The 2012 budget for South Carolina included $100 million to “begin paying for $29 billion in needed repairs to roads and bridges,”according to an article in Columbia’s The State newspaper. Construction and repair of infrastructure was significantly affected by budget cuts during the economic downturn, and many of the road repair projects fell by the wayside, leaving the state’s roads in bad shape, according to the article.
There are serious consequences when roads and bridges are crumbling or improperly maintained. People who have to drive on dilapidated roads are put at risk every day. In fact, in 2009 alone, problems with the state’s roads were a factor in 943 collisions that resulted in injuries, according to the South Carolina Department of Public Safety.
However, these types of cases can be very complicated because a public entity (government agency) is normally in charge of designing and maintaining roads. Certain legal limits apply to when a public entity can be held legally accountable for negligence, and there are special rules for suing a government agency.
An experienced car accident lawyer at the Louthian Law Firm can advise you about your potential claim regarding a dangerous road condition in Columbia or elsewhere in South Carolina.
Dangers of Poor Road Maintenance
Roads that are not maintained can be dangerous.
Some of the possible consequences of negligent maintenance or defects in a road include:
- Potholes – These are the road defects that drivers most often complain about. When a car hits a pothole, the driver could lose control of the car or a tire blowout could occur, both of which can contribute to a crash. A wreck could also result from a car that swerves to miss a pothole or other defect.
- Unreadable or missing signs – When a sign falls down, is stolen or is damaged and becomes unreadable, this removes important information that drivers need. The resulting confusion could lead to a crash.
- Worn pavement – This can leave the roads cracked or uneven, with dips, grooves and channels. These defects can cause drivers to lose control of their vehicle. Uneven pavement can also lead to pooling water that can cause vehicles to hydroplane out of control.
- Steep shoulder drop-offs – Many shoulders are made of aggregate material, which can be broken down or eroded by wear and bad weather. This can result in a steep drop-off that is very dangerous for drivers who may accidentally veer out of their lane. The drop-off could cause them to over correct and swerve into oncoming traffic.
- Debris – This is an especially big problem after a storm where trees fall or large objects blow onto roadways. Drivers who try to avoid debris may crash, while motorists who hit the debris can do damage to their vehicles and suffer injuries.
Negligent Road Design
Negligent road design can be just as dangerous as poor maintenance.
Types of negligent road design include:
- Confusing traffic patterns
- Narrow lanes
- Dangerous curves
- Poor drainage
- Lack of guardrails or barriers
- Obstructed lines of sight
- Poorly designed passing lanes
- Short acceleration or deceleration lanes at exits.
Lawsuits Over Road Defects
Since government authorities and agencies are often the ones responsible for road design and maintenance, taking action against the responsible entity could be more complicated than in traditional car accident cases.
This is because government entities and agencies enjoy something called “governmental immunity.” There are a special set of rules that govern lawsuits against municipal, state and federal entities and agencies. In South Carolina, these rules are set forth in S.C. Code Ann. §15-78-10, which is called the South Carolina Tort Claims Act.
It might also be possible to bring a claim against the contractor, civil engineer or other non-governmental party who was responsible for the road’s dangerous condition. This type of lawsuit would proceed outside the Tort Claims Act.
We have been helping South Carolinians since 1959 by providing experienced, aggressive representation in settlement negotiations and at trial. We will be happy to meet with you for a free, no-obligation case evaluation. In fact, you will not pay any fees until we win your case.
Call us today at 803-454-1200 or use our online contact form to schedule your free, confidential consultation.
- The State – “Prisons, roads big winners in SC House budget”
- South Carolina Department of Public Safety