazards lead to accidents resulting in serious injury to and your passengers, the person or entity responsible for causing the hazard may have liability to you for damages.
We Hold Those Who Cause Harm Financially Accountable
At Sibley Dolman Accident Injury Lawyers, we use our experience and resources to hold people and companies financially accountable for the harm their actions caused to our clients. Our team of skilled, knowledgeable car accident injury attorneys has a singular mission of helping injured Floridians recover the compensation they deserve. We fight for our clients’ legal rights in state and federal courts when necessary, and have faced off against some of the largest corporations and insurance companies in the country.
Our Firm’s Results
Sibley Dolman Accident Injury Lawyers handle plaintiff’s cases only. Our focus on representing clients with serious injuries has allowed us to sharpen our investigative and analytical skills and to develop litigation and negotiation expertise. We have experience resolving complex injury and insurance coverage issues. We prepare our cases for optimum results. Our efforts for past clients have resulted in millions of dollars of total recoveries both in and out of court, including:
- $1.75 million: Our client sustained a rotator cuff injury and a traumatic brain injury when a semi-truck driver struck his vehicle. We found evidence that proved the truck’s poor maintenance record led to the accident, resulting in liability.
- $1 million: A driver rear-ended our client causing a concussion, shoulder tear, and herniated discs. Our attorneys resolved our client’s case before trial.
- $750,000: A driver rear-ended our client’s vehicle causing a traumatic brain injury, leading to liability.
Road Hazards Are Often Unavoidable for Drivers
A road hazard is any roadway condition with the potential to put a driver in danger. Road hazards commonly cause vehicle damage. They can also lead to serious injuries and fatalities when they send a vehicle out of control or cause a collision.
Of course, drivers have a duty to operate their vehicles in a manner appropriate for driving conditions. Road hazards pose an extreme danger, however, when a driver lacks warning that they exist, making it impossible for the driver to gauge the risks. An unexpected road hazard can easily cause a driver to lose control or can create an obstacle the driver does not have enough reaction time to avoid.
Common road hazards that become especially dangerous when drivers lack warning of them include:
- Large potholes and sinkholes
- Heat-warped road surfaces
- Road flooding and washed-out bridges
- Sunken or raised manhole covers
- Construction site obstacles
- Grooved pavement
- Cargo that falls off of commercial trucks
- Fallen trees and downed tree limbs
Road Hazard Accident Injuries
When a road hazard causes an accident, the number of injuries and their severity depend on what happens after the driver loses control. When a vehicle traveling at highway speeds strikes a barrier, a tree, or other hard surfaces, the impact often causes serious or catastrophic injuries. If a driver strikes an oncoming vehicle, drivers and passengers in both cars sustain injuries. Those injuries may include:
- Spinal cord trauma
- Traumatic brain injury
- Traumatic amputations
- Internal organ damage
- Nerve damage
- Severe Burns
- Multiple fractures
- Disc and spine injuries
- Muscle sprains and strains
- Fatal injuries
Serious and catastrophic injuries like those listed above change a person’s life. They require immediate treatment, lengthy hospitalizations and a lifetime of care. Serious vehicle crashes cause 39.3 percent of Spinal cord injuries and 51 percent of traumatic brain injuries. These and other catastrophic conditions cause lifetime impairments. They change family relationships and shorten the injured person’s life expectancy.
A serious or catastrophic injury also diminishes a person’s ability to earn a living. Injured victims lose income due to their disabilities. If their injuries force a career change, they incur ongoing financial losses.
In short, the financial consequences of a road hazard injury have the potential to devastate accident victims and their families. If someone else’s negligence or reckless conduct caused the road hazard, then that person or entity should be held to account.
Who Has Liability for Causing Road Hazard Injuries?
When an unexpected road hazard causes an accident, determining if there are parties at fault, and if so, who they are, can be a challenge. Some road hazards are entirely man-made. Others result from natural processes, but could still be avoided through proper maintenance or adequate warnings to drivers. Others are simply “Acts of God” that no one could have prevented.
Here are some of the parties who could face financial liability to anyone injured in an accident caused by a road hazard.
- Governmental entities. Local and state government entities have legal responsibilities for maintaining most (but not all) public roads in Florida. Of course, everyone understands that road maintenance takes time and costs money, and that road hazards sometimes arise quickly. Still, when a government entity fails to maintain a road, or to warn drivers about dangerous road conditions, or to close a road that is too dangerous for travel, it may have liability to anyone injured by those road hazards.
- Civil engineers and construction contractors. The people and companies who do the work of designing, building, and fixing roads, also have a duty to perform their jobs in a responsible way. If an engineering firm designs a road that is “inherently” dangerous, it could have liability to anyone injured as a result of that danger. If a road crew contractor builds a road with inadequate materials or techniques, or fails to post warnings about rough road conditions during construction, those actions could also lead to liability.
