More and more motor vehicles are on the roads than ever before. As a result, building new roads and improving and maintaining already existing roads has become a regular part of our lives. Road work can take place during the day or overnight. In a state like North Carolina, where the weather is relatively nice year round, road work is done almost year round.
Work zones can be very dangerous for both drivers and for those working in the zone. According to North Carolina’s Department of Transportation, there were 7,029 work zone accidents in 2019 (the most recent data available). Of those, 30 resulted in death. The majority of crashes occurred in cities, like Charlotte, or suburbs; with the remaining 33% occurring in rural areas. According to the North Carolina Department of Transportation, the majority of accidents occurred between the months of May and November.
Work zone car accidents can happen for any number of reasons including:
- drivers failing to obey the lowered speed limit that is usually posted in a work zone
- improper warnings that a work zone is approaching
- hazardous materials in the roadway
- distracted drivers
- bad weather
- construction equipment blocking motorists and/or workers from properly seeing
- defective equipment
- bad lighting, particularly if the work is happening at night
Negligence in Work Zone Car Accidents
One of the key issues in any work zone car accidents is negligence. Was one, or more than one, party negligent? Negligence happens when at least one party fails to act reasonably and that failure causes injury to another party. In any car accident, the party that is accused of causing the accident must have acted negligently. If a driver, or a worker, or the operator of the site fails to act reasonably, and negligence is found, then that party may be held liable to the other party for his/her injuries.
While establishing negligence is important in any state, it is of particular significance in North Carolina because North Carolina follows the contributory negligence rule. Under the contributory negligence rule, if the person who was injured is found to be even partially at fault, they may not be able to recover any damages. This rule is different from that followed by most states. The majority of states follow some form of the comparative negligence rule, which allows the injured party’s damages to be reduced based on the degree of fault assigned to them. For example, assume that the injured party was found to be 10% at fault for causing the accident and the damages award is $100,000. In North Carolina, the injured party would receive nothing for damages because he/she was found to be partially at fault for the accident. In a state that follows the comparative negligence rule, the injured party’s damages would be reduced by 10% and they would receive $90,000.
The contributory damages rule, which does have some exceptions like the last clear chance doctrine, is a harsh one. As a result, it is important to consult with a Charlotte, North Carolina attorney if you were injured in a work zone accident.
Who is Liable in a Work Zone Car Accident?
A number of different parties might be liable in a work zone car accident. There could be liability on the part of a motorist driving the car that caused the accident or the work zone worker if they were acting recklessly. There could be liability on the part of the private contractor responsible for managing the site or the state or local government which is responsible for the majority of the roads where construction happens.
As with any car accident, there are some key questions that need to be asked including:
- who was injured? Was it a worker or a driver?
- how did the injury occur?
- what led to the injury? The answer to this question is one of the most important in determining both negligence and liability.
- was there adequate warning that it was a work zone
- was the construction worker actually within the work zone or was he/she on the road
Assuming that negligence and liability can be established, then the injured party is entitled to damages. Damages are intended to make the victim “whole,” to restore them to where they would have been had there been no accident.
Damages available include both economic and non-economic. Economic losses are those that are easily identifiable and include things like medical bills, future medical costs and time lost from work. Non-economic damages are harder to put a dollar value on and include things like pain and suffering caused by the accident. Both economic and non-economic damages will vary depending on the severity of the accident. For example, if the victim suffered a broken leg and had to miss work for 6 weeks, the damages might be relatively low. If the victim was paralyzed, or suffered severe burns over their body, the damages will likely be significantly higher.
Like all car accident cases, timing is important. It is important that you understand the statute of limitations that applies in your case. If you do not file within the correct time frame then you may be precluded from bringing a claim at all. The personal injury statute of limitations in North Carolina is typically three years. Meaning that if you do not file within 3 years of the accident, then you will likely not be permitted to pursue your claim. There can be exceptions to any statute of limitations, therefore it is important that you speak with a North Carolina attorney who is versed in the law.
Discuss Your Work Zone Car Accident with Our Charlotte Attorneys
If you were injured in an accident due to a crash in a work zone you should speak to an attorney to determine if there is any liability. The Charlotte NC based lawyers at Rosensteel Fleishman, PLLC are experienced accident attorneys who can help. Please contact our office at 704-714-1450. There is no fee for an initial consultation