Most truck accidents are caused by negligent drivers. Many truck drivers speed, drive while intoxicated, drive while fatigued, or drive distracted. Defective truck parts such as bad brakes, and defective tires can cause fatal and catastrophic truck accidents. Still, sometimes truck accidents are the fault of the state of Oklahoma, a subdivision (a county) of the state or town, or agencies such as the Oklahoma Department of Transportation, which have the responsibility for designing and maintaining the roads and highways.
Poor road design and/or maintenance, which can lead to road defects, can contribute to truck accidents on highways and state roads. Those cases are challenging, but today we’re going to explain the basics of them.
What kind of roadway defects lead to Tulsa truck accidents?
A lot of road defects are due to poor roadway design. Often, a roadway engineer or other expert is called to testify that the roadway failed to comply with normal roadway standards or was designed in such a way as to increase the likelihood of deaths and injuries. Some of these flaws could include:
- Using subquality roadway surface materials.
- Not having traffic signals or roadway signs at intersections.
- Designing intersections where it’s unclear which lanes have the right-of-way.
- Not giving trucks and other vehicles enough room to merge from ramps and other entry points. The roads should be designed so that the vehicles coming from the ramps which often have a 25-mph speed limit due to the curvature can merge into traffic going at much higher speeds.
- Not providing enough lanes for roads that are reasonably expected to have heavy traffic.
- Designing roads with unsafe curves and ramps.
- Failing to design roads to enhance and make clear where the traffic should flow.
- Not building roads with enough shoulder space. Truck drivers may need to pull off to the side of the road if the driver is tired or if the truck becomes disabled. Shoulders are often designed for cars but not for wide trucks. If the truck is partially on the road, accidents can occur as other vehicles try to avoid the truck.
- Not leveling the edges of the roads so the truck doesn’t drive into a ditch.
- Not considering the special needs of trucks. Roads that permit truck traffic should be designed to support trucks up to specific weight limits, so that the trucks don’t damage the roads themselves.
Examples of road defects caused by poor maintenance and repair
Poor maintenance can lead to a lot of problems on the road; just think about how difficult it is to drive on a road with potholes. There are a lot of other types of defects related to maintenance and repair that may cause truck accidents:
- Poor drainage can cause water to pool or cause roads to become slick.
- Unclear signs or missing signs can lead to wrong-way crashes.
- Failing to clear trees can make curves and hills dangerous.
- Not installing lane dividers or markers can lead to sideswipe collisions.
- Failing to fix broken traffic signals can increase the risk of head-on collisions.
- Uneven roads can cause tire blowouts or increase the chance of a rollover.
- Missing lights make it hard for drivers to see. Very bright lights can also affect a truck driver’s vision. Quality lighting is imperative in areas where pedestrians are walking, and cyclists are riding.
- Not clearing any vehicles that were involved in accidents, or failing to direct traffic while investigating a traffic accident, can increase the risk of a collision.
What are the limits on filing claims against the state?
There are strict requirements for filing a claim against the state or a governmental entity for poor road design or repairs. You need to file a timely notice of tort claim against the governmental unit. The notice is generally a letter that informs the governmental entity when and how the accident happened, which governmental entity is involved, the injuries and damage suffered, and the demand for compensation.
- You need to wait at least 90 days after service of the notice before you can file a lawsuit.
- You have 180 days to file the lawsuit after the denial of the claim by the government.
There are caps on the amount you can recover when filing a lawsuit against the state or a government unity or agency. You can’t recover punitive damages in governmental claims for truck accidents or other accidents due to negligence
An experienced Tulsa truck accident understands the process for filing governmental claims. We also understand how claims are handled when both the state and private individuals (such as drivers or truck part manufacturers) are also responsible for a truck accident.
In some cases, truck accident injury victims may have a direct claim against the private owners of private roads.
Governmental responsibility for construction accidents
Another common roadway safety problem occurs when the Department of Transportation or repair crews are constructing or repairing roads. The construction work must be performed to protect and inform drivers. Drivers should have plenty of warning that lanes are merging/reducing. The drivers should be able to see the workers. Many other safety precautions during construction are required.
Governmental responsibility for bad weather
Sometimes, bad weather makes roads impassable. When the snow is too heavy, the governmental entities responsible for the traffic on the specific roads should take steps to inform (warn) drivers that the roads and/or lanes are closed, blocked, or otherwise off-limits, and that visibility may be poor in certain stretches.
Governmental units have similar responsibilities for roads during hurricanes and other types of inclement weather.
At Biby Law Firm, our Tulsa truck accident lawyers understand the complexities of filing claims against the state or governmental entities. We file wrongful death claims if a loved one dies. We demand compensation for your pain and suffering, medical bills, and lost income if the roadway design or the failure to properly the highways or streets caused your injuries. We’ll guide you through each step of the litigation process. Many cases against the state do settle. We’re ready to try your case in court when necessary. To speak with a premier Tulsa truck accident lawyer, call us at 918-547-8458 or use our contact form to schedule an appointment.
Jacob Biby has spent his legal career helping folks just like you get the resources they need after an injury. He completed his undergraduate degree at Oklahoma State University and earned his Juris Doctorate from the University of Tulsa in 2008. Jacob is licensed to practice in all Oklahoma state and federal courts, and has limited his career to representing individuals and families who were injured by the negligence of other people or corporations. Learn more about Jacob Biby.