Cowlitz County

By: Capital Injury Law

From Potholes to Guardrail Defects: State, Contractors Can be Liable for Poor Road and Highway Maintenance

In Washington, the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) and local government entities have a duty to keep up with the maintenance of roads and highways, from stop signs and crosswalks to proper guardrails and general road repairs. 

We’ve all had that nagging pothole that sends cars careening into other lanes or been on an icy roadway that is part of normal travel around town or to get to work. 

So, what happens when state or local governments create a roadway hazard for drivers and pedestrians that leads to a serious personal injury? 

The fact is WSDOT and other local agencies can potentially be held liable for accidents caused in part by defects in highway and roadway design or lack of maintenance. Some of the unsafe conditions for both design and maintenance defects can include:

  • Failure to remove, or prevention of, snow and ice accumulation on the roadway
  • Insufficient road drainage leading to accumulation of water on roadways
  • Excessively sharp curves on highway entrances and offramps
  • Lack of, or insufficient/failing, guardrails or barriers along certain stretches of highway
  • Improper or absent traffic control devices
  • Improper or inadequate signs
  • Poorly marked construction work zones and hazards associated with them (potholes, etc.)
  • Failure to maintain the integrity of roadways and shoulders
  • Neglect in notifying motorists of roadside hazards like mudslides

It’s also worth noting that architects, engineers and contractors that completed the work can also be held liable for design, material and workmanship defects that cause an accident.
Just like other personal injury claims, in most cases there is a three-year statute of limitations to file a claim. If you think you may have a claim for an accident caused by defective or poor road conditions, contact Capital Injury Law for a free consultation. This helpful blog will navigate clients through simple steps and what to bring to the consultation to make the most of the conversation and ensure next steps, if any, can be taken right away.

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