A majority of truck accidents result from mistakes by a truck driver or trucking company. In other cases, truck defects may play a role in a crash. However, a relatively small number of truck accidents involve problems with the design or maintenance of the road where the crash occurred. These can cause an accident even if the driver and the trucking company used proper care. Some potential problems with road design include:
Inadequate or missing guardrails
Blind or improperly angled curves
Intersections with inadequate visibility
Narrow lanes or shoulders, or the lack of a shoulder
Inadequate or absent road signs to alert a driver to unusual conditions or hazards ahead
Short merging lanes that do not provide enough space to enter a road
Drainage problems that cause hazards related to flooding or ice
Even if a road was properly designed, accidents may occur if the entity responsible for maintaining the road neglected its duties. Hazards may include debris that has not been cleared from the road, vegetation that obstructs the vision of drivers, or faded or missing markings or signs. Some roads may have potholes or wheel ruts because they have not been resurfaced or maintained regularly. During road work projects, moreover, the entity that maintains the road must clearly mark construction zones. This allows drivers approaching a construction zone to reduce speed, prepare to change lanes if needed, and keep an eye out for traffic congestion.
Claims Based on Defective Road Design or Inadequate Maintenance
Cities, counties, and states usually design and maintain public roads. A claim based on defective road design or poor road maintenance thus may need to overcome the doctrine of government immunity. This prevents people from suing the government, but immunity is waived in certain situations. Sometimes a victim may need to prove that specific conditions are met, such as a higher level of fault. They likely will need to file their claim through an administrative process, which may need to start much sooner than if they were suing a private party. In California, for example, a notice of claim in a personal injury case against the state government must be filed within six months of an accident. By contrast, the statute of limitations in other California personal injury cases is generally two years.
If a victim cannot sue the government, or misses the deadline for filing a notice of claim, they still may have legal options. Perhaps the truck driver failed to carefully navigate a poorly maintained stretch of road. Truckers must use reasonable care while operating their vehicles. This includes slowing down if they see hazards such as potholes or debris, or if they lack adequate visibility. Unfortunately, many truckers are rushing to keep up with deadlines or pile up mileage. They may take unreasonable risks that cause serious accidents.
Trucking Company Liability
Under the doctrine of vicarious (indirect) liability, a trucking company may be liable for errors by its drivers while they were on the job. If a trucking company hired an unqualified driver or failed to properly supervise its drivers, the company may be directly liable as well.
Accidents on defectively designed or poorly maintained roads may cause catastrophic injuries and permanent disabilities. Victims may recover damages for past, present, and future harm. Certain types of damages account for financial costs, such as medical bills and lost income and earning capacity. Other types of damages aim to quantify the subjective harm endured by the victim, such as their pain and suffering and emotional distress. Evidence supporting damages may include bills, pay stubs, witness testimony, photos, and videos. Since truck accident cases tend to be relatively complex and fiercely contested, a victim should consider hiring a lawyer if possible.