Have you ever wondered who was legally liable whenever a movie character hit a deer while driving on a back road? Is the deer crossing the road, or is the driver crossing the forest? Who is on the other path? This is one of the many complexities of a road hazard accident.

Such accidents, despite often being beyond the driver's control, often cause severe property damage, injury, and even death.

Sadly, this is the fate of more than 200,000 drivers each year in America. Most of them wake up each morning, fasten their seat belts, drive within limits, and obey every rule in the book, only to become victims due to road hazards and the negligence of others.

Sometimes it's a pothole; other times a dangerous road or a fallen tree; regardless, these circumstances leave many Americans suffering with bills and expenses for no fault.

Most drivers drive away without legal representation or advice, accepting liability or finding themselves on the receiving end of unfair settlements.

You Deserve Justice 

Have you been involved in a road hazard accident, are injured, and facing thousands of dollars in property damage and medical bills?

If so, save time apologizing or going back and forth with insurance adjusters; we believe the law has a say in your situation.

Our lawyers here at Ryan Hughes are a zealous team of advocates that will work to help you:

  • Build a solid case  for your injuries and damages.
  • Get compensation for any damages you might have faced. 
  • Hold to account any parties that were involved in your accident.
  • Bring to justice any malicious wrongdoers in your case.

Call us at (727) 266-0022 orvisit our officesat 101E. Kennedy Blvd Suite 3920 Tampa Fl 33602, our teams will be more than willing to help.

What Is a Road Hazard Accident?

Road Hazard accident

This is an accident that is caused by bad road conditions. A road hazard is an unsafe road condition that can harm drivers and other road users. An example of this is a poorly built road or a pothole.

When driving, there are factors within and beyond your control in play. Think about it; there is little you can do to control the weather or the actions of other drivers.

When the quality and condition of the road itself puts you and other road users in danger, this condition is called a road hazard accident.

Examples of Road Hazards You Probably Drive By Each Day

Road Hazards

Road hazards and their subsequent accidents are more common than you can imagine; you probably drive across these hazards on your daily commutes and road trips.

These hazards have endless causes, some occurring as a result of natural events, others by the negligence of others, and others just coming out of nowhere. Many people will call driving in Florida alone a road hazard, but that's a story for another day.

Some of the hazards and realities of driving on Florida roads that fuel this sentiment include:

  • Potholes and other road defects
  • Fallen trees
  • Flooded roads or washed-out bridges
  • Rough roads, loose gravel, debris, and slick surfaces
  • Lost cargo, auto parts, and flying tires 
  • Poor or confusing signage 
  • Deers and other animals crossing a road
  • Flimsy and structurally compromised bridges 
  • Destructive weather-related hazards (icy roads and rainstorms)

Who Is Liable in a Road Hazard Accident?

The question of liability in a road hazard is a complex affair marred with nuances, gray areas, and ambiguities. For example, fallen debris from a canyon can be considered an "act of God" with no party at fault for the resulting accident.

However, if the responsible entity doesn't clear this debris and it eventually leads to an accident, this can be considered negligence, making them liable. This is why you can maintain the quality of your legal representation, as it sways your chances in such complicated cases.

Some of the parties that can be liable in a road hazard accident include:

Road Equipment Companies and Manufacturers

It's the responsibility of road equipment companies to store their equipment in a way that doesn't endanger the lives of other road users.

The same applies to manufacturers responsible for building safe tools for road users to use and interact with.

When these parties fail in their duty, and their negligence results in a road hazard accident, they can be held liable for any damages from this accident.

Operators of Vehicles

police car

In some instances, the vehicle driver or the plaintiff carries some fault in the road hazard accident. Maybe you were driving above the speed limit, distracted, or under the influence of Alcohol.

Florida is a no-fault state, and most of the compensation will be calculated on a comparison of fault basis.

This means that the driver's role in the accident will be calculated, say 40%, then deducted from the compensation of that driver. The driver will receive 60% of the total compensation in such an instance.

Public Entities

The federal government, state, and city are responsible for maintaining roads, signage, bridges, and infrastructure and keeping them safe for use.

