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The Keys to Winning a Roadway Defects Personal Injury Case for Drivers, Pedestrians and Bicyclists

You suffered an accident, and your injuries are significant enough to make you miss work and/or affect your quality of life.

If your accident was directly caused by a motorist’s negligence, it’s easy to make that connection. You can schedule a free consultation with a leading Hudson Valley personal injury attorney to see if you can recover damages from the other party’s insurance company.

But what if the accident was caused by poor sidewalk or roadway maintenance, like a pothole or uneven cement? Or what if the roadway, crosswalk or sidewalk was improperly designed to begin with? Or you swerved your car, or walked into a roadway to avoid poor conditions, causing an accident?

Although the burden of proof is high, if you act quickly after an accident, it’s possible to recover significant damages in what we call “roadway defect” cases. We’ve gotten results for clients in this exact scenario; call 845-600-0000 to schedule an appointment at either our Kingston or Poughkeepsie office.

Here are some of our top tips from our successful “roadway defect” cases in the Hudson Valley:

1. If you use a road or sidewalk, you have a right to them being properly designed and maintained

Roadway defect cases can apply to anything with wheels or anyone on foot, including:

2. With infrastructure, there can always be gaps and mistakes

Municipalities and government agencies spend millions upon millions of dollars designing and re-designing roads and sidewalks from every possible angle and for every possible use. They have dedicated teams that perform regular maintenance and respond to deterioration. They still make mistakes, and they can overlook things, which is why municipalities and transportation agencies carry large amounts of insurance for when people are injured as a result of roadway defects.

When it comes to state agencies that design and maintain roadways, like with the New York State Thruway, there’s a very high standard for the state to keep the roadway in safe condition at all times.

Many counties and municipalities have a weaker expectation; to have a chance at winning a lawsuit against them, they must have received prior written notice of the defect before the accident and been given an adequate amount of time to fix it.

3. You have 90 days to act after a roadway defect accident in New York State

If you’re taking action against a local municipality or a county, you have 90 days to file a notice of claim. If you’re going to take action against a state agency, you have 90 days to file a notice of intention of claim.

Either way, if you’re been injured in an accident, and you believe that the roadway’s design or conditions were partially or fully to blame, give us a call at 845-600-0000 to schedule a free consultation.

4. Common design and placement flaws

Here are some of the most common design or placement flaws that we see in our cases:

  • Roadway dimensions
  • Shoulder width and placement
  • Placement or non-placement of a rail
  • Dangerous intersections
  • Shared roadways (incorrectly designed bike lanes or paths)
  • Pavement edge drop offs
    • Steepness
    • Elevation differences with paved shoulder

All roadway design features have criteria that has to be followed, and there’s a high burden of proof in a lawsuit to prove that the criteria were not met. Our experts help us make the case that a design feature contributed to an accident because there wasn’t a “reasonable engineering basis” for its design.

5. Common maintenance issues

Here are some of the most common maintenance issues that we see in our cases:

  • Potholes
  • Uneven sidewalks
  • Excessive gravel or oil
  • Debris
  • Non-functioning street lights or traffic signals
  • Inadequate placement of traffic cones and signage to warn of issues

Lawsuits against municipalities and the state for maintenances issues hold them to a standard; if tax dollars are being spent to maintain roads, walkways and other transportation issues, then they need to be adequate maintained.

6. State claims vs. local municipalities, explained

Most municipalities in the Hudson Valley require prior, documented, written notice of any maintenance issues for a roadway defects case to have a chance in court (although it varies by the municipality or county).

In others, you only have to show what’s known as constructive notice, that they knew or should’ve known it was there.

If it’s clear that maintenance issues caused your accident, then we will find out if anyone reported the issue previously.

NOTE: Kingston and Poughkeepsie are prior notice municipalities; there must be a paper trail previously of a party reporting the issue to them.

7. Roadway defects can cause one-car or one-bike accidents

Many roadway defect cases are single-car, single-motorcycle, or single-bike accidents where no one else was injured. Sometimes they involve the injured party swerving to avoid another vehicle, shooting out into the road shoulder, and then suffering an accident because of an uneven shoulder or improper rail guard placement.

8. Reconstructing what happened is key for winning roadway defect claims

If we’re claiming that the design of a roadway that caused a serious accident, we consult with top notch engineering experts who sometimes pore over hundreds of pages of plans to determine if any corners were cut or standards not met.

Depending on the circumstances, we may also use technology like 3D laser scanning, which can document the exact dimensions of the crash scene and any imbalances or dropoffs that may have contributed to it.

Please note: this is not the exact scanner that we use, but a demonstration of the technology’s capabilities for preserving the conditions of an accident scene.

Were you injured in an accident that was caused by poor road conditions or inadequate roadway design? Give us a call at 845-600-0000 for a free consultation at our offices in Kingston or Poughkeepsie.