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August 13, 2015

Who Can Be Held Liable for Accidents Caused By Road Defects?


According to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (DOT), there were 121,317 reportable motor vehicle accidents[1] during 2014. Accidents can occur for a number of reasons, and a significant number of accidents each year are the result of poor road maintenance or design. These kinds of accidents have the potential to cause serious injuries, some of which can result in long-term medical conditions or even disabilities that prevent victims from living independently or working. Fortunately for victims, in many instances people who are injured in accidents caused by road defects can recover compensation from the party or parties responsible for their accident.

In some cases, the fact that an accident was caused by a road defect is apparent while, in others, in may be unclear to people without legal training that a defect caused or contributed to an accident. For this reason, it is important for people who have been injured in motor vehicle accidents to always have an attorney review the facts of their case as soon as possible after an incident happens.

Various defects can cause serious accidents

Roadways can range from dirt roads found in rural areas to elevated highways that are examples of state-of-the-art engineering. Most of the roads that we drive on a daily basis have been designed, built, and are maintained by the DOT. In addition, many trips taken by motor vehicle start or end on private property such as driveways or commercial parking lots. When these roadways are negligently designed, constructed, or maintained, serious defects can occur as a result. In many instances, these defects are capable of causing serious car accidents. Some common examples of roadway defects that often result in motor vehicle crashes include the following:

  • Potholes
  • Inadequate drainage
  • Overgrown vegetation
  • Inadequate lighting
  • Malfunctioning traffic signals
  • Inadequate signage
  • Missing guardrails
  • Poor quality materials
  • No shoulder
  • Excessive grade

After an accident, you should make note of the condition or conditions that you believe may have caused their accident. If you are able, take pictures of the area in which the accident occurred, paying special attention to document the condition of the road or the existence of any hazards.

Suing public agencies can be complicated

As mentioned above, the majority of roads that most of us utilize on a daily basis are public property and are the responsibility of the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (DOT). As a result, the DOT is often the party against whom one would assert a claim in the event of an accident caused by a road defect. Under a legal doctrine known as “sovereign immunity,” the government is immune from lawsuits except to the extent to which it has consented. As a government agency, the DOT is covered by this doctrine. Fortunately for Pennsylvania residents, the Pennsylvania government has authorized lawsuits against itself through the Political Subdivision Tort Claims Act,[2] albeit with significant liability limits. Because claims against the government are often very different than those asserted against private parties, it important for victims of motor vehicle accidents caused by road defects to retain an attorney familiar with handling these types of claims.           

A Philadelphia car accident can often help victims recover compensation

It is highly advisable for anyone who has been injured in a car accident caused by a road defect to retain legal counsel as soon as possible. There are several ways that an attorney can help victims obtain the compensation to which they are legally entitled. Some of the most common are detailed below:

  • Ensure that your claim is filed correctly and within the statute of limitation
  • Negotiate a settlement agreement with the insurance company
  • Represent you in any court proceedings that may occur
  • Engage in mediation
  • Cover up-front costs associated with investigating and litigating your claim

The kinds of damages that are often available in car accident cases include medical expenses, property damage, physical and emotional pain and suffering, lost income, and loss of quality of life, among others. In some cases, these claims may be necessary in order to provide victims who are unable to work financial security in the future. Consequently, it is extremely important for victims to ensure that their legal rights are protected by retaining a Philadelphia car accident lawyer that is familiar with representing people injured in preventable accidents.


[1] http://www.dot.state.pa.us/public/Bureaus/HighwaySafety/Web%20Development/

[2] http://www.legis.state.pa.us/WU01/LI/LI/CT/HTM/42/00.085..HTM

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