If these public entities neglect their duties and create road hazards that eventually lead to accidents, they can be held liable for one reason or another.

In one case called Vasserman v. Dept of Transportation, the Pennsylvania township of Norfolk was forced to pay a $2.2 million settlement to a man when a dead tree fell on his car, causing severe damage.

Private Businesses

The negligence of private businesses can also result in a road hazard accident, making them liable and subject to any compensatory payments.

Some examples of accidents that a private business may be responsible for include the following:

  • Fallen goods/ debris from a vehicle or a truck
  • Equipment or machinery that places other drivers at risk

Auto Part Manufacturers

Cars with defective parts are also a road hazard and can harm the car's driver and other road users.

Vehicle companies and auto manufacturers are responsible for manufacturing cars and auto parts that protect a user's right to life and safety. If they fail at this, they are liable for any losses that may arise.

In one of the most famous legal settlements in America, Ford was forced to pay a $53 million settlement to a Florida woman because of a malfunctioning seat belt that caused her to be ejected through the rear windshield.

Property Owners

Property owners can be liable for any road hazards that arise from their property. Any property owner's responsibility is to ensure that their property (including real estate and trees) is of no harm to other road users.

If a property owner doesn't act to prevent an obstruction that puts other road users in danger, they are liable for any damage that may occur from such an accident.

Do's and Don'ts in a Road Hazard Accident

car accident signals

Nobody leaves their home planning to be involved in an accident. These moments, when they do happen, can leave one confused, dizzy, and in total shock. Regardless, the few actions you take after an accident can make or break your case.

What to Do

When involved in road accidents, uninformed law-abiding citizens have been known to:

  • Absolve others of the liability
  • Put themselves in more danger
  • Accept liability despite being the victims
  • Destroy or tamper with crucial evidence

This is why knowing what to do once involved in a road hazard accident is essential. Your priority should always be your health and safety. Second is to ensure that you set foundations for compensation for any damages you may have faced. You should:

  • Try and calm down, and ensure everyone is safe
  • Document what is happening 
  • Contact the police or any local authorities 
  • Collect the contact information of any eyewitnesses
  • Get medical attention or any first aid for injuries you've sustained
  • Get out of more danger (don't remain in the middle of the road, for example)

As you've seen, accident scenes are a recipe for mistakes. Consequently, some things you do in good faith, such as apologizing, may work against you in court. Others may put you in more danger, such as driving a damaged car or driving when hurt or scared.

What Not to Do

Here is an equally crucial list of actions you should avoid when involved in a road hazard accident:

  • Becoming angry or emotional 
  • Putting yourself in more danger
  • Accepting liability or apologizing without all the facts
  • Not calling 911 because the accident doesn't involve a death
  • Leaving the accident site, moving the vehicle, or fleeing the scene
  • Speaking to the other party's insurance adjuster before your lawyer
  • Entering into unfair settlements or any agreement without legal counsel
  • Denying that you've been hurt or downplaying your injuries (it's not OK to be OK)

How to Document a Road Hazard Accident: A Checklist

car accident

The factors in a road hazard accident often disappear a few moments after the incident; deers have places to be, storms stop, and hail melts off. That's why you must document as much of it as possible.

A simple video or photo during these accidents can turn what could have been a complex case into a straightforward affair.

Given that you'll often have to hold the line until the authorities come, we've created this checklist to ensure you are more than prepared.

  • Keep a medical record of all health expenses
  • Take photos and videos of the accident from all angles
  • Take as many statements/ videos from eyewitnesses as possible
  • Write notes of the occurrence of events as you saw/ remember them
  • Confirm that a police officer has noted the road hazard in the accident report
  • Take contact information of other drivers (especially those with dash cameras)
  • Recover and keep all vehicle-related documents in the future, including receipts, repairs, and expenses

What Damages Are You Entitled to in a Road Hazard Accident

Accidents are life-changing encounters, and some of the losses drivers face can never be recovered. Though it happens so fast, an accident can impact one's long-term health, career, productivity, quality of life, and ability to provide for their loved ones.

