Episode 43: Calloway County injury attorney Jeff Roberts discusses injuries from road hazards and what you can do if you’ve been in an accident because of them. Jeff also maintains an office in Christian County to better serve clients in that area of Western Kentucky.
There are 3 primary types of road hazards that typically cause injuries to drivers. The first is defective construction. The second is when the state creates the hazardous condition. The third occurs when items have fallen off other vehicles and remain in the roadway.
Defective Construction of Roadway
This refers to a hazard caused by how the road was built or repaired. In this case, the defect would have been caused by the construction company involved in the project. This may occur when the road contractor repaves the road. The process requires the surface of the road to be chipped and removed so that the new surface can be laid. Usually the hazard is created when the contractor fails to comply with the state requirements.
Jeff explains a situation in which the new surface created a hazardous drop-off between the new and shoulder. For instance, the contract may require a maximum drop-off of 5 inches, but the defective construction leaves a variance of more than 5 inches between the surfaces. The result is a dangerous hazard should a driver run off of the edge and either over-corrects or is not able to correct, thus resulting in an accident.
These cases can be fairly difficult because the actual variance must be identified and then the state contracts need to be reviewed to determine what the actual specifications were. The attorney must prove that the defective construction was the cause of the automobile accident. The claim will typically be made against the road construction company, not the government entity. However, there is a potential claim against the state, if it can be proven that it approved the construction. There will be damage caps and other issues related to the potential award against the state.
Road Hazards Created by the Government (Municipal, County, State or Federal)
Jeff describes a common situation in which drainage pipes or channels are being installed beneath the road surface. Trenches are often excavated across the road to enable the repair to be made. Normally, cones or other warning signs would be present to alert drivers of the existing hazard. If proper steps weren’t taken to warn drivers and an accident occurs, an attorney may be able to successfully claim the government entity was negligent. The hazard could be extremely dangerous to someone driving at night or especially a motorcyclist.
Another example is the absence of proper signal lighting at an intersection. There are situations in which a signal light should be present to protect a left-turning driver. Turn signals ensure oncoming drivers don’t collide with drivers who are turning across traffic. There are requirements for when a protected left turn must be in place. If may be proven that the state (or other government entity) did not comply with its own regulations and was therefore the negligence created a road hazard.
These cases are different from other road hazard cases because the state is protected by sovereign immunity. The protects the state from being sued, except situations in which it has waived that immunity. Bringing this type of claim is a special legal process. It’s brought before the Claims Commission (formally known as the Board of Claims). A maximum recovery has been established for these types of claims, should the state be found negligent. If another source of insurance has paid on the claim, the state is entitled to receive an off-set for that amount, which reduces the amount recovered from the state.
Jeff’s practiced personal injury law for 30 years. Interestingly, the first claim he brought was against a government entity for a road hazard that was improperly marked. It caused damage to his motorcycle when he crashed into an excavated trench on Olive Street, while driving home at night from the Briggs & Stratton plant.
Items in the Roadway that have Fallen off a Vehicle
Items including equipment, piping, lumber and others can fall off of trucks. If you collide with the item, or have an accident while trying to avoid the item in the roadway, you’re going to potentially have to pursue a road hazard claim. There was a recent situation on I-24 involving motorcycles that hit a patch of manure from a truck. The manure caused several wrecks.
Jeff explains that the trying to determine who was responsible for the item can be very difficult. The driver of the truck may not realize an item has fallen from the vehicle. It’s possible the driver does realize the object fell and stopped to take responsibility. A claim could be filed against the trucking company or other responsible company for injuries from road hazards.
If it can’t be proven who or which company is responsible, the accident victim may have to file a claim against his/her own automobile insurance policy. The damage may be covered by your uninsured motorist coverage. Jeff warns that some policies actually exempt damages, if no physical contact was made between the two vehicles. However, it depends on the specific language of the contract. Some policies do cover collisions with items in the roadway.
If you can safely find the object, a label or logo may help to identify the responsible party. If possible, take photos of the item, the location and other relevant information. It will be helpful to provide the information to the police officer or trooper who is completing the accident report. This documentation is important.
Jeff notes that even if your insurance company excludes coverage for whatever reason, in Kentucky, you still have Personal Injury Protection (PIP Coverage) for you and your passengers. This no-fault coverage can automatically provide up to $10,000 for you and each passenger for your medical bills and treatment related to bodily injury and lost wages. Unfortunately, PIP doesn’t cover the property damage to your vehicle. However, it can be used to cover injuries from road hazards.
Jeff Roberts Represents Injured Clients Throughout Kentucky
With offices located in Calloway County and now Christian County, Jeff has a history of representing personal injury clients, workers’ compensation clients and social security disability clients across the state. He’s represented clients from Paducah, Bowling Green, Louisville, Covington, Whitesville and many other Kentucky locations. He’s not just a Western Kentucky injury attorney.
We hope you found this episode insightful and helpful. Thank you for listening!
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The office phone number is (270) 753-0053 or toll free at 800-844-5108. For more information, visit www.JeffRobertsLaw.com. This podcast is meant to provide information and is not legal advice. Jeff’s principal office is located at 509 Main Street, Murray, Kentucky. Co-host Jim Ray is a non-attorney spokesperson. This is an advertisement.