California is one of the largest states in the U.S., with a current estimated population of 39,955,077. Much of the state’s sizeable population is gathered in and around the region’s largest cities, which makes for crowded roadways and exceptional traffic jams at times. With countless drivers on the road at any given time of day, even the most cautious motorist faces the risk of a car accident. In 2021, California’s Transportation Injury Mapping System (TIMS) recorded 57,580 accidents on state highways – this figure doesn’t even account for crashes occurring on surface streets or rural roads!
One factor that has historically played a significant role in the frequency and severity of traffic accidents is roadway construction. Construction work zones are characterized by unusual traffic patterns, the presence of workers and machinery, and heavy vehicles entering and exiting the site. While most construction crews do an admirable job of separating their work zone from active lanes of traffic, a poorly designed project or careless drivers can put the lives of motorists at risk.
In recent years, both the number and severity of work zone crashes has risen. Between 2019 and 2020, fatal car crashes in work zones increased by a factor of 1.4%. Even if a collision does not cause fatal injury to any of the victims, the costs of vehicle repairs, immediate medical care, and any long-term treatments can be quite high. Receiving compensation for damages suffered in a construction zone accident may well be necessary for a crash victim to get back to their normal day-to-day life. In today’s article, we explore how compensation is handled with regards to construction zone accidents in California.
What Are the Different Types of Construction Zone Car Accidents?
There are multiple ways that a car accident can occur in a construction zone. Some of the most common types of crashes occur due to:
- Rear-end collisions. A motorist that is distracted, speeding, or unfamiliar with a construction zone’s layout may be unable to slow down quickly enough to prevent hitting another vehicle from behind. Read-end collisions can quickly result in a multi-car pileup, which puts both drivers and workers in the nearby construction zone at risk of injury.
- Unsafe merges or lane changes. In a work zone, lanes of traffic that are usually open for travel may be blocked off or otherwise inaccessible. If a driver does not merge accordingly or performs an unsafe lane change to get through the construction zone quickly, a crash may occur.
- Rollovers. If a driver does not properly reduce their speed upon entering the construction zone, they may strike another vehicle or a barrier and cause one or both cars to flip over.
- Construction vehicles, workers, and equipment. A work zone that is not clearly or properly marked or blocked off may be confusing for drivers to negotiate. The presence of large, slow-moving construction vehicles and machinery entering and exiting the work zone can also lead to a collision.
- Barrier or median placement. Drivers may run into a median or barrier that is poorly placed or difficult to see.
Who is Responsible for a Construction Zone Crash?
The circumstances of each construction zone accident are unique, and it can be challenging to determine precisely who bears the majority of fault for a crash. Depending on how the collision occurred and how many vehicles and victims were involved, there may be a single liability party or multiple groups that share some degree of fault.
When a Driver is Responsible
Drivers are legally obligated to follow reduced speed limit in work zones to protect other motorists and workers. As is the case on other roadways, motorists also must yield to police officers, ambulances, fire trucks, other first responders, and clearly disabled vehicles displaying their hazard lights. Another driver may be found liable for your crash if they failed to follow the rules of the road or:
- Were travelling at a dangerous speed at the time of the crash
- Were distracted or driving unsafely
- Did not stop completely for upcoming traffic or made a dangerous lane change
When a Construction Company is Responsible
Not all crashes are caused by the careless or negligent actions of one or more drivers. Construction companies and their onsite employees are required to follow proper procedures and established safety regulations. If they fail to do so, they may be liable for any crash that occurs within their work zone. Some of the ways that a construction company may display negligence include:
- Failure to place sufficient cones, signs, or barriers
- Creation of sudden, unpredictable, or improperly marked lane changes
- Insufficient lighting in the work zone
- Failure to install warning signs to indicate to motorists that they are entering an active work zone
- Not keeping their workers and equipment at a safe distance from active lanes of traffic
What Compensation Can the Victim of a Construction Zone Crash Recover?
If you or your car accident attorney can prove that another party was responsible for your crash, you may be able to recover substantial damages. Freedman Law notes that you may be entitled to some combination of economic, non-economic, and punitive damages in the aftermath of your crash.
- Economic damages include compensation for verifiable monetary losses you suffered in a personal injury incident. Depending on the nature of your injuries, you may be entitled to recover damages for past and future medical expenses, loss of use of property, and loss of past and continuing earnings.
- Non-economic damages include compensation for non-monetary, subjective losses suffered. Emotional distress, pain and suffering, inconvenience, loss of consortium, and loss of enjoyment of life are all included within this category of damages.
- Punitive damages are assessed not to compensate you for your injuries, but rather to punish the liable party for exceptionally reckless or intentional behavior.
Steps to Follow After a Crash
We know that a car accident can be a terrifying and mentally draining experience. By following these steps, you protect yourself and your loved ones while simultaneously building the basis of a successful car accident claim.
- Call the police and obtain a copy of the finished police report.
- See a doctor as soon as possible, even if you and your passengers did not appear to suffer any visible injuries.
- Document the accident scene by taking photos of the wrecked vehicles, debris in the road, tire tracks, and any components of the work zone that you believe contributed to the crash.
- Call a local car accident attorney familiar with California laws and regulations as soon as you are able to.