Despite the So-Called “Government Immunity” or “Sovereign Immunity,” States, Municipalities and Cities can be Held Liable for Road Crashes
When a car crashes due to reasons that are purely unexpected or totally out of man’s control, such as an earthquake, an erupting volcano, a tornado, hail, lightning, hurricane, windstorm or any other naturally-occurring catastrophe, or it can be a sudden-medical-emergency, like a heart attack or a syncopal episode, a condition wherein a person experiences a sudden drop in blood pressure, causing him/her to pass out, then blame is placed on act of nature, more commonly known as “act of God.”
Since natural disasters or sudden-medical-emergencies cannot be foreseen or prevented, courts usually do not hold a driver accountable for resulting accidents; civil lawsuits that would allow injured victims to claim compensatory damages are, therefore, dismissed. Those injured can, instead, recover damages from their respective insurance provider, regardless of the cause or who was at-fault in the accident.
The case is totally different if an accident were a result of an act of negligence. An act of negligence, which is a major contributory factor to errors that result to accidents may be committed by drivers themselves, by or by state, municipality or city officials entrusted with the construction, repair and maintenance of roads, highways and bridges. Driver-controlled errors, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA), include drunk-driving, speeding, distracted driving, and reckless driving, among others. Errors by car manufacturers can include production of defectively designed cars or use of defectively manufactured car parts (the only problem with this is defects are only usually discovered after these have already caused an accident).
While drivers and manufacturers can easily be held accountable for accidents resulting from their negligence, holding a government agency liable, due to road defects or poorly constructed or maintained roads, can be very challenging due to the so-called “government immunity” or “sovereign immunity,” which renders states, immune from any form of liability, despite injuries during an accident.
Defective roads are characterized by missing or poorly constructed guardrails, poorly lighted streets, traffic signs blocked by trees or other fixtures, wrong or missing road signs, lack of railroad crossing lights, roadway debris, uneven pavement, water pooling on roads, potholes, and so forth. Drivers, who fail to notice potholes or other road hazards can easily lose control of their vehicle and suffer an accident.
In their website, Milwaukee car accident lawyers of Habush Habush & Rottier, S.C. ®, says that, “Due to the high rate of speed that drivers reach while on a highway, motorists can be seriously injured when a defect with the roadway causes a car accident. Typically, road maintenance is the responsibility of government agencies. However, these agencies may not be as responsible or proactive as they are supposed to be, potentially leading to catastrophic auto accidents.”
Immunity of government agencies from lawsuits is not absolute. If it can be proven that there is gross negligence in maintaining a roadway then holding a government agency liable and claiming compensation from it are not impossible, especially if an accident victim is represented by a determined and experienced personal injury lawyer.