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Who is Liable When the Condition of a Road Causes an Accident?


When we get behind the wheel of a car, our main concern when it comes to avoiding accidents, is other drivers. We simply can’t control what other people do, even if we are super responsible drivers. But there’s another element of driving that we also can’t control, which plays a big factor in driving safety: The conditions of our roads.

Everything from the condition of the road itself, to objects in or on the road, can cause accidents. When they do, figuring out who is responsible for the accident can be more difficult than when an accident is just caused by another driver.

Objects in the Road

One big cause of accidents are foreign objects left on the road. How many times have you seen vehicles like open pick-up trucks, with loads in the bed of the truck just teetering off the edge? Often, trucks and cars can lose their loads leaving larger, dangerous objects on the road.

When and if you hit that object, and you are injured, you may have no idea who left that object in the road. When that happens you would have to make your claim for compensation against your own uninsured motorist coverage—a good reason why you should have this kind of coverage.

State Controlled Roadways

Many roads are maintained by the state, and thus, dangers caused by poor maintenance are also the obligation of the state.

This means that to get compensation for your injuries, you would be suing the State of Tennessee, and thus, would have to overcome Sovereign Immunity. There is a $300,000 damage cap for damages caused by the state (for an individual).

Multiple Owners

Often, it isn’t clear who owns the roadways. Imagine you are going from a private parking lot, turning into a public roadway. Because of unkempt shrubbery, you cannot see oncoming traffic, and you get into an accident.

Who is liable? The state that owns the public roadway? The business owner that maintains the parking lot? A third party landscaper that did not trim the hedges?

Uneven Roadways

We expect our roadways and highways to be flat—but they often are not. Certainly, it is to be expected that many roadways aren’t perfectly flat, and there is little anybody can do about that.

But often, cracks in roads can emanate from roots and underground conditions that push up from underneath. If an adjacent property owner allowed its trees to grow so much that roots under the ground caused buckling on the public roadway, you again have a situation where multiple parties may be liable for a dangerous condition in the road.

Private Contractors and Construction Companies 

Many public entities use private contractors to do work. Those contractors may direct traffic, fix and manage traffic lights, or design the roads themselves. When something goes wrong causing injury, once again, there may be liability for both the government and possibly, any private company that acted negligently in the work they were doing.

Call the Knoxville car accident lawyers at Fox Farley Willis & Burnette, PLLC, today if you have been in a car accident and are in need of compensation for your injuries and financial losses.




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