While driver mistakes like distracted driving, drunk driving, and speeding are the most known causes of car accidents in Florida, they are not the only ones. Dangerous conditions of roads or highways are also a primary contributor. Recovering damages in situations where defective road conditions led to an accident that caused your injuries may be complicated than any other personal injury case. This is because you are dealing with an unusual liable party: government agencies. The insurance companies and attorneys representing these agencies will do all they can to settle for less.
To stand a chance of receiving your deserved compensation, you need an experienced personal injury lawyer by your side. The attorney will help you with the process of filing your claim. He/she will also represent you in the negotiations with the insurance company and may get to increase your amount of compensation. If you are in this situation in Jacksonville, Florida, contact Jacksonville Personal Injury Attorney as soon as the accident happens. In this article, we look at how personal injury claims for car accidents caused by dangerous road conditions work.
Florida Auto Accident Laws
Florida is a no-fault insurance state. This means that should an auto accident or collision occur, a driver has to seek compensation from his/her insurance provider. And if the driver suffers an injury or injuries, then he/she can take legal action of suing for damages.
Recovering from injuries inflicted by a car crash can be a complicated process. The State’s no-fault system is meant to keep personal injury cases away from the courts and have them solved within the State’s insurance systems. Complainants have to pass a certain threshold and show proof of injury. After proving injury, the complainant must then win a trial by the jury to be compensated. The jury‘s ruling has to favor the plaintiff, indicating that the accused was liable.
After determining responsibility, the jury may still modify the lawsuit by the apportionment of fault. The court must establish whether or not the complainant also played a part in the occurrence of the accident. In every claim, it is critical to substantiate the exact reason for the plaintiff’s injuries.
In awarding damages, Florida applies the comparative negligence system. Under this system, the jury or judge allocates fault among the involved parties when granting the injured party compensation. If the jury or judge decides that the involved parties share a certain degree of liability, then they will adjust the damages in the percentage of guilt. For instance, if a judge establishes that the party that sustained injuries was 10% at fault, then he/she will lower the amount of compensation by 10%.
The no-fault and comparative systems are meant to assist in solving legal problems that occur between two parties or people. However, the question you may be asking yourself is, what if the reason for the car crash was poor design or condition of the roadway itself? Who is held responsible in a case like this?
Florida Car Crashes Involving Dangerous Road Conditions
Motorists in the State of Florida have the advantage of sunny and warm weather that makes driving fun for both long and short distance drivers. The State provides motorists with the attractiveness of marshes, pristine rivers, coastlines, and other exceptional natural features.
However, there is another side of Florida roads. A lot of traffic on highways, roads, and streets leads to higher rates of car accidents. Additionally, adverse weather conditions reduce visibility and increase the slipperiness of the roads, which is another cause of accidents. Also, the constant humidity and heat may hinder road maintenance.
Dangerous road conditions in Florida are one of the leading causes of both multi-vehicle and single-car crashes and collisions. A defective condition of the road can be due to potholes which damage pop tires and wheels to poor drainage, which causes hazardous levels of surface water. In fact, potholes are among the most common hazards on our roads. They are a threat to both major highways or interstate roadways and community streets.
Roadways can also have slants, inadequate space, crowns, tilts, which may make them unsafe to drive at the stipulated speed lest you cause an accident. Other poor conditions of the road that may contribute to vehicle accidents include:
- Cracks on the surface of the road
- Hidden, missing, improper, or damaged road signs
- Road debris
- Uneven surfaces
- Absence of rumble strips on the roads
- Inadequate or missing guardrails
- Drop-off of a road shoulder
- Water puddles & depressions
- Faded markings of paint on the roads
- Untreated roadways during winter weather
- Oil spots
- Poor management of traffic around places where construction is ongoing
Particularly, Florida highways pose real and severe threats to the public when roadways deteriorate, yet the government organization in charge of maintaining them doesn’t repair them on time.
Even poorly designed roadways can be another cause of vehicle accidents and ground of fault. Poor road designs may cause motorists to lose control of their cars more easily. The defect could be in the construction, design, or the driving rules and regulations that apply in Florida.
What You Should Do After a Car Accident Caused by Dangerous Road Conditions
Like in any other accident, there are various steps you should take immediately after the crash, which plays a role in receiving compensation. Here is what you should do:
Call the police
First, you need to call law enforcement officers to the scene. Even if your accident is a minor one and doesn’t need the authorities’ attention, you still have to call the officers. This is because they need to compile a report of the crash and provide their assessments. The report is a critical document for settling your case or if you ultimately go to trial.
Seek medical care
If you don’t need urgent medical care, ensure you get checked up after accident documentation is over. Even if you do not feel injured, it is best that you get the doctor to check you up and conduct a comprehensive health evaluation. This is to make sure there aren’t any hidden injuries that will cause problems later on. Once you are done with your appointment, gather all documentation related to your treatment and health progress to keep in your files.
