When the road conditions are dangerous, even the safest of motorists and bicyclists are at risk of wrecking. Various roadway conditions can cause damage to your car and easily lead to an accident, such as:
- Fallen trees
- Uncovered drains
- Narrow roads and sharp turns
- Shoulder drop-offs
- Faded, broken, hidden, or missing signs
- Uneven surfaces
- Improper drainage
Obtaining compensation for these types of accidents can be challenging. When another driver is responsible for the accident, you can simply file a claim against them to recover your losses. But who is liable when road defects caused your accident? Below, we review the basics of hazardous road accident claims and what options victims have for recovery. To discuss your case with an attorney who routinely handles hazardous road accidents in New Orleans, call Cueria Law Firm at 888-479-0220 and schedule a free consultation.
Who is liable when dangerous roads cause an accident?
In New Orleans, either the Department of Public Works (DPW) or the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD) is responsible for the upkeep of public roads. Our tax dollars sponsor the installation, maintenance, repair, and improvement of the roadways, and the town has a duty of care to the people protect them from an unreasonable risk of harm.
If an agency falls short of its duty, such as by designing defective roadways or failing to fix faults and defects on the roads — and people are hurt as a result — then the government entity that is in charge might be liable for victims’ damages.
To determine exactly who the liable party (defendant) is for a defective roadway-related accident, your attorney can investigate the situation and identify the proper authority.
What do Louisiana’s government immunity laws entail?
Unlike most states, Louisiana’s immunity laws are very public/victim-friendly. In other states, government agencies enjoy a large degree of immunity from lawsuits. These states have implemented self-protecting immunity laws that shield themselves from financial liability in personal injury suits. People who sustain injury in accidents resulting from a government agency’s or government worker’s negligence typically have very limited recovery options.
Fortunately for victims, Louisiana does not shield itself from tort lawsuits like other states do. La. Const. Art. XII, § 10(A) clearly states: “Neither the state, a state agency, nor a political subdivision shall be immune from suit and liability in contract or for injury to person or property.” In other words, victims have every right to pursue a claim against a government board, commission, department, or agency when they sustain injury through negligence.
What defense does the government commonly use in liability suits?
When accident victims injured by dangerous roads try to sue the government agency in charge, it is likely that the agency might try to use the “Public Duty Doctrine” as a defense. The Public Duty Doctrine essentially provides that the government can only be liable when they breach a duty of care to an individual — not the public at large.
USLegal.com explains the doctrine: “A governmental entity can be held liable only when the duty breached was owed to the injured person as an individual and was not merely the breach of an obligation owed to the public at large… In short a duty to all is a duty to no one.”
While this would likely mean that filing a lawsuit would be impossible — road maintenance is a public issue, not individual — roadways are somewhat of a gray area. While the Public Duty Doctrine shields governmental entities when they are performing their duties to the public, the DPW and DOTD are responsible for maintenance of roads. This means that accident and injury victims may be able to hold governmental entities liable, with some exceptions. Your lawyer will examine your case to see if you are eligible to file a claim against one of these governmental entities.
Are there any limits to dangerous road condition lawsuits?
While you may be entitled to bring a claim against a government agency for neglecting to keep safe roads, you must observe a couple limits that do not apply to regular civil suits.
Firstly, there is a limit on the amount of damages you can recover. Louisiana Revised Statutes § 13:5106(B)(1) states that the total liability of the state for all damages for personal injury to any one person shall not exceed $500,000.
Also, if the court finds you partly liable for the accident, your degree of fault will reduce your damage award. So, if you were speeding on a dangerous road when the accident occurred and received 25 percent fault for the accident, you will only receive 75 percent of the value of your losses, not to exceed the $500,000 damage cap.
Types of damages
Whereas you might be able to cover a wide array of damages in a regular personal injury suit against a person or business, Louisiana laws limit the types of damages that are compensable in a suit against the government. In cases of this nature, you can only win a damage award for the following types of losses: property damages, medical care and related benefits, loss of earnings, and loss of future earnings. You cannot recover emotional damages such as pain and suffering.
Note, the time limits and procedural requirements for filing a claim against the government are also typically shorter and more stringent than they are for non-government claims. You will want to speak to an attorney that handles accident claims involving dangerous road conditions as soon as possible for information on when and how to proceed. Procrastinating or not following claim protocols to a T could thwart your rights to benefits.
How do I determine the value of my case?
A serious bicycle or auto accident can cause massive financial issues for an individual or family, so the value of your case may be considerable. Medical bills can be exorbitant and your income might drastically go down if you are unable to return to work for some time. If you have sustained a permanent disability, your injury could permanently hinder your earning capacity. Fortunately, all of these are compensable if you win your dangerous road condition injury case.
If you and your attorney are able to prove your claim, the Louisiana court that hears your case will determine the value of your damages. The judge will look at all of your medical and related expenses, proof of lost wages, and input from your doctors about your prognosis and future medical needs, as well as any other evidence that you bring to confirm your damages.
Make sure to keep thorough records to share; retain all receipts and bills for your injury-related needs. This includes those for things like surgical bills, hospitalization, physical rehabilitation, check-ups, custodial services, prescriptions, and prosthetic devices.
Where can I find a firm that handles New Orleans accident cases?
Our attorneys at Cueria Law Firm accept all types of injury and wrongful death cases, including complicated claims against government agencies for dangerous road conditions. It is our practice to fight diligently for full and fair compensation; we have a passion for helping hurt Louisianans get the compensation they need and deserve when they have been injured by preventable accidents.
Contact our office today and schedule a free consultation at your convenience: 888-479-0220.