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Who Is Liable for an Accident Caused by Poor Road Conditions?

Colburn Law

In Washington, car accidents can happen for several reasons. In many cases, a driver’s negligent or dangerous actions contribute to these collisions, such as driving under the influence or running a red light. In these situations, you could file a lawsuit or insurance claim against the negligent driver.

If you are involved in an accident caused by dangerous road conditions, such as potholes, loose gravel, or dangerously designed streets, you may wonder what options you have for compensation. In these cases, you could file a lawsuit against the government agency or third party responsible for maintaining that road.

Common Types of Poor Road Conditions

Local government agencies are typically responsible for building, maintaining, and inspecting roads. In some cases, this work is contracted out to a third party. These entities have a duty to ensure that the roads under their care are in safe condition. If a hazard arises, the entity must respond to it within a reasonable amount of time and warn motorists of the potential danger.

Common types of poor road conditions include the following.

  • Improperly cleared ice or snow
  • Objects on the road
  • Potholes
  • Unsafe bridges
  • Unsafe work zones
  • Confusing street signs
  • Lack of proper street signs
  • Steep shoulders
  • Loose gravel
  • Poorly designed streets

Your Legal Options After an Accident Caused by Poor Roads

Washington is a fault-based accident state, meaning that negligent parties are financially liable for any motor vehicle collisions they cause. If you are injured by another driver, you typically file an insurance claim or lawsuit against him or her. In cases involving poor road conditions, however, the process is slightly more complicated.

First, you will need to identify the at-fault party, which will depend on the cause of the accident. For example, if a contractor is responsible for clearing the road of debris after a storm and neglects his or her duties for a week, that contractor would be liable for any accident that occurs due to road debris. If a city government agency fails to place stop signs at an intersection that requires stop signs, it would be liable for any collisions that occur in that location.

If a third-party contractor or company is responsible for your accident, you will usually be able to file a personal injury lawsuit against the third party in Washington civil court. Your lawsuit will follow the same rules and processes as other personal injury claims. You will have three years from the date of your accident to file your lawsuit.

In cases involving the negligence of a government agency, however, your claim will be subject to different rules. If you are filing a lawsuit against a state agency, for example, you will need to file a standard tort claim form within three years of the accident. The state will review the claim and approve or deny it. If the state denies your claim, you can file a lawsuit. Different local and county governments follow their own rules for accident claims.

Speak to a Washington Car Accident Attorney

Car accident lawsuits can be very complex, especially if you are filing a claim against a government agency. In these situations, it is important to speak with an attorney as soon as possible following your accident. A Seattle car accident lawyer can help you understand your legal options and navigate the claims process. Contact an attorney after your collision to strategize your next steps.