Gather all the evidence you may need for your case. These include names and contact info from other involved parties. Also, obtain the names and contact details of the witnesses present at the scene. You can also record witness statements. Other information you may need include:
- The location of the dangerous road
- The physical features of the defective conditions like the length, depth, and width
- The name of the roadway or highway on which you were when you got injured.
You may also use your phone to take photographs and record videos of the accident scene. Take pictures of the damages to all the cars at the scene and their license numbers. You can also photograph the injuries you sustained as a result of the injuries. Photographs of the surrounding road and weather conditions are also crucial. If there are any missing guardrails, potholes, or any other defective conditions, you should photograph them too.
Hire a personal injury attorney
The next thing you should do is reach out to a personal injury attorney who handles these kinds of cases. We do not recommend that you handle your car accident case by yourself, especially when it is a defective road that could be responsible. You should consult with a skilled auto accident lawyer who defends defective road cases. The attorney may be able to investigate the accident independently. He/she may be able to carry out an inspection of the road as well as government agency records concerning failure to repair.
Do not assume that defective road conditions can never be part of your car accident injury lawsuit. Even the roadway system’s design can be brought to question by your attorney, who could build a case for government accountability. Always hire a diligent lawyer who possesses skills and a strong track record of defending these kinds of situations.
Responsibility for Car Accidents Caused by Dangerous Road Conditions
Accidents caused by road hazards are usually due to the negligence of someone else. Victims of these kinds of accidents have a right to hold accountable the parties responsible for the damage and loss they caused. In this case, it will be the government agency in charge of the road.
Florida, like any other state, has liability for dangerous conditions of the roads. The government of Florida has the duty of performing inspections, clean-ups, and maintenance of roadways to keep them in safe conditions. Where roads have known defects or are being repaired, the government has the responsibility of warning drivers of dangers while taking reasonable measures to solve these problems.
Defective conditions that result in accidents can often persist for several years and lead to several other crashes. This is because authorities blame the accidents on other causes like driver distraction or excessive speed. Sometimes, the defective condition of the roads goes unnoticed until after much time passes. If similar incidents occur over and over again at one location, it may alert the public and government that there’s a problem. Failure to solve an evident problem may be ruled as negligence.
To hold any party responsible for your injuries, you have to prove that the party’s negligence led to the accident. In most defective road conditions crashes, the negligent party is the motorist of the car that hit you. You have to prove the following factors to show negligence:
- Duty of care- As per the law, a driver has to exercise reasonable care given the situation. For instance, a sensible driver driving via a construction area would find it reasonable to slow down and look out for debris or workers.
- Breach of duty of care- You have to show that the driver failed to exercise his/her duty of care. An inattentive motorist may fail to notice potholes on time so he/she can try evading it. In other cases, a motorist may suddenly swerve into another traffic lane.
- Causation- The motorist’s breach of duty of care must have resulted in your injuries.
- Damages- The injuries must have resulted in actual damages like medical bills.
Seeking Compensation When Harmed in a Crash Caused by Dangerous Road Conditions
Car accidents could result from various factors, including the vehicle, driver, and the road. More often, two or all these aspects are involved in an accident. For example, maybe a motorist was texting while driving when he/she hit a pothole then careened to the next lane, colliding with another car. In this situation, both the pothole and the distracted motorist contributed to the causing of the accident.
While it’s relatively forthright when parties should be held liable for their careless actions, a situation becomes more complicated when potholes or other dangerous conditions contributed to the crash. Surprisingly, cases like these are quite common. In 2006, a study revealed that approximately one-third of vehicle crashes in the U.S were linked to adverse road conditions, causing over 22,000 fatalities and two million injuries.
So, can you seek compensation if a dangerous road condition caused your accident resulting in injuries? The answer is a definite yes. First, you should understand how fault, negligence, and insurance work out in Florida.
When talking about auto crashes caused by dangerous road conditions, you can sue a state or local government agency since they are the ones responsible for maintaining these roads. Repairing damaged roads is usually a county or state responsibility.
However, severe problems can arise in a person’s property too. A case like this will lead to a premises liability claim where you sue the property owner where the accident occurred. You can do this since property owners have the responsibility of keeping their property free from hazardous conditions. These include those conditions that spread beyond their premises and pose foreseeable threats of harm to other property users.
Even the roads that have been temporarily repaired can still be the grounds of liability lawsuits against the government organization tasked with the repairs. For example, a driver may need to make unexpected driving maneuvers to evade potholes on a state road and accidentally collides with another auto in the course. In these cases, the government agency in charge of the road will share in the responsibility.
