What Happens if You Are Injured by a Road Defect?

Even though the vast majority of vehicle accidents are caused by the careless or negligent actions of other drivers, there are times when incidents are caused by roadway defects. It is important to understand liability issues when a roadway defect accident occurs. Who pays compensation to the injury or property damage victims? Is determining liability difficult? What types of compensation are available?

Common Roadway Defects That Cause Accidents?

Sit down and talk to any driver in Oregon, and you will likely hear a horror story about a roadway defect that caused or nearly caused an accident. The reality is that even though our government officials try to do everything they can about road issues, they simply cannot keep up with all the defects that pop up on a regular basis. 

There are a wide variety of types of road defects that can cause serious accidents and injuries. This includes, but is not limited to, the following:

  • Potholes
  • Steep shoulder drop-offs
  • Unreasonably tight curves or altered roadways
  • Missing, confusing, or incorrect traffic signs
  • Uneven pavement caused by debris or construction
  • Pooling water on the roadway
  • Loose gravel (particularly a problem for bicyclists and motorcyclists)

Who Could be Held Liable?

In general, it is going to be state, county, or local municipal officials responsible for roadway defect corrections. However, holding a government entity responsible for a personal injury or property damage is more difficult than a typical Portland personal injury claim. There is a higher burden of proof than usual injury claims, which is owed to special immunity that government entities typically enjoy.

The Oregon Tort Claims Act can be used to file a personal injury claim against government entities in this state. The Tort Claims Act is a partial waiver of government sovereign immunity and allows individuals to file claims against the government involving vehicle accidents if the incident was caused by a government employee carrying out their duties at the time the incident occurred. In this case, the government entity would be road maintenance crews.

In order to prove these claims, it will need to be shown that the government entity responsible for the roadway knew about the defect and failed to take steps to remedy the situation or warn drivers about the hazard.

Other parties that can be held responsible include private construction companies, and the burden of proof for an injury claim will not be as high as it is for government claims. A lawsuit against a construction company would be a traditional civil personal injury lawsuit where the plaintiff will have to show that a preponderance of evidence points to the construction company causing the incident.

What Types of Compensation Are Available?

There may be various types of compensation available if a person is successful with their claim against a government entity or another party due to a roadway defect. This includes various types of economic and non-economic compensation that may be awarded through an insurance settlement or a personal injury jury verdict:

  • Coverage of any medical bills arising due to the incident
  • Compensation for long-term therapy or rehabilitation
  • Payments for prescription medications or medical devices
  • Physical and emotional pain and suffering damages
  • Property damage expenses

We strongly encourage any person who has been injured due to a roadway defect in Oregon to work with a skilled Portland car accident attorney who has experience handling these claims. An attorney will examine the facts of the case and help point you in the right direction toward recovering the compensation you need.