Do I Need a Lawyer If I Was in an Accident Due to Bad Road Conditions?
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Do I Need a Lawyer If I Was in an Accident Due to Bad Road Conditions?

Flooded road in San Mateo County, California February 2017Everyone’s experienced bad road conditions before. Even sunny Los Angeles has bad road conditions like missing guardrails, potholes, erosion and even poor design. These conditions are more than just annoying; they can be very dangerous and cause accidents and injury. If you were in an accident because of bad road conditions, you might be entitled to compensation.

However, just because your accident was due to bad road conditions doesn’t mean you should sue for the resulting damages or injuries. Whether or not you should hire a personal injury attorney for an accident in Los Angeles because of defective road conditions is actually a very difficult question with no easy answer.

If you want to successfully sue, you need to first prove the accident was caused by the road conditions, prove the party responsible to maintaining the road was indeed negligent in either caring for the road or warning drivers of potential hazards, and determine if you’re eligible to sue. 

Proving the Cause of Car Damage or Injury

In order to have a successful case, you need to be able to prove that the bad road conditions were the sole cause of the accident and resulting damages or injuries. This can be difficult, as there are often several factors at play during an accident.

Eyewitness accounts, police reports and photos of the incident will go a long way toward proving the road conditions caused the accident. Without such evidence, the responsible municipality or other party may argue that other issues like bad weather or driver error caused the accident.

If you can’t prove the damage was caused by the bad road conditions, it may not be worth pursuing legal action.

Determining Responsibility

If you can prove the damage was caused by the bad road conditions you should move on to determining who is responsible for that road’s maintenance. This will make sure you’re suing the proper party, and will also help you determine if that party can even be sued.

Cities, counties and states maintain roads. Some kinds of maintenance jobs might even be shared by multiple agencies. For example, the state of California might be responsible for filling in potholes on one road, while the city of Los Angeles might be in charge of fixing the guardrails on that same road.

You can determine which agency is responsible for maintaining specific roadways by calling your local county commissioner’s office and requesting records.

Proving Road Maintenance Negligence

Just because a road is poorly maintained doesn’t mean that agency is negligent. Therefore, any plaintiff must be able to prove that the agency could have and should have repaired the road and chose not to, or the agency built a faulty road in the first place.

This may be harder to prove than you might think, especially because states allow agencies generous amounts of time to discover and repair bad road conditions. If an agency was not aware of bad conditions, there is a good chance they will not be found liable. The big exceptions, though, are if the agency should have been aware but wasn’t, or if they had more than enough time to fix it and didn’t.

For example, if California decides to cut funding for road repair near a lake, the road erodes, and the erosion causes an accident, California would be liable. Another example is if a tree falls into a road and causes an accident right away. In this scenario, California would not be liable because there is no way the state could have known about the issue before the accident.

In order to prove liability, you need to prove the government knew about the poor condition. You can do this by checking survey records or doing legwork around the accident site like conducting interviews of locals.

Suing the Agency

Finally, you need to determine if the responsible government agency can actually be sued. Most government agencies have lawsuit immunity, but this immunity can have exceptions in cases where negligence is apparent. However, these exceptions often have very narrow constraints, like the negligence has to be very severe or the agency has insurance to cover is suit.

Another rule called the “statue of limitations” might also prevent you from suing the responsible agency. All legal actions have time limit in which the plaintiff can pursue legal action. If the plaintiff fails to do so within the limit, the courts will not allow the suit to go forward. Statue of limitation laws for injury claims vary from state to state, so check with your lawyer to make sure you’re within the allowed time.

Should You Hire a Lawyer?

If you feel you are able to prove all of the above, then you should hire one of our Los Angeles personal injury lawyers. However, if you are uncertain, consult with a lawyer to see if your case is worth pursuing. The Los Angeles car accident attorneys at Ellis Injury Law Firm can help. Give us a call today to see what we can do to get you justice for your accident caused by bad road conditions.