The main challenge you can encounter in any car accident claim involving dangerous road conditions is to get the government agency to admit to any degree of fault. Often, liability is the most complicated as well as a well-defended factor in an auto accident case. However, this is not impossible. Based on the proof you present in court, these agencies will have no choice but to admit guilt. The specific proof of your claim will be based on the facts of the case. However, evidence you can generally use to argue a hazardous road conditions claim includes:
- Police report- Generally, police respond to incidents of car accidents after you or a bystander calls them. When called at the scene, the officers must record information about the accident. A police report outlines the observations of the officer, the facts surrounding the crash, and the general opinion of the officer about what caused the accident.
- Witness reports- Eyewitnesses’ reports include accounts of the crash as well as its cause.
- Accident photos- The pictures of the scene of the accident you took may also help prove your case. You may present to the judge photographs of your injuries, damage caused to your vehicle, or the condition of the road that caused the crash.
- Your testimony- You’ll be given a chance to testify. You could tell the court what exactly happened so it can help substantiate your case.
- Survey records- Generally, governments carry out periodic road surveys. If you can obtain these surveys, they may help to determine whether or not the government knew or should’ve known of the defective condition of the road.
- Vehicle repairs- If your vehicle was damaged in that you needed to repair it, you can present replacement costs or repair records related to the damage of your car.
- Medical records- Rehabilitation costs, hospital bills, future medical costs, and any other expenses you incurred for treatment may also help you fight your case. Remember to keep a record of everything and give it to your attorney.
- Government knowledge of the dangerous condition- you’ll also need to provide proof to show the government agency in charge of the road:
- Was aware of the hazardous road condition and did not do anything
- Didn’t learn of the defective state of the road in reasonable timing
- Did not repair or correct the dangerous condition of the road in reasonable timing.
Damages You Can Recover for Dangerous Road Condition Car Accidents
Often, car accidents lead to severe injuries and a lot of damage. For this, you can recover different types of damages after filing a personal injury claim. They include non-economic damages, economic damages, and, in rare cases, punitive damages.
Economic damages are those that can easily be calculated and quantified in monetary value. They compensate for the tangible loss you incurred. These damages include:
- Medical bills
- Surgical costs
- Ongoing therapy (physical and rehabilitative therapy)
- Lost wages (present and future)
- Loss of future earning capacity
- Permanent or temporary disability
- Disfigurement, scarring, or loss of limbs
- Out-of-pocket costs
- Damages associated with property repair (e.g., costs for vehicle repair)
Non-economic damages are those that cannot be easily calculated or quantified in monetary value. They compensate for the non-tangible loss the accident caused you. These include compensations for:
- Pain & suffering
- Mental anguish
- Emotional distress
- Loss of consortium
In limited circumstances, you can also be awarded punitive damages. These kinds of damages are not granted to compensate you for your loss, but to punish the liable party of their negligent behavior. To get these damages, you must prove that that the responsible party was malicious, grossly negligent, or acted with intentional conduct to harm you. In Florida, punitive damages are capped. This means there is a limit to the amount you can receive. If you were to be granted this kind of compensation, you would receive $500,000 or an amount three times the total sum of non-economic and economic damages, whichever is more.
If the car crash resulted in the death of the victim, his/her family members could file a wrongful death claim to recover damages. Damages for a wrongful death lawsuit include:
- Funeral expenses
- Burial costs
- Loss of companionship and support
- Financial losses
- Medical expenses from the time of injury to death
Given the challenging nature of negotiating with government agencies and their attorneys, you must hire an experienced personal injury attorney. The lawyer will calculate both future and current damages from your car crash and ensure you have the compensation you deserve.
Statute of Limitations in Defective Road Condition Lawsuits
Florida, like any other state, has a statute of limitations that restricts the period within which the victim can file his/her lawsuit. In various states, the timeframe for presenting lawsuits against government agencies is shorter compared to a similar claim against non-governmental parties. In the State of Florida, the statute of limitations is three years. This means you will have three years from the date of the accident to bring your dangerous road condition claim to court. If it is a wrongful death claim you are filing, then you have two years from the date of death to do so.
If you let a statute of limitations pass without filing your claim, you may lose the right to do so even if your lawsuit would have been successful. This means you won’t receive compensation for your loss if you are locked out from filing your case. This is one of the reasons you need to talk to an attorney on time. He/she will notify you about the appropriate deadlines for bringing your case to court.
Hire a Dangerous Road Conditions Car Accident Attorney Near Me
Cases of car crashes resulting from dangerous road conditions are complicated, so you will need an expert lawyer to stand up to the government. Government attorneys and insurance companies are steadfast in their legal fights and will overpower you if you give them a chance. Call Jacksonville Personal Injury Attorney at 904-800-7557 as soon as you get in an auto accident attributed to dangerous conditions. Our attorneys will provide you with the help you need towards a healthy recovery.