Some auto accidents occur because of road debris that forces a driver to react suddenly to the obstacle, leading to an accident. In many cases, the person or entity that accidentally left the obstacle in the road or was unable to remove it quickly can be liable for damages. Damage claims against the government or private parties could be filed once the responsible party is identified through investigations by law enforcement and an experienced injury attorney at the Montero Law Center. Do you believe you have a case? We invite you to take advantage of our firm’s free initial consultation where you will have the opportunity to get answers to your most pressing questions. Call us today to schedule your appointment.
How do you file a claim against the state’s government for road debris or obstructions?
If potholes or debris left on a public road causes a vehicle accident, it is possible that some government entity may have breached its duty to provide adequate road maintenance. It could be the state or municipal government responsible for road maintenance. Many times, negligence claims against government entities can be difficult because governments often attempt to use sovereign immunity to avoid such lawsuits.
However, in Florida, sovereign immunity is waived, though there are limitations on what injured plaintiffs can recover and which agencies still can legally claim immunity. Other special requirements must be met for one to bring a personal injury claim against a government entity [Fla. Stat. § 768.28]. A “notice of claim” must be filed within three years after the accident.
But if a private contractor, such as a road improvement or maintenance company retained by the state or municipal government ends up being the liable party, traditional accident law applies, though it is conceivable that the government could share liability if it did not supervise the contracted company properly. Consult an attorney to learn if there may be more than one liable party in your specific claim.
Claims Against Other Private Parties
If a private party’s negligence caused your accident – such as failing to clean up a truck’s cargo that fell onto a highway – a law enforcement investigation should identify the offender. For example, the driver of the transporting vehicle owes a duty to take reasonable precautions to keep cargo secure, and if the cargo suddenly becomes unsecured and falls onto the highway, then the driver could be liable. This duty also includes including driving responsibly enough to keep the cargo from falling onto the highway.
But if the driver is an employee of a transport company or retail firm, then it is possible that driver’s employer also may be liable for damages under a legal doctrine known as “respondent superior.” It means that employers are responsible for the harmful acts their employees commit while acting in the normal performance of their duties. To sustain a claim against an employer based on respondent superior, the injured plaintiff’s attorney must show that the employee’s negligence was committed during the scope of employment, and the act was foreseeable.
Private citizens are also liable in certain instances for damages if they are responsible for causing a road obstruction accident. Persons involved in an accident are supposed to make “every reasonable effort to move the vehicle or have it moved so as not to obstruct the regular flow of traffic” [Fla. Stat. § 316.27 (3)]. If they fail and the obstructive vehicle is the proximate or contributory cause to a subsequent accident, then the driver(s) might be liable for damages in the second accident.
The same liability holds for debris discharged from a vehicle, such as from an open-bed pickup, that then causes an accident. In such cases, though, the injured plaintiff’s attorney likely will have to conduct an investigation to find the responsible party.
Contact Montero Law for a free consultation at 954-767-6500 or click here to fill out our case evaluation form if you or members of your family are injured in a traffic accident due to an obstruction in the roadway.