Articles Posted in Government Road Defects

Manhole Covers

Dislodged or Missing Manhole Covers Can Cause Serious Accidents

I’m Ed Smith, a Sacramento car accident lawyer. When our injury lawyers first meet with clients, we always ask them to describe exactly how their car accidents or personal injuries occurred. While many of them report similar events, others describe highly unusual road mishaps – including those involving dislodged or missing manhole covers. Far too often, these less common events lead to traumatic injuries or even wrongful deaths.

How Do Manhole Openings or Covers Wind Up Causing Accidents?

Stockton Road Safety

Stockton Road Safety

Stockton Road Safety

Hi, I’m Ed Smith, a Stockton personal injury lawyer. Ever wonder who is responsible for Stockton road safety? This article discusses the responsibilities of the Stockton Public Works Department in keeping our streets safe.

Southbound Highway 5 Regrinding
Southbound Highway 5 Evidence Gone

While you were sleeping the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) was out regrinding sections of Southbound Highway 5.  This is the area of highway that has seen too many traffic accidents lately. Especially, during wet and rainy weather. One of those accidents included a tragic fatality of an innocent Elk Grove man. This, when a Federal Express truck lost control of his big rig and crashed through the center divider and into oncoming traffic. This accident happened on December 10, 2015.  On December 21, 2015 a similar accident happened. In that incident, no one lost their life. But again, the truck driver lost control of his vehicle along the same stretch of treacherous highway.

Caltrans Regrinding 

Southbound Highway 5 Regrinding
Southbound Highway 5 Regrinding

Yesterday we told you about the Southbound Highway 5 Closure at Seamus Road in Sacramento. The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) was out there conducting skid testing after a series of big accidents which we also told you about.  A tragic fatality accident occurred along this stretch of highway.

What did the skid testing reveal?

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.

Guardrails are meant to be safety devices designed to protect drivers and passengers in cars that lose control. A recent study by the University of  Alabama, however, shows that a newly designed end terminal, or guardrail head , places motorists at higher risk or serious injury or death.

Modifications to the guardrails which reduced one piece from 5 inches to 4 inches  allegedly causes roadside hazards according to the SafetyInstitute.Org, an organization which studies field performance of items on highways.

These modified guardrails, called Trinity Guardrails, are supposed to absorb energy from a crash and allow a vehicle to “ride down” the Guardrail without the guardrail piercing the motor vehicle.

Some injury claims occur when a motorist or passenger is injured due to a lack of roadside maintenance. In situations where failure to properly maintain the trees or vegetative growth on or near a highway results in injury or death, a claim can be pursued against the state or a local responsible governmental agency (either city or county.)

State and local government officials have provided roads and highways and find themselves responsible for not only the actual maintenance of the road but also must provide roadside maintenance to trees, shrubbery or vegetation growing along the roadway.  However, just because a car strikes a tree, it does not automatically mean the State or local governmental agency is responsible.  What factors are involved in roadside maintenance claims?

There are established basic principals regarding the government’s ‘duty’ owed the public in regards to roadside maintenance. In summary these principals are:

In addition to the causes we commonly think of for motor vehicle accidents, such as negligent drivers and drunk drivers, it’s also important to consider factors separate from the motorists and their vehicles, including roadway design defects, improper construction of the roadway, and traffic signals, signage, and safety devices that may be inadequate or missing at the scene and that can cause or contribute to the causation of an accident. Also, inadequate or improper maintenance of the roads and these associated features, may lead to them not functioning properly and causing accidents.

roadway design defects on highways

Investigation and Deadlines

When evaluating the possibility that roadway design defects or maintenance problems caused an accident, it’s critical to determine just who was responsible for the roadway where the accident occurred. In California, this will generally be either the state’s Department of Transportation — also known as CalTrans — or the local city or county where the road is located. Determining this responsibility may take some investigation as, for example, some stretches of state highways in cities may be specified by statute as being the responsibility of CalTrans, while others have been transferred to the care of the local municipalities. There are also important time deadlines associated with determining the public agency responsible for potential roadway design defects or maintenance problems, since the deadline for filing an injury claim with public agencies in California is only six months — much shorter than the two-year statute of limitations deadline that applies in most (but not all) injury claims against other types of potential defendants. This establishes a relatively short period of time within which to identify any and all public agencies that may be responsible for the roadway design defects or other roadway problems.

State and local governments have a responsibility to provide safe, relatively well maintained roads for travel. Although these agencies do not act as insurers of a perfect roadway, they do have a duty to exercise reasonable care to make roads reasonably safe.

If the state or local agency is aware or on notice of a problem in the roadway, and they unreasonably fail to take action to fix the problem after a reasonable time period , they may be liable for damages a motorist suffers as a result.

Trees in the Right of Way

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