Poor road design is a commonly overlooked cause of motor vehicle accidents. Even when it is obvious that the roadway itself is to blame, legal complexities like the doctrine of governmental immunity can make obtaining compensation difficult. This makes it all the more crucial for anyone hurt in an accident on a dangerous road to seek experienced legal counsel.
Indiana’s road system consists of approximately 30,000 lane-miles of roadway, 6,000 bridges, and 2,000 interchange ramps. An enormous amount of taxpayer money was spent constructing this system over the years. At present, the cost of building a single lane-mile of highway exceeds $12 million, according to the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT). Before beginning any road project, then, it would seem prudent for those in charge to ensure that the design is well-conceived. This is particularly true since a faulty road is more than just a bad investment – it is a public safety risk.
Unfortunately, dangerously designed roads can be found throughout our state. Motorists injured by this type of negligent engineering deserve to be compensated just like anyone else who falls victim to the carelessness of others. The vehicle accident lawyers at McNeely Stephenson aggressively pursue claims against government agencies and their contractors in these cases. Contact us now to learn more.
The Infrastructure Debate in Indiana
Former Governor Mitch Daniel’s “Major Moves” transportation plan paid for billions of dollars in infrastructure upgrades by leasing the Indiana Toll Road to private investors. Much of the money was spent refurbishing and expanding the state’s road system. Whether the undertaking was successful depends on who you ask. For example, CNBC recently found that Indiana ranks first in a list of states with great infrastructure. On the other hand, the American Society of Civil Engineers says our infrastructure is in terrible condition.
Which side of the debate is correct? For purposes of collecting damages, it really does not matter. Our law firm wins cases by focusing on one thing – your accident. A single instance of dangerous engineering can occur anywhere in the state, regardless of the overall condition of the road system. The most important determination is whether the particular stretch of roadway where your crash happened suffered from a design flaw. If so, our team of accident investigators will find it.
Types of Design Mistakes & Hazards They Produce
Negligent road engineering can lead to all sorts of dangers for motorists. Here are some of the most common:
Indiana’s road system contains a variety of surfaces. Asphalt (gravel base or full-depth) and concrete (continuously reinforced or jointed) are typical in urban areas. Choosing the wrong road surface or implementing it incorrectly can lead to:
- Cracking and breaking
- Ruts, ripples, and raveling
- Other forms of distortion.
Note that weather conditions may temporarily exacerbate these surface problems. For example, a visible depression may not pose much risk when the roads are dry. But in a rainstorm, that same depression will fill with water, creating a hidden danger for motorists.
Traffic Patterns and Population Growth
Under normal traffic loads, an asphalt road might last 20 years. A concrete road might last 35 years. But when city planners fail to accurately anticipate local increases in road use, problems will come about much sooner. Even worse, money for “premature road decay” is the last thing you are likely to see in a government budget, meaning repair work will not occur right away.
Anyone who regularly travels between Indianapolis and Chicago on I-65 will remember the sinking bridge fiasco in the summer of 2015. A northbound bridge located between Lebanon and Lafayette sank nine inches in less than 48 hours, prompting a complete shutdown. For a month, approximately 25,000 vehicles per day were forced to take a 60-mile detour. Experts later determined that the original bridge design did not account for soil conditions and an underground artesian spring.
Catastrophic failure may have been averted, but the faulty bridge still claimed victims – there were a number of serious accidents and fatalities along the detour route that summer.
Layout, Functionality, and Intuitiveness
As drivers, we expect our roads to incorporate basic safety features. We assume that sharp corners will be marked with an arrow sign, for example, and that guardrails will work like they should. We also feel comfortable driving in unfamiliar areas, because we know the roads will be configured in a way that makes sense. Such expectations influence the way we drive. That is part of the reason negligent road design is so dangerous – it catches victims by surprise.
Here are some dangerous road features that can lead to an accident:
- Narrow roads and bridges (not enough shoulder)
- Blind corners
- Excessively steep grades
- Stop signs set too far back from the intersection or cross-street
- Roads that are not lined properly
- Confusing highway interchanges
- Insufficient banking on turns
- Low overpasses
- Acceleration/deceleration lanes that are too short
- Passing lanes that end abruptly
- No bike lanes or crosswalks where needed
- Signs or traffic lights obscured from view by other objects
- Poor or nonexistent street lighting.
Personal injury liability does not always arise from creating the dangerous condition that led to the accident. Negligence can also occur from careless attempts to fix an existing problem. When it comes to roadways, examples include improper repaving methods or materials, inadequate attempts to brace failing structures, and unsafe construction zone planning.
Asserting a Claim Against the Government
The doctrine of governmental immunity dates back to pre-colonial times. The king of England was sovereign and could do no wrong, or so the judicial reasoning went in those days. American law followed suit for a time. Eventually, the unfairness of denying compensation to people hurt by the government led lawmakers – including the Indiana General Assembly – to address the issue. Seeking damages from INDOT and other state agencies is now allowed in some circumstances. Strict procedural rules apply, though, including claim filing deadlines as short as 180 days from the date of the accident.
If you were hurt in a crash on a dangerously designed road, negligence by the government may be the cause. Our personal injury lawyers will navigate the pitfalls involved in these lawsuits on your behalf. But we cannot turn back the calendar. Contact our office now to ensure that time-sensitive legal work gets underway immediately and that the filing deadlines in your case are met. You can reach us by calling (888) 988-5523 or by submitting the contact form on this page.