There are many potential causes of Las Vegas car accidents and not all of them involve human error. While most of these accidents occur because of the negligence of one of the drivers involved–such as a speeding or intoxicated driver–not all accidents can be blamed on vehicle operators. One commonly overlooked cause of injury accidents is a dangerous or hazardous roadway. Insurance companies and police officers are quick to assume that a driver is to blame for an accident.
When a hazardous roadway causes a crash, you need an experienced Nevada car accident attorney on your side who can help you to understand what your rights are, how to prove that the hazardous roadway was the cause of the collision, and guide you through seeking damages.
What is a hazardous roadway?
A hazard is a danger, risk, or something that acts as a potential source of danger. Some hazards are temporary (like a rainstorm) and some are inherent to a roadway (like a bad design).
The hazardous conditions of a road include:
- Bad Weather — Weather conditions including rain, fog, wind, snow, ice, or sleet can make driving treacherous and dangerous because roads are more difficult to navigate and vehicles are more difficult to control.
- Lighting and Glare — Poor light at night or glare from the sun during the day or from powerful light sources at night can reduce visibility and are often the cause of accidents.
- Heavy Traffic — Congestion, with frequent stop-and-go driving, drivers changing lanes trying to find an advantage, frustration and flaring tempers, and so on, creates many dangerous situations.
- Road Work — Construction on the roadway or near the roadway often reduces the number of lanes or narrows lanes, puts pedestrians on the road (the construction workers), requires drivers to interpret complicated or confusing temporary traffic signaling, and presents an overall distraction to drivers.
- Accidents — Accidents can cause dangerous conditions for drivers approaching the accident scene. There is the immediate concern of a pile-up. There is also the potential for gawkers and lookie-loos to slow down or stop to stare at an accident and increase the hazard to drivers behind them. For example, the separate accidents that sometime develop on both sides of a freeway can be caused by this dangerous behavior. If you are approaching the scene of an accident and cannot render aid or assistance or provide eyewitness testimony, you should pass by the accident as safely as possible.
- Stationary hazards — Stationary hazards include vehicles parked on the road, lost cargo loads, debris, trees or dead animals, and construction equipment. These are objects that a driver needs to navigate around often quickly and with little warning to avoid collision.
- Mobile hazards — These are similar to stationary hazards with the added risk that they may be actively moving, such as animals, children darting across the road or playing in the road, dangerous drivers, and so on.
The hazardous characteristics of a road include:
- Dangerous Curves — Improper roadway design can result in dangerous curves or blind intersections that can cause rollovers or collisions.
- Lack of Guard Rails — Many roadways should have guardrails or center dividers to protect motorists from lane departure collisions.
- Poorly Maintained Roads — Roadways with ruts, uneven pavements, and potholes can be extremely hazardous to motorists. Motorcycle riders are particularly vulnerable to poorly maintained highways where higher speed driving can combine with broken road surfaces to be a disaster.
- Poor Visibility — The authority responsible for the roadway must ensure that visibility of street signs and traffic lights is not blocked. For example, foliage such as tree limbs sometimes grow in front of traffic signals and signs and should be trimmed or pruned back. Lack of proper lighting on roadways can also cause accidents.
- Poorly Designed Intersections — Some intersections have a bad design. Either they always had a bad design, or the design is no longer appropriate to contemporary usage of the road. For example, there could be nearby private entranceways that are too close to the intersection, or there could be an unprotected left turn at the intersection. A review of the history of a particular intersection can help determine if it is inherently dangerous to motorists.
- Road Defects — This may appear to be similar to poorly maintained roads, but some roads are poorly constructed and have problems from the beginning such as potholes or uneven driving surfaces.
- Improper Signage — Traffic signals and signs are sometimes contradictory or confusing, present information too late for it to be used, or are missing altogether. Local drivers may have learned to live with these hazards but visitors, for example the 42,116,800 tourists that came to Las Vegas in 2018, cannot be expected to know.
Types of crashes caused by hazardous roadways
A hazardous roadway has the potential to lead to any number of crash types, depending upon factors including the type of hazard, the speed of the vehicle, the direction the vehicle is traveling, the number of vehicles involved, and more. Potential crash types include:
- Single vehicle collisions — Single vehicle collisions are one of the most common types of crashes that occur when roadways are hazardous. For example, a driver may, in trying to avoid a fallen tree, swerve to the side of the road and crash into the median. Single vehicle collisions can also, in the most severe of cases, result in rollover crashes.
- Head-on collisions — Head on crashes are the most deadly accident type. When a roadway hazard is present, a driver may mistakenly operate their vehicle in the wrong lane, heading directly into the direction that traffic is coming, leading to a crash.
- Side-swipe, rear-end, and side-impact collisions — The most immediate reaction for a driver encountering a road hazard is to either try to stop quickly, or to try to swerve to avoid the hazard. These actions can be dangerous. They might save the driver from the immediate hazard, but they expose the driver to new dangers as nearby drivers in turn react to the unexpected behavior.
Which types of injuries are possible
Accident caused by a hazardous roadway have the potential to produce serious bodily injuries including:
- head injuries;
- traumatic brain injuries;
- spinal cord injuries;
- back injuries;
- severed limbs;
- puncture wounds;
- lacerations; and
How can you protect yourself on a hazardous roadway?
The best advice is to slow down when confronted with a dangerous condition.
Driving too fast in hazardous conditions leads to many of the accidents that occur on the roadways. By simply slowing down, you can give yourself more time to see the danger and react to what is happening in front of you and around you.
You can also drive defensively. Defensive driving tactics require you to pull over and stop at times if the conditions are so severe that continuing to drive would be hazardous. For example, it is often better to stop and wait out a pouring rainstorm than to try to move through certain conditions, even if you have no problem driving in heavy rain.
This isn’t a test of you driving abilities. Consider the other drivers on the road. Do they have the same levels of ability? If you think that road conditions are dangerous, they could be even more dangerous to other drivers.
If you do pull over to wait it out, park somewhere safe off of the roadway. You are still in danger and have increased the hazards to other drivers if you park on the shoulder.
Who is to blame for a car accident caused by a hazardous roadway?
When a vehicle accident occurs in Nevada, the party who is at fault for the collision is the party who is responsible for paying for the damages sustained by any victims of the crash.
Unfortunately, it can be very difficult to determine exactly what went wrong and who is to blame when a hazardous roadway causes or contributes to an accident. Potentially liable parties that might be considered include:
- The authority (for example a city, county, or state government) that is responsible for maintenance of the roadway, had knowledge of the hazard, but failed to correct the hazard;
- A construction company that improperly placed temporary traffic signals, signs, and control devices (for example, cones, barricades, and so on); and
- Another driver who may or may not be a party to the accident (for example, a driver swerves to avoid a hazard and thereby creates a hazard for other drivers).