What If An Obstruction In the Road Causes an Accident?

The most common liable parties in car accident claims are careless or reckless drivers. In these cases, the driver’s negligence leaves them liable for damages to an injury victim like medical expenses and lost wages, but what if the cause of a car accident isn’t another driver but an obstruction in the roadway? Who is liable for damages to an accident victim after an accident caused by a road hazard?

What Types of Roadway Obstructions Cause Car Accidents?

A car’s stability and steering system depends on the tires making good contact with the surface of the road. When something interferes with this contact, the result may be an accident due to a driver’s loss of control of the vehicle or a collision with the obstruction itself or another vehicle. Roadway obstruction accidents also include accidents that occur due to obstructed vision, such as tree limbs covering a stop sign. Common examples of road hazards that cause car accidents include:

  • Potholes
  • Debris
  • Construction equipment
  • Oil slicks
  • Blocked or covered traffic signs
  • Poorly designed roadways
  • Loose gravel
  • Rough roadway edges
  • Standing water
  • Car parts from a previous accident

When a driver encounters an obstruction in the roadway, the result may be a single-vehicle accident or a collision with another vehicle resulting from a driver’s loss of control, swerving, or over-correction to avoid the obstacle.

Liability In Accidents Caused by Obstructions or Other Road Hazards

There are a handful of no-fault car accident states that require motorists to file claims against their own personal injury protection (PIP) auto insurance policies regardless of who caused the accident, but most states operate on fault-based insurance systems. States like Texas require drivers to prove another party liable for their damages in a car accident and file claims against the at-fault party. In most cases, driver error causes car accidents and a negligent driver’s insurance provides compensation to injury victims. However, if an obstruction in the road or a roadway hazard causes an accident, there may be no liable driver. Instead, injury victims may need to file a claim against any of the following entities:

  • A negligent city or county road maintenance agency
  • A negligent property owner or business owner
  • A negligent landscaper
  • A negligent construction company
  • A road-planning agency

If the obstruction caused an accident between two vehicles, the government or private business entity may be named as a third party in a lawsuit between the two vehicles involved in the accident.

When the defendant in property damage and personal injury claims is a government entity such as a road-planning agency that created a poor road design or a road maintenance agency that failed to repair a serious pothole, the statute of limitations may be different than the time limit for cases against non-government entities.

What If I Was Partly at Fault for an Accident Involving an Obstruction?

Fault-based insurance states like Texas allow accident victims to recover a portion of their damages even if they contributed to the cause of the accident as long as they are less than 50% at fault. If a driver has an accident due to a dangerous pothole in the road but the investigation reveals that they were exceeding the speed limit, they could be assigned a percentage of fault for the accident. If the injury victim’s damages amounted to $100,000 but the defendant’s insurance company finds the injury victim to be 30% at fault because they were speeding, they can still recover $70,000.

An experienced car accident lawyer in Austin safeguards a victim’s rights by performing an investigation and gathering evidence of the cause of the accident, the liable party, and the appropriate insurance company to file a claim against or a lawsuit if necessary to recover the greatest amount of compensation.