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Articles Posted in Road Defect

File:Trousdale-Loma Vista Dr looking North from corner of Chalette Dr 2015.jpg

Steep Grades and Big Rig Brake Failure

I’m Ed Smith, a Sacramento Personal Injury Lawyer. Accidents involving a defective roadway design can cause serious injury and even death. Earlier this year the City of Beverly Hills settled three lawsuits brought against them by the victims of two recent traffic accidents. The victims were represented by one of my partner firms.

Claims of Road Defects

San Joaquin County Sinkhole

San Joaquin County Sinkhole

San Joaquin County Sinkhole

I’m Ed Smith, a Stockton motorcycle accident lawyer. All northbound lanes of Interstate 5, south of Tracy in San Joaquin County, remain closed as crews work to repair a sinkhole.

road workSacramento’s “Across the Top” project is adding carpool lanes and repaving the highway.  It has been in progress since 2011 and is projected to be completed sometime in 2016.  The project runs for 10 miles from the Sacramento River Bridge east to Watt Avenue.  The project caused a large shift in traffic last year and during that time the California Highway Patrol reported a substantial increase in automobile accidents as follows:

July 2013: 13 accidents compared to 30 accidents in July 2014

October 2013: 16 accidents compared to 34 accidents in October 2014

One of the important factors in any personal injury claim is determine “liability,” or responsibility for the injury. Typically, personal injury claims will involve situations in which one person was negligent, and that negligence establishes that person’s liability for the injuries caused to other people in the incident. Often, that negligence is crystal clear. If one car is stopped waiting at a red light and is suddenly rear-ended by a second vehicle, the driver of that second vehicle will almost always be the person found “negligent” or “at fault” for causing the collision.

header3But this isn’t always the case. Imagine, for example, a driver preparing to enter a roadway from a parking lot — there appears to be an opening in traffic for him to safely enter, but as he drives forward he collides with another vehicle that was speeding down the road. In this situation, the driver entering the road should have taken more time to observe traffic to be certain it was safe to move forward, but the speeding driver should also have been operating his vehicle within the speed limit.

Or consider a pedestrian in rainy weather who is running toward a store entrance to get out of the rain. Unfortunately, the store’s employees forgot to put out rainmats at the entrance that day, so the pedestrian reaches the wet, slippery walkway and suddenly falls and is injured. The employees obviously forgot an important safety device, but the pedestrian herself probably shouldn’t have been running in conditions where the walkway could forseeably be especially slippery.rain

floodOur post topic of today – driving tips for flooded roads -may not be a primary interest of concern in Northern California in late July.  Of course we are still in the thick of our incredibly hot, dry summer, but interspersed with all the news reports regarding our drought conditions, another weather related topic has been getting a lot of press: the expected El Nino this fall/winter.  If you listen to some meteorological experts, we can expect a huge deluge of rain this year.  And in Sacramento and Elk Grove, that translates into flooded streets.

The flooded streets of Sacramento can be dangerous.  Many times, drivers believe they can forge on through a flooded street but it actually takes very little standing water to cause loss of control of your vehicle.  Being unable to control the vehicle means you could end up in the path of oncoming traffic or off the roadway.  If the flood water is moving, that adds another element of treachery – it takes as little as six inches of active flood water to actually push your vehicle.  With two feet of water on the roads, a vehicle can actually float.  Not only is losing control of your vehicle very dangerous, that amount of water can cause a lot of damage to the vehicle itself.

When the rain comes, check the local news for reports of flooding and any road closures.  The best advice is to stay off the roads, if possible, but if you must get somewhere, find an alternate route that has not been affected. Some streets are much more likely to be flooded than others.  East Sacramento neighborhoods, for example, are some of the first to flood, as are areas around Howe and Arden, and some side streets in the Elk Grove and West Sacramento areas.  There are several GPS apps available now that are updated frequently by other drivers, and if you encounter a flooded area such an app may help re-direct you towards a safer route.

or — Why am I Sitting at a Red Light?

traffic signals and timingTraffic signals and timing may be controlled in a variety of different ways depending upon the city or county where you’re driving.  The most familiar setup is a control box located near the intersection where the folks in charge of local roadways can set a program of signal light changes and times for different times of day based upon past traffic volume data.  Many localities, however, are trying to be more quickly reactive to changing traffic conditions by setting up live monitoring and signal control at important intersections.  In Sacramento County, California, for example, the Traffic Operations Center uses more than 100 traffic cameras to monitor live conditions on the county’s roadways in order to directly control traffic signals and timing at most of at those intersections.  In addition to being able to react more accurately to changing traffic volume, this type of system is especially helpful when unexpected conditions occur such as accidents, weather events, fires, or other situations that may suddenly change traffic.

traffic signals and timingIn addition to the signal programming — and live cameras where those are installed — an important feedback element for traffic signals and timing is the system of sensors built into the roadway that detect vehicles approaching intersections.  Not only do these help trigger the light changes, they also provide the local transportation agency with live information about the volume and speed of traffic passing over the sensors.  The green, yellow and red traffic information we can see on live traffic maps is drawn from this constantly updated information.

elk grove auto accidentsElk Grove is a rapidly-growing suburb of Sacramento, California.  As is common with suburban areas in California, it is primarily dependent upon automobiles for transportation of its citizens.

A tool used by many cities and counties for planning, designing, and maintaining safe transportation systems is traffic engineering, and where the primary mode of transport is the motor vehicle, traffic engineering is all about cars. In Elk Grove, the Traffic Engineering Section is part of the Department of Public Works. In other cities and counties, traffic engineering may similarly be carried out by a separate office or more generally by whatever public works department may have responsibility for the roadways.

One of the most important pieces of data that goes into traffic engineering is studying traffic volumes and accident statistics. The traffic volumes are both predicted for the purpose of planning and design new roadways, and measured on an ongoing basis in order to insure safe traffic flow and plan for corrections as needed.

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.

US_Highway_98_at_Newport,_Florida
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.

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