Road Conditions and Traffic Accidents

Imagine you’re driving home from an evening out. It’s late and it’s raining, so visibility is limited. The babysitter has to be home in half an hour, so you’re going as fast as you can without speeding. Suddenly, the car several yards in front of you slams on its brakes. You react quickly, applying your own brakes, only to find that your tires slip on the wet road. You spin your wheel to avoid the car in front of you, but end up slamming into the guardrail instead. Your injuries will cost thousands in doctor’s bills.

Experienced Washington State drivers know that a slick road demands a driver’s respect and caution. Snow, ice, and even rain can make driving hazardous, and lead to a traffic accident if you’re not appropriately careful. You’ll need more time to stop, so you often have to drive below the speed limit. Turning can be an issue, so you’ll need to slow down significantly before navigating any corner.

When road conditions contribute to traffic accidents, the law often assigns fault to the driver, for driving “too fast for road conditions.” If you drive too fast for the weather, your injuries might not be all you suffer: you might get a ticket and an increase in your insurance rates, as well.

But what if the road conditions aren’t easy for you to predict? What if the road is just bad?

Imagine now that you’re driving home to pick up that babysitter, and everything is fine until a pot hole opens up right in front of your car. Because the night is dark, you don’t see the pot hole until your front tire drops right down into it. Your car is abruptly thrown off course, and you drive straight into a tree. You suffer whiplash, a broken leg, and other injuries which will affect your life for months or years.

In this second scenario, you may have a cause of action against Washington State for their failure to properly maintain the roadway, whether or not you might have missed the pot hole if you’d been paying better attention, if you were not in a hurry, or if the sun was shining. Because the State is responsible for building and maintaining roads, you have the right to use those roads and to assume the surface is safe for cars. If the State neglects to do so and their negligence causes you harm, you can demand that the State reimburse you for your damages.

The State’s liability in this way also extends to other roadway conditions such as freeway ramps, parking lots, roadway signs, crosswalks, abrupt pavement edges, construction zone warnings, and gate crossings for railroads, to name a few.

If you’ve been damaged in a traffic accident caused by road conditions you couldn’t predict or control, the law offices of Duce Bastian Peterson would be pleased to assist you. Contact us today for a free consultation.