Some of the injuries you may face in a road accident include the following:

  • Paralysis
  • Concussions
  • Brain trauma and injuries
  • Spinal injuries
  • Bone fractures
  • Death

With exemplary legal representation,  however, the law can make a victim whole, partially whole, or compensate them for the damages they may face.

One is entitled to two types of damages in a road hazard accident; economic and non-economic damages.

Economic damages refer to the objective cost and opportunity cost that result directly from the accident. These may include:

  • Property damage
  • The cost of medication
  • Physical and emotional therapy
  • Adaptive equipment and mobility aids
  • Funeral and burial expenditure
  • Current and future lost wages
  • Ambulance services

Non-economic damages are more subjective damages that result from an impact on one's quality of life. They include:

  • Pain and suffering
  • Scarring or disfigurement
  • Anxiety, depression, and distress
  • Physical impairment, such as the loss of limbs
  • Loss of body function or paralysis

If the accused party acted out of gross negligence, your attorney can pursue punitive damages as punishment for wanton or willful misconduct.

Are There PIP benefits for Road Hazard Accidents

Florida is one of few states in the union that mandates drivers to have no-fault personal injury protection (PIP).

This coverage is a highly controversial law compensating a driver for injuries sustained in a road accident regardless of the party at fault.

In the case of a road hazard accident, your PIP benefits still serve as your first line of defense and can partially cover some of the damages you accrue in a road accident.

However, Florida only allows one to file a claim if they have died or sustained serious and life-threatening injuries.

Why You Should Lean on Experience and Hire an Experienced Accident Attorney

Road accidents are unpleasant experiences. This explains most people's temptation to apologize, settle on an agreement or accept liability, and pretend that nothing happened.

However, consulting a legal expert, getting a constitutional perspective, and moving cautiously are better.

You should consult a lawyer, not just any lawyer but an experienced one with years of experience and a reputation that precedes them. This is because:

Not Everybody Has Your Interests at Heart

Though you may act out of goodwill by being willing to settle or accept liability, not all parties share your sentiment.

Insurance, for example, will do everything in its power to blame you and avoid paying compensation. It would be best if you had experienced legal counsel fighting on your side of the ring.

Insurance Companies Hire the Best

Other parties in your road hazard accident case will bring their best, and so should you. The adjusters, staff, and lawyers of insurance companies are highly trained and meticulous.

Therefore, you need to bring equally qualified legal counsel to avoid getting the compensation you deserve.

Road Hazard Accidents Are Complex and Nuanced

Unlike other road accidents, the complexities of road hazard accidents require the best lawyers to advance your case and get you the compensation or settlement you deserve.

For the best legal advice, look no further than Ryan Hughes Law. Our lawyers have spent years building experience in road hazard accident cases and created quite the reputation of fighting for people like you. 

The law firm is made of tireless advocates who will work with you to collect the facts about your case and put up a spirited fight for your future.

Our lawyers will help:

  1. File a case on your behalf
  2. Pursue your case diligently until justice is served
  3. Help with investigations such as tracking witnesses
  4. Negotiate and prevent insurance adjusters from taking advantage
  5. Discover whether the accident was a result of negligence
  6. Help you demystify local laws, statutes, and the legal justice system
  7. Help find the party, agency, or company responsible for the road hazard

FAQs About Road Hazard Accidents

car accident

1. Am I required by law to stop and offer help in a road accident?

No. Most states in America don't have statutes that require helping someone involved in an accident. However, if offering help doesn't put you at risk, you can always pull over and help, sign up as a witness or call 911 on behalf of those involved in the accident.

2. Can I sue the state of Florida for a road hazard accident?

Yes, you can. Florida statute 768.28 allows you to sue the state or its agencies for negligence. However, you will need the help of an experienced lawyer to help you navigate Florida's sovereign immunity statutes.

3. Do I have to file a claim immediately after my accident?

No. You don't have to file a claim immediately after an accident. However, it's in your interest to file a claim as soon as possible.

4. Should I settle with an insurance company?

No. It would be best if you settled with an insurance company or even talked to an insurance adjuster without consulting your lawyer or having him present. Insurers work for the interest of the insurance company, not yours.

For more information, contact us today, and our teams will be more than willing to help.