7 Jul, 2023

Who Is Liable for Accidents Due to Poor Road Conditions in Peoria, IL?

Author Todd A. Strong
Blue mini van slides into watery ditch on a snowy winter road. Accidents due to poor road conditions
Blue mini van slides into watery ditch on a snowy winter road. Accidents due to poor road conditions

The government agency tasked to construct or maintain a road may be liable for accidents caused by poor conditions on that road. In Peoria, Illinois, that agency is the Peoria County Highway Department. This agency has a duty to rectify poor road conditions.

Accidents due to poor road conditions can lead to property damage, serious bodily injuries, emotional trauma, and even death. Common road conditions that cause accidents include road damage, inadequate lighting, defective traffic lights, and poorly designed intersections.

Who Is Responsible When Poor Road Conditions Cause an Accident?

The government usually authorizes road construction and maintenance projects depending on the jurisdiction and allocates public funds to these projects. The government also employs workers to inspect the roads and carry out repairs as needed. It may shut down parts of the road where it’s difficult to carry out the repairs without compromising public safety. Since the local government oversees the maintenance of the roads, they may be liable for an accident caused by poor road conditions.

If you were involved in an accident that you believe was linked to or caused by poor road conditions, there are steps you can take to protect your rights. These steps include noting down the details of the car accident, such as the date, time, mile marker, or intersection. They also include recording road damage, weather conditions, missing barriers/signs, and other issues that may have caused the accident. Knowing when to get a lawyer is also a crucial after-crash step.

You can have another person take images of the accident scene, or take them yourself. Either way, the photos should cover the road condition that may have caused the accident and vehicle damage. You should also get the names/contact information of witnesses, determine the liable government agency, and notify the agency of the accident.

Proving a Claim for a Car Accident Caused by Poor Road Conditions

Sometimes, the government may not be liable for a car accident caused by poor road conditions. It can be hard to control weather and wildlife when using the road. As such, you may not have a case against the local government for failing to maintain the road or set up safety features.

However, if the road conditions that caused the accident are within the government's control, you can hold it liable for your losses. When pursuing an accident claim, you must prove certain elements. You will not have anyone to hold liable for your losses without proof of liability in an accident claim.

A car accident lawyer can help you get evidence showing that the government should have been aware or was aware of the dangerous condition on the road. The lawyer can also help you demonstrate that the government failed to warn the public or correct the condition. Evidence linking the poor road condition to the accident can also help build your accident claim.

Collecting evidence for the accident claim may take a while, depending on the circumstances of the accident. Your lawyer will help you collect the following evidence:

  • Copies of your treatment plans or medical records for any injuries you sustained.
  • Estimates for the repair or replacement of any car or property damaged.
  • Photographs of the road that show any damage, safety concerns, and vulnerabilities.
  • Witness statements (if there were any witnesses at the accident scene).
  • Written proof of loss of earnings and other financial losses you incurred from the accident.

Road Conditions That Cause Accidents

Road conditions determine the ease of driving on a roadway and can include the quality of the paved surface, road markings, weather, and potholes. Besides their high accident rate, poorly maintained roads make vehicle maintenance expensive and increase travel time. The following are common road conditions that cause accidents:

Defective Traffic Lights

Traffic lights are usually programmed using sensors and automation to keep motor vehicles moving. Serious accidents may occur if the programming, detection system, or lighting fail. The government agency that maintains the traffic light and the party that programmed the light might be responsible for any losses sustained when faulty traffic lights cause an accident.

It's common for motorists to anticipate having a certain amount of time to drive through an intersection once the light turns green. But if the traffic light changes suddenly, the motorist may drive into the intersection when other vehicles cross and cause a collision.

Road Damage

Natural disasters, regular use, car accidents, and bad weather can make roads wear out over time. When the agency responsible for road maintenance fails to revamp a road, it can increase the likelihood of an accident.

