When a road needs major repair, a construction area known as a "work zone" is often created on the roadway itself so the work can get done. Work zones on roads under construction or undergoing routine maintenance can quickly create unanticipated changes in driving patterns. Unexpected driving difficulties may be encountered when driving lanes usually open are closed, cars traveling ahead slow unexpectedly, lights on machinery or those used to illuminate the work area are so bright they may be distracting, or a drum closing a part of a roadway or ramp may fall and roll to the middle of a travel lane. These extra roadway dangers can be the scene of serious car accidents and injury.
An experienced Boston accident attorney knows a significant number of car crashes with severe injury happen in work construction zones. Agencies that review work zone accidents tell us that in 2010:
- 514 crashes occurred in work zones, and 576 people were killed
- 2 percent of all roadway fatalities happened in work zones
Data from 2008 shows:
- 22 percent of fatal work zone crashes occurred on urban interstates
- 59 percent of fatal work zone crashes occurred on highways where the speed was greater than 55 mph
- 41 percent of fatal work zone crashes involved rear end collisions while only 16 percent of all fatal motor vehicle crashes were the result of rear end collision
- 85 percent of fatal motor vehicle crashes at work zones involved passenger cars
Under most circumstances when you or a loved one are driving and are struck by another driver, you may seek damages for any injury suffered from that other driver. In Massachusetts, liability and damages are determined by the theory of modified comparative negligence. If you are injured in a work zone crash and choose to sue another driver involved, you will receive damages so long as it is determined that you were not more than 50% responsible for the accident. If it is determined that you were 51% at fault, you receive no damages. If it is determined you are 50% or less responsible for the accident, you are eligible to receive the total amount of damages less the proportion you were found liable, if any.
If you are traveling through a work zone when you are involved in an accident, the entity that created the work zone may play a role in responsibility and liability as well. When damages are determined under the theory of modified comparative negligence, it is critical for an accident victim to find all parties who may bear responsibility for a crash or injury.
Why Do Work Zone Accidents Happen?
Common causes for accidents occurring in a work zone include:
- distracted drivers
- drunk driving
- driver inattention
- failure to yield to obvious signs a driver needs to slow
But what about the work zone itself? The travel conditions resulting from the presence of a work zone may play a role in causing an accident. It is important to determine that contractors setting up the work zone performed their jobs such that traffic could flow safely through the work zone area. If you or a loved one is involved in an accident in a work zone it is important to consider whether the company responsible for designing, creating and maintaining the work zone did so in a proper manner. An experienced work zone liability attorney will be able to investigate whether the creation of the work zone created a hazardous situation for drivers. Depending on how the work zone was designed and implemented, and how clear the warnings and signage about the change in traffic patterns and upcoming work zone were made, the company in charge of these important features might bear some responsibility for the accident and be liable for damages as well.
Determining Liability for a Car Wreck in a Work Zone
When determining liability for a crash in a work zone, a Massachusetts lawyer will consider who and how the work zone was designed and assembled. Workers who constructed the work zone may be agents of a private construction company or some other entity. It is important to investigate and review modifications to the roadway when a work zone is created. Some of the considerations for review might include:
- Were driving lanes closed and if so, how was this change communicated to the driving public?
- Were Jersey barriers put in place and were they placed properly given traffic needs?
- Were bright lights for nighttime work in use and were they blinding to roadway drivers given how they were angled?
- Were warning signs and lights in use and were they turned on and working properly?
- Was there a written log or diary maintained by a supervisor regarding the planning and placement of temporary traffic devices?
- Were there any inspection reports from any transportation agencies?
- When a work zone is set up for a long period of time, was there regular inspection of the work zone and the temporary traffic control?
Work zone planning and placement is so critical to safety that some states issue guidelines and require review of work zone installations on a regular basis. An experienced work zone accident attorney will gather information about the work zone and the construction company decisions and standards.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a motor vehicle accident that occurred in a work zone you may have a claim for damages against the driver of the other car as well as others who share responsibility for creating an unsafe driving environment. An experienced attorney familiar with work zone and construction liability will know what to investigate and will be able to help you navigate the bumpy road to determine where liability may lay so you can receive the damages you are owed.