There is a saying in Texas: “The shortest distance between two points is under construction.” This saying is very true from the constant expansion of the I-34 and I-75 corridors running from central Texas to Dallas to the never-ending I-45 South construction running from Houston to Galveston. Often the construction causes lanes to be diverted and debris to be left lying around. This article will address who is potentially liable when an accident occurs in a road construction zone.
Traffic Rules Still Apply
First off, keep in mind that traffic rules still apply. Drivers are especially cautioned to keep a proper lookout for both pedestrians and other motorists in construction areas. Temporary signs changing the speed limit or requiring stops are enforceable. If you or another driver cause the accident by ignoring the traffic signs that are put up, then the offending party is responsible.
Who is Liable for an Unmarked Construction Zone Accident?
Usually, the company that was placed in charge of the project via city or state contract is responsible for improperly marked and unmarked construction areas. The city or state government that assigns the contract to the contractor is usually protected by sovereign immunity in Texas. The rule of sovereign immunity gives the government the discretion to decide when and where to put up traffic control devices. You cannot sue the city or state for deciding a traffic control device was not required somewhere. You can generally only sue if the city or state decided to put a traffic control device up, it was then torn down, and the city or state responsible was aware it was gone and failed to act timely to replace it. See Sovereign Immunity and the Texas Tort Claims Act.
What is a Traffic Control Plan?
A traffic control plan is a schematic that lays out how the company intends to ensure the safe flow of traffic and workers through, in, and around the construction zone while the job is underway. These plans typically have diagrams and detailed descriptions of where the roadway will be altered to the traffic and how motorists will be warned. The contractor awarded the job understands that they must provide the state agency with a traffic control plan.
Determining Where Things Went Wrong
Obtaining a copy of the traffic control plan either via subpoena or by a Freedom of Information Act request is the easiest way to determine what, if anything, was done incorrectly. There are often contractors and subcontractors involved on the job and each is responsible for being aware of the traffic control plan and doing their part to comply with it. If the layout of roads and signs fail to comply with the traffic control plan, the party who set it up wrong may be liable for any car accident caused by the confusion it creates.
Talk to a Personal Injury Attorney
In 2001, the Texas Department of Transportation (TXDOT) reported that 244 people were killed in construction zone accidents. If you have been seriously injured in a car accident in a confusing construction zone, it is important that you talk to an attorney about whether there may be a case against persons other than just other motorists who may or may not have sufficient insurance. Simmons and Fletcher, P.C., Injury & Accident Lawyers offer free consultations on car accident cases involving injuries. Call 1-800-298-0111 to learn more.