- Manufacturers of road materials and equipment. If the material with which a road is made, or if equipment installed as part of a road (such as guardrails, signage, etc.), fails to meet minimum standards of safety and performance because of a defect, then the manufacturer could have liability to anyone injured in an accident caused by the defect.
- Property owners. Owners of property along a roadway that fail to prevent an object or obstruction from leaving their property and entering the roadway could have liability to anyone on the roadway injured as a result.
- Vehicle owners/operators. When another vehicle causes a road hazard, such a commercial truck that drops its cargo at highway speed, or a poorly-secured roof box flies off of a passenger vehicle, the owners and operators of those vehicles could have liability to those injured in a resulting accident.
Your Role in Documenting a Road Hazard
When a road hazard causes an accident, anyone involved in the accident should make an effort to document the hazardous condition as soon as possible, ideally while still at the scene of the accident. Oftentimes, road hazards are transient—meaning, they disappear soon after the accident in the course of accident clean-up or road repair. By the time insurance companies or others show up to investigate, the hazard will be gone, potentially making it more difficult for accident victims to prove how their injuries occurred and who should be held responsible.
Of course, staying safe and getting appropriate medical attention is the primary concern at any accident scene. If you are able to address those issues and still have time and opportunity to do so, it can help for you to document the scene to “preserve the evidence” of how the road hazard caused the accident. This can include:
- Taking cell phone photos or video of the road hazard from all angles.
- Taking notes that describe what happened as you see it.
- Speaking with witnesses about what they saw and gathering their contact information for follow-up.
- Ensuring a police officer on scene notes the existence of the road hazard, and its role in the accident, in any official report.
Your PIP Benefits Are Still Primary in a Road Hazard Accident
When you suffer an injury in a Florida car accident, you don’t necessarily have an automatic right to file a personal injury claim against parties who may have legal liability to you. If you drive a car registered in Florida, your personal injury protection (PIP) insurance will serve as your primary insurance for paying at least some of your medical bills, lost income, and other expenses. Florida law limits the rights of car accident victims covered by PIP insurance to file a personal injury claim to situations in which the victims have died or have sustained:
- Significant/permanent loss of an important bodily function.
- Permanent injury
- Significant and permanent scarring or disfigurement.
What Damages Can You Recover for Your Injuries?
Legal claims involving fatalities and non-fatal car accident injuries authorized by Florida law can seek a wide range of potential damages. The law categorizes these generally as “economic” (or “special”) damages and non-economic (or “general”) damages.
Economic damages comprise the fixed bills and expenses incurred as a result of an accident and injury. They typically include:
- Lost wages
- Medical and hospital bills
- Mobility assistance structures and devices
- Physical and emotional therapy
- Home care and assistance expenses
- Funeral and burial expenses
Non-economic damages are more subjective. They compensate an injured victim for the value of permanent physical changes and emotional, social, and relationship harm, such as:
- Pain and suffering
- Anxiety and distress
- Damage to spousal and familial relationships
- Lost bodily functions
- Disabilities and impairments
- Permanent scars
A plaintiff may also recover punitive damages. To be entitled to recover punitive damages, a plaintiff must show clear and convincing evidence of a defendant’s intentional misconduct or gross negligence.
Common Defenses to Liability in Road Hazard Cases
Unfortunately, parties with legal liability for a road hazard accident rarely step forward and pay the damages they owe willingly. Instead, it’s common for those parties and their insurers to fight liability and raise every possible defense, in order to give themselves negotiating leverage and to minimize their financial exposure. Some of the arguments they typically make include:
- Sovereign immunity: When a governmental entity has legal liability, Florida law limits its liability in most (but not all) cases.
- Lack of negligence/notice/”act of god”: Parties with potential legal in road hazard cases often try to argue the road hazard could not have been prevented through any reasonable means, because it arose too quickly for them to have received notice of it, or because it resulted from an unavoidable “Act of God.”
- Comparative negligence: Because drivers always must operate vehicles in a manner appropriate for driving conditions, defendants in road hazard cases often argue the plaintiff’s carelessness, not the hazard, was the real cause of the accident.
At Sibley Dolman Accident Injury Lawyers, we have extensive experience representing victims of road hazard accidents. We know what to expect from defendants in these types of cases, and the potential ways to counter their arguments using legal precedent and expert evidence.
Call Sibley Dolman Accident Injury Lawyers, LLC, After a Road Hazard Crash
When a Florida road hazard leaves you or a loved one seriously injured, don’t settle for just any car accident attorney. Investigating and proving liability in road hazard accident cases takes an attorney with particular skill and diligence.
At Sibley Dolman Accident Injury Lawyers, we have the experience and resources to tackle even the most complex road hazard car accident injury cases. Call us at 833-552-7274 (833-55-CRASH) or complete our online contact form complimentary consultation to discuss your case. We have offices in Aventura, Boca Raton, North Miami Beach, Doral, and Fort Lauderdale.
Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA
8400 NW 36th St.
Doral, FL, 33166