Beware of Shoulder Edge Drop Off

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August 03, 2015
Edward Smith

Beware of Shoulder Edge Drop Off
Beware of Shoulder Edge Drop Off

I would like to warn you of the dangers of our highway shoulders. These highway shoulders are more commonly referred to as “pavement edge drop off” by the Federal Highway Administration. Information contained in California State design and maintenance standards reveal that the paved edge/shoulder of any given roadway should be built and maintained in a flat (flush) manner with its adjacent unpaved shoulder. A dangerous shoulder edge drop generally results from improper road maintenance. These roadway shoulders become unsafe and dangerous when a motorist leaves the roadway and then tries to re-enter over a shoulder edge drop off. What usually occurs is that the motorist needs to increase steering in order to come back up onto the pavement edge drop off to re-enter the road he pulled off of. When the motorist is successful at mounting the pavement edge drop off, the motorist instantly finds himself back on the road with an increase in steering motion. Couple this with the high speed that is necessary to merge back onto a highway and you have a recipe for disaster in that the motorist is unable to react to the movement caused by increased steering input and the car veers off the roadway opposite the pavement edge drop off and gets seriously injured.

This is sometimes easier to watch than to explain. Here is a YouTube link to the Federal Highway Administration video regarding unsafe shoulder edge drop off. Please watch the video for yourself and be aware of this type of dangerous roadway defect case in case it happens to you or someone you love.

What to do when this Happens to You

Anytime you have a roadway departure accident where your car first goes off one side of the road and then crashes on the other side of the road, you should immediately go to the scene of the accident and look at the pavement edge drop off. This pattern of leaving the roadway on one side and crashing on the other side is indicative of patterns that are caused by unsafe pavement edge drop off.

How to Prove Shoulder Edge Drop Off Caused your Crash

It is important that you higher a qualified personal injury attorney right away.  Police officers will rarely (if ever) report a pavement edge drop off in their police reports. Therefore you cannot rely on a police report to identify this type of roadway defect.  You need an expert on your side.

The most important things to remember if you think you have been involved in this type of accident:

1.  Hire a Highway Defect Attorney right away to preserve evidence

2.  Determine the height of the pavement edge drop off

3.  See if there tire scrubbing where the tires interacted with the pavement edge drop off

4. Preserve the entire car intact with all tires in any pavement edge drop off case

Our office recently learned of a pavement edge drop off case settling for 12.0 Million Dollars. The attorney described it as a single car accident where his client accidentally drove off the road and then crashed on the other side due to a pavement edge drop off. The police report was so vague as to the cause of the accident that the attorney drove to the scene of the accident himself and discovered the shoulder edge drop off. Apparently, his client would have received zero compensation for his serious injuries had a personal examination of the roadway not been performed. This is where a tire expert and accident reconstructionists can really help a case.

Claims against governmental agencies such as the State of California can be tricky because they have their own team of experts lined up and ready to destroy your case.  Be advised that these cases are not so easy to prove. When you work with an attorney that is experienced in these types of cases your chances of recovery are much improved. A good personal injury attorney is aware and up to date on cases involving pavement edge drop off.  A good highway defect attorney will have access to their own team of experts who will go out to the site of the accident to investigate and photograph evidence. The right combination of government entity legal experience, personal injury expertise and accident experts on your side will vastly improve your chances of successfully settling your pavement edge drop off  case.

It cannot be stated enough that those who believe they have a claim against a governmental agency due to roadside maintenance issues typically associated with dangerous pavement edge drop off should contact a personal injury lawyer immediately.  These claims involve shortened time limits.  Claims against governmental agencies must be filed in as little as six months from the injury date.

The Edward A Smith Law Offices (also known as would be happy to provide a no fee consultation to discuss if you have a viable claim against a governmental agency due to pavement edge drop off and/or failure to provide proper roadside maintenance.  Additionally, we encourage you to learn about how other clients have felt about their experience with the Edward A Smith Law Offices.  You can read client reviews on Facebook, Avvo (an attorney rating system), Yelp and Google. Please feel free to call us at 916.921.6400.

I am a member of the Million Dollar Forum.  An association of National personal injury lawyers who have multiple Million Dollar Verdicts and settlements.