Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Defective Road Conditions

Sometimes it's the road - - and not the driver or vehicle - - that causes the car accident.

The American Society of Civil Engineers' ("ASCE") “2010 Report Card for Pennsylvania’s Infrastructure” gave our roads - - which are the state and local municipalities' responsibility - - an overall D-minus grade rating 38% of Pennsylvania's roads as "fair" or "poor".

Defective road conditions like potholes and sinkholes can cause a driver to lose control of his vehicle leading to accidents resulting in serious personal injury or death.

Accident Causing Defective Pennsylvania Roads

According to ASCE, Pennsylvania's 40,000 miles of state roads and 76,000 miles of local roads are among the nation's oldest and have exceeded their design capacity including cracking and expanding because of temperature and weather changes and rapidly deteriorating due to chemicals used for snowy/icy conditions.

Further, ASCE says that 27% of Pennsylvania’s 22,280 bridges are structurally deficient deeming 17% as "functionally obsolete".

Potholes, crumbling roads giving way to soft shoulders, drainage problems causing water or ice hazards, and other defective roadway conditions can lead to car accidents, injury and death.

Governmental Liability for Defective Road Conditions

Although Pennsylvania’s Sovereign Immunity Act generally bars suits against the government, dangerous highways conditions created by potholes, sinkholes or similar conditions are exempted.

Thus, the Commonwealth and local governmental entities are liable if the dangerous condition creates a reasonably foreseeable risk of injury that’s suffered by a motorist and the government had actual written notice of the "dangerous condition" sufficiently prior to an accident to protect against it.

Pennsylvania law allows lawsuits against the government seeking damages for past and future loss of earnings and earning capacity, pain and suffering, and medical and dental expenses and loss of consortium.

Unlike most personal injury claims, lawsuits against government entities for injuries caused by dangerous road conditions require written notice of the claim made within six (6) months of the accident.

Product Liability for Defective Road Conditions

If a defective product - - such as asphalt or pavement supplied by a private contractor - -was a “substantial factor” in causing the injury, a product liability lawsuit may be filed.

Anyone in the product's chain of distribution can be held liable, including manufacturers, wholesalers, distributors, and retailers.

Further, because Pennsylvania is a “strict liability” state, claimants need not show that someone’s negligence caused their property damage or personal injury.  Instead, claimants must only show the defect's existence and its relationship to the harm that was caused.