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Road Defects

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration (FHA) notes “Roadway design strongly influences how people use roadways… [and] shapes the safety risks borne by the traveling public.” Roadway design covers multiple elements, including:

  • Sight distance, which is how far you can see on the roadway
  • Road width
  • Cross slope, which helps drain water from the roadway
  • Pavement
  • Medians, which separate oncoming lanes of traffic
  • Curbs, which is the boundary between the pavement and the shoulder
  • Road margins, including shoulders, parking lanes and sidewalks for foot traffic

However, even the most safely designed roadway cannot prevent all traffic accidents if those design elements fail, resulting in significant injuries or death. If you or a loved one have been injured as a result of a road defect in Seattle, Tacoma or anywhere else in Washington State, an experienced Washington personal injury attorney can help you evaluate your legal options for securing compensation from those responsible.

Can you sue for bad road conditions if they do not result in injury?

If the road conditions do not result in an injury, you may still sue if you can prove 1) the government entity was aware of the road hazard and 2) they had enough time to repair the road conditions but failed to do so.

Can you sue a city for potholes?

If your vehicle was damaged by a pothole, you may be entitled to compensation from the city, county or state responsible for maintaining the roadway where your vehicle was damaged. An experienced personal injury attorney can help you evaluate your legal options for recovering damages from those responsible. 

How do I know if my injury was caused by a road defect?

It is difficult to prove negligence on the part of a government agency. As noted, the responsibility is on you to prove the entity responsible for road maintenance was aware of the road hazard and that they had enough time to repair the road conditions but failed to do so.

For example, if you hit a pothole and slam into a barrier, you may not have a claim. If the government agency responsible for maintenance knew about the pothole, had time to fix it but did not, then you may have a claim.

What are the most important steps to take after being involved in an accident caused by a road defect?

If your injuries are severe, get medical attention immediately. Afterward, it is important you take the following steps:

  • Write down a detailed description of how you were injured, including what happened before and after you were injured.
  • Obtain a copy of the police accident report.
  • Ask for additional information to fully document your case, including your full medical records related to the accident, any input from other witnesses, and photos of the site and any resulting damage.
  • Keep all repair estimates, bills and documents sent to/from everyone involved in the case.
  • Talk with an experienced personal injury attorney to discuss the details of your case and possible recoverable damages.

How long do I have to file a lawsuit after an accident in Washington State?

In Washington State, you have three years to sue after being injured in a motor vehicle accident.

Who is responsible for making sure Washington State roads are safe?

Washington State law requires government entities to maintain roadways so they are “reasonably safe for ordinary travel.” All state highways are maintained by the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT). County streets and highways are maintained by local county government agencies, and city streets are maintained by the cities/towns/villages in which they’re located.

Who is responsible for injuries and vehicle damage caused by road defects?

Those responsible for injuries and vehicle damage caused by road defects may include:

  • The government agency responsible for maintaining the road
  • The private contractor responsible for building, repairing or maintaining the road
  • The property owner, if the damage occurred on a private road

To prove your case, you will need to show the government, contractor or owner was negligent and failed to safely and reasonably maintain the roadway. Additionally, you will need to file a claim with the government agency responsible for roadway maintenance. An experienced personal injury attorney can help you evaluate your legal options for recovering damages from those responsible.

What are some examples of road defects?

Road defects include the following:

  • Lack of proper signage, such as those for speed, curves or hazards
  • Defective or inadequate traffic controls, including stop lights, stop signs, and lane or road edge striping
  • Lack of guardrails
  • Roadway visual impediments, such as overgrown plants that block the road from being seen clearly
  • Uncleared ice or snow
  • Inadequate lighting
  • Shoulder drop-off, which prevents a safe reentry to the roadway when you must make an emergency stop on the side of the road
  • Resurfacing and road maintenance debris, such as loose gravel and oil
  • Failure to alert drivers to road damage and hazards, such as construction, flooding or potholes

How can PCVA help if you are injured in a vehicle accident caused by road defects?

PCVA’s experienced attorneys can help you understand your options for pursuing compensation and damages from those responsible for the accident. If you would like to speak with a PCVA lawyer, complete our online form or call us at (253) 777-0799 or (206) 462-4334.

How much does PCVA charge?

Our work is done on a contingency basis. This means that you do not pay us on an hourly basis, and we advance the costs of litigation. If we help you resolve your case, we receive a percentage of the amount you receive, and you reimburse us for the costs we advanced on your behalf.