In West Virginia, summer is not only family travel season, it is also road construction season. This means lots of delays and traffic jams on your way to your destinations. But we all know that the roads need to be maintained and repaired; otherwise, they will fall apart and become unsafe for drivers. If you are going on a road trip this summer, allow plenty of extra time to account for potential delays, and be patient as you go through construction work zones.
Increased numbers of road construction projects inevitably heighten the risks of traffic-related accidents and injuries. If you or a loved one suffered injury in a road construction accident in West Virginia, this type of case can be far more complicated than a typical auto accident.
Whether you were a vehicle driver, passenger, motorcyclist, or construction worker, you need strong legal counsel in your corner working hard to get you the compensation you deserve. As soon as possible after the accident, call Bailey, Javins, and Carter L.C. at (800) 497-0234 or (800) 296-6979 for a free consultation and case assessment with one of our attorneys.
Determining Liability for Road Construction Accidents
Responsibility for an accident during road construction is determined the same way as other types of accidents – based on the underlying cause and all contributing factors. But as we talked about earlier, construction zone accident cases are typically more complex because there are several potential causes that are unique to this type of situation, and there are a number of different parties that could be held liable.
Possible causes of road construction accidents include:
- Poorly Marked Construction Zones: In some cases, construction zones are set up poorly, causing drivers to get confused as they are routed into a different lane or a detour. When the zones are poorly marked or the construction vehicles are missing proper warning lights, motorists can end up rear ending or side swiping another vehicle or crashing into a construction barrier.
- Bright/Blinding Lights: When there are construction projects going on at night, they often use high intensity work lighting. The problem with this lighting is that it can temporarily blind an oncoming motorist and force them to guess at what is in front of them.
- Road Defects: Some construction zone crashes can happen because of defects in the roadways, such as potholes, uneven shoulders, overgrown vegetation, damaged guardrails, and poorly designed roadways.
- Debris Left on The Roads: A construction zone accident can happen because of building material and debris that is carelessly left in the traffic areas. This can cause tire blowouts and other types of damage if a vehicle strikes material and debris that should not be there.
- Workers Standing Too Close to Traffic: Construction zone workers often have very limited space in which to operate, but sometimes they are too close to the vehicles that are crossing through the zone.
- Speeding Motorists: When motorists encounter construction zones, they often become very impatient and want to get through them as quickly as possible. But speeding through a construction zone greatly increases the chances of a collision.
- Equipment Malfunction: A construction zone accident can result from dangerous or defective construction equipment that malfunctions and causes the crash.
Parties that could be responsible for construction zone accidents include:
- Motorists: A motorist who was speeding, driving recklessly, distracted, intoxicated, or otherwise driving negligently could be held liable if they caused injuries in a construction zone crash.
- Construction Companies: The company that is overseeing the construction project could be at fault if their failure to keep the work zone reasonably safe causes a road construction accident.
- Cities and Municipalities: If the crash happened because of defects or problems with the roadways, this could be the fault of the city or municipality that owns the roads. Claims against the government involve special rules and stricter timelines, however, so be sure to discuss this with your attorney.
- Product Manufacturers: If a road construction crash is caused by a vehicle defect or hazardous or defective construction equipment, then it may be possible to file a product liability claim against the designer, manufacturer, or distributor of the faulty product.
- Other Parties: Various other third parties might hold some responsibility for a vehicle crash in a construction zone. Examples include trucking companies, auto mechanics/repair shops, and ridesharing companies such as Uber or Lyft.
How Comparative Negligence affects West Virginia Road Construction Accidents
West Virginia uses a modified form of comparative negligence with personal injury cases. This means that someone who is injured in a construction zone accident can still recover damages even if they are partially liable. But according to state law, the plaintiff cannot be any more than 49% at fault for the accident to be eligible. If they are 50% or more at fault, then they can be barred from recovering damages.
It is also important to note that if a plaintiff is found to be partially liable for an accident, their damage award is reduced in proportion to the percentage of fault they share. For example, if you suffered a total of $100,000 in losses and you are found to be 20% at fault, your damages would be reduced by $20,000 down to a total of $80,000.
You can be sure that those who caused your injuries will try to pin at least some of the blame on you in order to minimize the compensation they have to pay out. And this is why it is very important to work with attorneys who have the proven ability to hold those responsible for construction zone accidents fully accountable.