Although the majority of auto accidents are caused by driver error, roadway defects lead to a significant number of preventable accidents that may leave victims with permanently debilitating – or even fatal – injuries.
Fortunately, Florida allows injury victims to recover damages for losses sustained as a result of road defect accidents if it can be proven that the car accident was a direct result of a roadway defect that occurred due to government negligence.
Common Causes of Florida Roadway Defect Injuries
There are many roadway defects that can lead to accidents. Even a minor roadway defect can cause or contribute to a serious or even fatal car accident.
- Potholes are common in Florida due to our sandy soil. Driving through a pothole may cause motorists to lose control of the car, and swerving to avoid potholes is a common cause of collisions.
- Inadequate Drainage. Florida’s wet climate and flat landscape often leads to roadway flooding, particularly if drainage is inadequate. Flooded roadways are hazardous to motorists, as cars can hydroplane and lose traction in even shallow water, and can be carried away in as little as three inches of moving water.
- Overgrown Vegetation. Florida is famous for its lush vegetation. However, when vegetation becomes overgrown and obscures the road, this can lead to serious hazards such as limited visibility around corners or at intersections.
- Inadequate, Missing, or Misplaced Signage. You probably rely on roadway signs more than you consciously know. Signage is crucial for directing motorists, and for warning of potential hazards. Inadequate or missing signage, or signage that is inappropriately placed, can potentially lead to accidents and injuries.
- Defective or Substandard Materials. If roads are constructed using defective or substandard materials, they quickly break down under the stress of traffic, which can lead to problems such as cracks, potholes, or shoulder drop-offs.
- Broken or Malfunctioning Stop Lights. Stop lights are crucial for directing the flow of traffic at intersections. When stoplights are broken or malfunction, this can lead to collisions and catastrophic injuries.
- Unreasonably Dangerous Intersections. Many collisions occur at intersections. However, when intersections are unreasonably dangerous (for example, when visibility is unnecessarily limited), this can lead to an increased risk of accidents that the government should be held liable for.
- Missing Guardrails. Missing guardrails can lead to cars falling into dangerous drop-offs in single-car accidents, or potentially to a collision with oncoming traffic.
- Shoulder Drop-offs. The shoulder of a road is critical for vehicles that break down, or that are swerving to avoid traffic hazards. If the shoulder drops off, motorists could lose control of the vehicle and potentially even roll over.
Who Is Accountable for Roadway Defect Injuries in Florida?
The government is responsible for the construction and maintenance of public roads, and as such is accountable for roadway defect injuries and accidents. Your tax dollars pay to build and maintain roads, and the government owes its citizens a duty of care by ensuring that roads are safe and free of unnecessary hazards.
None of that means that it’s easy, though.
Florida Laws on Suing the Government for Negligence
Florida Statutes section 768.28 dictates claims filed against the state. Under this law, the State of Florida waives its right of sovereign immunity, and agrees to be sued for certain torts, including damages resulting from defects in public infrastructure that the government is responsible for maintaining.
What Florida’s Law Covers
In Florida, a person who is injured by the government or by a government employee can file an injury claim if:
- It can be proven that the injury resulted from negligence or a wrongful act or omission. For example, by a car accident that occurred due to preventable roadway defects.
- The victim’s losses can be compensated by monetary damages.
- The circumstances of the injury are such that a private party would be held liable for negligence under the same conditions.
However, there are limitations on what kind of claims can be filed against the government, and on how the claims are settled:
- Government employees cannot be held personally liable for an injury unless it was caused intentionally.
- The state may appeal the resolution of the claim.
- Damages are limited to $200,000.
- Interest accrued before the judgement (for example, on unpaid medical bills) is not covered.
Filing a Roadway Defect Claim against the Government in Florida
If you are injured by government negligence, it is important to hold the government accountable for this preventable injury. This will not only get you the compensation you deserve for your injuries, but will also put pressure on the government to address the negligence that led to your accident, protecting other citizens from suffering the same harm.
An experienced Florida personal injury attorney can help to evaluate your case, and if you decide to file a claim, can navigate the complex process of filing a government lawsuit. Get in touch with our office right now to get started.
About the Author:
Andrew Winston is a partner at the personal injury law firm of Winston Law. For over 20 years, he has successfully represented countless people in all kinds of personal injury cases, with a particular focus on child injury, legal malpractice, and premises liability. He has been recognized for excellence in the representation of injured clients by admission to the Million Dollar Advocates Forum, is AV Preeminent Rated by the Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory, enjoys a 10.0 rating by AVVO as a Top Personal Injury Attorney, has been selected as a Florida “SuperLawyer” from 2011-2017 – an honor reserved for the top 5% of lawyers in the state – and was voted to Florida Trend’s ”Legal Elite” and as one of the Top 100 Lawyers in Florida and one of the Top 100 Lawyers in the Miami area for 2015, 2016, and 2017.