Government Responsibility for Highway Defects

Programs and educational campaigns that are designed to keep on reminding drivers about the importance of observing road safety rules, as well as laws that will help reduce the number of car accidents and keep injuries minor, are constantly created and implemented by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Though drivers are the primary targets of these programs (because records show that about 90% of car crashes are due to driver error), the NHTSA makes sure that all others who can affect road safety comply with safety standards, like car manufacturers, or are provided their needed guidance and assistance, like state and local government agencies, specifically those that are responsible in the construction and maintenance of roads. This is due to the fact that drivers are not the only ones at fault in car crashes; car manufacturers and agencies involved in the construction and maintenance of roads, highways, bridges, interchanges and other related structures, can also, at times, be held accountable in road accidents.

Specifically providing support to “State and local governments in the design, construction, and maintenance of the Nation’s highway system” is the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), an agency within the US Department of Transportation. Through the FHWA’s Federal Aid Highway Program, financial and technical assistance are extended to State and local governments, to help ensure that “America’s roads and highways continue to be among the safest and most technologically sound in the world.”

This is because construction and maintenance of roads and highways are the responsibilities of States, municipalities and cities. These branches of the government are expected to construct safe and technologically sound roadways, as well as repair highway defects, like missing or poorly constructed guardrails, poorly lighted streets, traffic signs blocked by trees or other fixtures, wrong or missing road signs, lack of railroad crossing lights, roadway debris, uneven pavement, and potholes.

Drivers, who fail to notice potholes or roadway debris and drive over these, can lose control of their vehicle and possibly end up in an accident. States, however, are said to be immune from any form of liability, despite injuries during an accident. This immunity is based on the doctrine called “government immunity” or “sovereign immunity.”

Despite the great difficulty in suing the government and holding it liable for all the damages and losses suffered by a victim due to the need to prove that it is guilty of gross negligence, there is nothing that says it cannot be done.

On its website, the Sampson Law Firm strongly emphasizes that victims of car accidents, whether due to careless drivers, vehicle defects, or dangerous roadways, should not have to pay for the costs of a car accident that occurred through no fault of their own.

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Human Error in Vehicle Accidents

The common palliative that most people offer nervous airplane passengers is that it is more likely for people to die on the road than in the air. What they fail to mention is that this is because of the law of numbers; the average person log in more land miles than air miles traveled, so naturally it is statistically more likely that people will die from land-based vehicle accidents. One doesn’t even have to be in a vehicle to be involved in a vehicle accident, such as pedestrian accidents. However, there is always the risk of being involved in an accident, and the consequences of serious injuries would be just as devastating no matter what mode of travel.

There are a variety of dangers that different vehicles pose, from car to cruise ship accidents. In most cases, human error is the main cause of an accident, such as a bug flying into the car and distracting the driver, who in turn fails to slow down at an intersection. It could be the pilot misreading the information, or the ship’s captain making the wrong call at a crucial moment. One could say that these are unfortunate but honest mistakes, and it would be difficult to find fault.

However, according to the website of the Goings Law Firm, LLC, in Columbia, South Carolina, if the accident happened because the driver was high on drugs, or the pilot had one too many glasses of the complimentary wine, fault can and should be established.  These are examples of reckless behavior, and when it results in serious injury or death to other people, the perpetrator becomes civilly and perhaps also criminally liable. Filing a personal injury lawsuit against the negligent party is one way to get compensation for any costs incurred associated with the accident-related injuries or death.

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