Most drivers are aware of the dangers of a negligent motorist. Fortunately, when these motorists cause wrecks, the injured party can hold them legally liable for his or her resulting damages.
However, car accident laws could become incredibly confusing when the road’s physical conditions cause the crash, rather than another driver. If you experience a car accident due to bad road conditions in Altoona, determining from whom to seek compensation might require a seasoned Altoona car wreck attorney’s experience.
Many road conditions can lead to accidents, including potholes, sinkholes, improper signage, missing guardrails, insufficient road shoulders, and road debris. In most cases, a governmental body — such as a state, county, or municipality — is the entity responsible for a road’s maintenance.
If a dangerous road condition in Altoona causes a vehicle accident, the claimant must prove that the party responsible for road maintenance was negligent, that this negligence caused the accident, and that the defendant may be sued. This can be particularly challenging in claims arising from defective roadway conditions, as opposed to the negligence of another driver. However, the entities charged with maintaining the roads often have sovereign immunity, making it difficult to sue and collect damages.
Because governmental entities generally enjoy immunity from most civil claims, a plaintiff must show that his or her claim falls within one of certain established exceptions to the immunity protections. For claims against the Commonwealth itself, 42 Pa. Cons. Stat. §8522 sets forth the immunity exceptions, whereas 42 Pa. Cons. Stat. §8542 lists the exceptions for claims against local agencies, such as a local township.
42 Pa. Cons. Stat. §8522(b)(4) provides an exception to immunity, such that claims can be brought, for injuries arising from a dangerous condition of Commonwealth property, including highways. However, this requires that there be a defect “of” the highway itself, as opposed to a dangerous condition “on” the highway. For example, in Hall v. Southwestern Pa. Water Authority, 87 A.3d 998 (Pa. Commow. 2014), water had been inadequately drained, which resulted in pooling and freezing on the highway. The court noted that this condition did not derive from the road itself as is required to circumvent the immunity bar.
As to claims against local agencies, 42 Pa. Cons. Stat. §8542(b)(6) has an exception to immunity for dangerous conditions of streets. In Osborne v. Cambridge Township, 736 A.2d 715 (Pa. Commow. 1999), a driver was unable to pursue claims against a township, after colliding with a tree that had fallen across the township’s road. The court noted that the fallen tree was not a defect “of” the township road. An experiencing injury attorney could evaluate the facts of your accident and help determine whether a claim against a governmental party can be made, based upon problems with the road.
A car accident due to bad road conditions in Altoona can lead to extensive vehicular damage and bodily injury, and filing a claim against a governmental body can be tricky. In addition to the issues relating to sovereign immunity, it might be challenging to identify the party at fault, whether it was the city of Altoona, Blair County, or the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. There are also stringent notice requirements, as a statutory written notice must be provided to the government entity within six months of the incident. That notice must contain certain pieces of information, and if these requirements are not met, a claim may later be barred – even if the lawsuit is filed within the two-year statute of limitations.
Depending on the nature of your damages following the accident, our team at Marcus & Mack could advise you on the best course of action to improve your chances of securing compensation. Call today to learn more.