Court Determines that a Lack of Adequate Construction Zone Warnings May Give Rise to Governmental Liability

New construction zones pop up all the time, especially during the summer. Even when a driver is paying attention to the warnings, a driver can still misunderstand the signs and enter the wrong lane. For that reason, adequate warnings are essential.

Road WorkIn a recent case, a man was killed in an accident while he was driving his motorcycle through a construction zone. The man inadvertently drove into a closed lane, and when he tried to go back to an open lane, he hit an uneven surface and was thrown off his motorcycle and into traffic. The man’s estate sued the state’s transportation commission and the state’s department of transportation for failing to place proper warnings, failing to properly maintain the condition of the road, and creating hazardous driving conditions.

The defendants argued that they were immune from liability because the placement of the traffic control warning was within their discretion. The court rejected their argument and denied their immunity claim. The court noted that a governmental entity and its employees acting within the scope of employment are not liable in that state for actions that are discretionary.

Here, the defendants were governmental entities, and generally immunity would apply. However, the court found that while the overarching duty to equip the state with traffic control devices is discretionary, there were also narrower duties at issue. Here, the duties at issue were not discretionary but instead “ministerial.” State regulations required that construction sites have temporary striping or edge lines. In this case, none had been placed. The construction site also had failed to remove temporary markings. Accordingly, the conduct did not fall within the government’s immunity, and the court allowed the suit to proceed.

Construction Zone Accidents

Construction zones pose an additional safety hazard. Road conditions change, different driving patterns are required, and the stretch of road under construction generally becomes more dangerous. Usually, construction zones have clear warnings and require reduced speed limits, but accidents can still occur. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, there were 87,606 crashes in construction zones in 2010. From 2003 to 2010, 962 accidents at construction zones resulted in fatalities. During this time period, Illinois was ranked second in the nation for the number of fatal injuries at road construction sites, amounting to 50 fatalities.

Claims Arising from Construction Zone Accidents

There are a number of claims that can arise after construction zone accidents. They can result from another driver’s negligence or from the construction site owner’s own negligence. Claims against other drivers can include speeding or a failure to adhere to instructions. Claims against the site owner can include unsafe road conditions, failure to adequately warn drivers, and failure to properly mark lanes.

Have You Been Injured in a Construction Zone?

If you have been injured in a construction zone accident or in another motorcycle accident, you may be able to seek compensation. If you can prove that an accident was entirely or at least partially the fault of another person or entity, you may be able to recover economic and non-economic damages. These damages can include medical bills, lost income, out-of-pocket expenses, property damage, and pain and suffering. The Chicago attorneys at Moll Law Group are available to advise you on how best to proceed. Billions of dollars have been recovered in cases in which we were involved. Call us at 312-462-1700 or use our online form to set up a free consultation.

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