Georgia has over 100,000 miles of roads, many of them in lousy shape. The Georgia Department of Transportation has estimated the state needs an extra billion dollars per year simply to maintain our existing roads. Until our state and local governments get serious about tackling this maintenance backlog, there will be an increasing number of wrecks caused by dangerous and unsafe roads.
If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident caused by an unsafe road, intersection or bridge, the city, county or state may be legally responsible for the wreck.
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Common Road Defects
Lawsuits resulting from unsafe roads are typically called road defect lawsuits. Common road defects that can cause wrecks and injuries, resulting in a lawsuit, include:
- Potholes, broken and uneven pavement;
- Steep drop-offs on the shoulder of the road;
- Inadequate sightlines at intersections;
- Improper drainage leading to puddling or standing water in roads;
- Missing stop signs, speed limit signs and other traffic control signs;
- Missing guardrails, barriers and lane dividers;
- Broken / malfunctioning traffic control devices;
- Inadequate lighting;
- Overgrown vegetation blocking stop signs and sight lines;
- Trees or other obstructions too close to the road;
Depending on whether the wreck occurred on a city, county or state road, there are different legal standards to hold the government responsible for a road defect.
Legal Responsibility of Cities
Under Georgia law, cities are legally responsible for injuries caused by road defects when the city negligently built or maintained the road. And if there’s a state or county road that runs through city limits, the city is responsible for injuries caused by road defects if the city constructed or agreed to maintain the road.
Legal Responsibility of Counties
With one exception, counties are immune from road defect lawsuits and cannot be held legally responsible for injuries caused by unsafe roads. The only exception is if a county employee negligently performs a “ministerial act” and has actual notice of a road defect, but successful road defect lawsuits against counties are rare.
One of the reasons cities maintain their streets and sidewalks is because they can be held legally responsible if someone is injured by an unsafe street. Since counties are immune from road defect lawsuits, they have less incentive to maintain their streets and keep them safe from road defects. Unfortunately, this leads to many dangerous and unsafe roads in more rural parts of the state.
Legal Responsibility of the State
Road defect lawsuits against the State are governed by the Georgia Tort Claims Act. The State may be held legally responsible in three situations:
- When the road or intersection is not built in “substantial compliance” with generally accepted engineering or design standards in effect at the time of construction;
- When the State negligent maintains a road or intersection so that they are not in substantial compliance with their original design;
- For road defects such as potholes, broken pavement, trees in the road, malfunctioning stop signs that the State has notice of;
Educate Yourself with our FREE Guide to Unsafe Road Liability
If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident caused by an unsafe road, intersection or bridge, call us for a free consultation.