Uneven pavement and potholes create conditions that cause motor vehicle accidents. In particular, taller vehicles like SUVs or vans can easily roll over on an uneven surface when the driver loses control of the vehicle. Holes in the road can also impair suspensions, bend wheels, and cause tire blowouts, creating strong grounds for a highway pothole claim.

Missing or damaged guardrails or medians and faded pavement markings are other forms of road damage. If the guardrails or medians are missing or damaged, they will not guide or protect drivers as needed. Faded pavement markings can also make an unsuspecting driver drive in the wrong lane, causing a deadly head-on collision or sideswipe.

Missing or Damaged Signs

Road signs help warn and guide drivers, making it easier to regulate traffic flow among motorcycles, bicycles, vehicles, and pedestrians. They also represent rules that keep road users safe and help maintain order.

Missing or damaged road signs can cause collisions. Motorists may not anticipate the potential hazards or know how to act when approaching a damaged road sign. Without road signs, motorists will not know the required speed limits for certain parts of the road.

Inadequate Lighting

A roadway may have insufficient lighting due to its poor design, budget cuts, or defective/old equipment. Inadequate lighting is a safety hazard for motorists driving at night.

The responsible agency should ensure that there's proper light distribution during the design and installation of streetlights. It also needs to ensure proper pole spacing, height, and good color rendering.

Poorly Designed Intersections and Roads

The design of a road is crucial to the safety of road users. As such, a good road should accommodate everyone who uses it, including pedestrians, bikers, trolleys, trains, and cars. It's the job of the municipality in Peoria to oversee the construction of useable roads.

If the intersections and roads are poorly designed, driving and walking on them can pose a safety risk. Poor design means that the surrounding mountainous terrain, foliage, or buildings weren't considered when trying to improve the road's visibility.

Roads can meet at a 90-degree angle or a skewed intersection. As such, proper medians and signage to help motorists anticipate an intersection are a must-have. The signage should also factor in local weather patterns, especially in areas with predictably heavy snow, fog, or rain, to prevent accidents caused by visibility problems.

Overgrown Foliage

Even though bushes and trees beautify roadways, they can also be a nuisance if they are not properly maintained. Overgrown foliage from trees and bushes can block motorists from seeing road signage and traffic lights. It also makes it difficult to spot an intersection or curve from afar.

Overgrown tree branches and bushes should get trimmed to allow pedestrians to walk on footpaths without experiencing trip hazards. Doing this can also prevent tree damage to motor vehicles.

Construction Zones

While road construction is crucial, it can cause accidents if proper measures are not in place. In ongoing road construction, the narrow lanes lead to traffic congestion and reduced speeds. Motorists who did not anticipate the narrow lanes may have a lower reaction time when they reach the construction zone. As such, they may get into a rear-end accident, rollover crash, or collisions with barriers, construction workers, and road work equipment.

There should be adequate signage close to a construction zone to warn drivers of ongoing roadwork. This signage should advise motorists to slow down or use alternate lanes. The road markings along the construction zone must be reflective and bright to be visible in low-light conditions.

Who Is Responsible for Maintaining Roads in Peoria?

The Peoria County Highway Department constructs and maintains all bridges and roads in Peoria, Illinois. Its main goal is to maintain the county's current infrastructure.

Its maintenance staff carries out activities to ensure the safety of roadways in Peoria County. These activities include plowing snow, mowing ditches, patching potholes, and replacing and maintaining inlets, maintenance holes, and culverts. They also include maintaining signs, repairing guardrails, and pavement maintenance. The Peoria County Highway Department's engineering team carries out administrative functions. Members of this team design road improvement projects and inspect bridges on township roads and county highways. They also supervise and inspect construction projects

About The Author

Photo of Todd A. Strong
Illinois workers’ compensation and personal injury lawyer Todd A. Strong is the founder of Strong Law Offices in Peoria, Illinois. Todd brings considerable legal knowledge, experience, and skill to the table to ensure injured victims throughout the state are treated with respect, dignity, and fairness.