Articles Posted in Dangerous Road Cases

I recently blogged about defective roadway cases. A recent New York dangerous road lawsuit demonstrates some of the principles I talked about in that blog post.

In Popolizio v. County of Schenectady, a driver lost control of his car on the steep downgrade of a snowy County road, and slid his car straight across the road as it curved to the right, causing his car to leave the roadway and nose-dive into a steep-sided, twelve-foot wide, four-foot deep ditch. Despite the fact that the driver had lost control of his car and left the roadway, he got a $2,100,000 award after a trial for severe brain injuries he suffered when his car struck the far side of the ditch head-on.

How did he win? The injured man’s New York roadway defect attorneys won the case by presenting testimony from a highway engineering expert who explained that the design of the ditch did not meet acceptable engineering standards. The expert said that constructing such a ditch right next to a right-angle curve in the road was unacceptably dangerous because any cars that left the roadway there would plunge into the ditch and hit the bank of the ditch head on. The ditch should have been built so that a car going off the roadway could traverse it, or else guardrails should have been installed to prevent motor vehicles from plunging into the ditch.

I have blogged many times about Central New York auto accidents. I have discussed recent Central New York car accidents and shown how one or more of the driver’s would most likely be found at fault. Today I want to discuss another type of car accident case: Specifically, I want to discuss New York defective road design cases, that is, cases where the accident is the road’s fault.

The road’s fault? Yes, sometimes car accidents are caused by the negligent design or plan of a road, street, or highway. Maybe it tends to accumulate too much water during rainy times. Maybe it was not properly marked with signs, or the speed limits were too high, or the shoulder or draining ditch was too deep, or there should have been guardrails, or the guardrails were not properly designed, or the trees or shrubbery were too close to the road, or . . . well, the possibilities are almost infinite.

If you are injured in an accident caused by a defective road design, can you sue anyone? Yes you can, but you have to prove more than just that the road could have been better. Roads in New York are designed, built and maintained by New York State, or its Counties, or other municipalities such as towns, in other words, some kind of government entity. Generally, New York State and its counties and towns have what is known as “qualified immunity” from liability for highway, road and street planning and design decisions. What does “qualified immunity” mean? Well, it means that just proving the roadway design was bad is not enough to win your case. You must also show that the road was built “without adequate study or lacked a reasonable basis”.

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