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Filing a Lawsuit Against a Municipality For a Traffic Collision

January 02, 2019

By van der Veen, Hartshorn, Levin & Lindheim

In almost all personal injury cases, individuals or businesses injure other individuals. Whether it involves a traffic collision, slip and fall in a premises, or a product liability cases, the usual culprit is another individual or a company. However, this may not be the case in your scenario. Occasionally, municipalities, or even more rarely, states, are responsible for causing injuries and deaths.

Poor Road Conditions Do Cause Crashes

Over 50,000 potholes were filled in Philadelphia this past year, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. We all know of certain intersections, on ramps, off ramps, and potholed sections of road that are inherently dangerous due to poor design or because the city has let them deteriorate without proper upkeep. These dangerous sections of road cause traffic to swerve, slam on the brakes, necessitate speeding up quickly (such as a short on ramp onto a freeway), or otherwise induce erratic or out-of-control driving behavior. If the collision that you were involved in was caused by a large pothole, a missing stop sign, or a poorly designed ramp, you may be able to receive compensation from a municipality like the City of Philadelphia. However, this will be difficult. After all, the odds are stacked against you when it comes to how collisions are caused.

Crashes Caused by Poor Road Design or Traffic Signals or Signs

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 94 percent of crashes are attributed to driver error. Only two percent of collisions are attributed to environmental factors. And, not all of these environmental factors are man-made (such as a deteriorating roadway or poorly designed off ramp). Of the only two percent of all crashes caused by environmental factors:

  • 50 percent are caused by slick roads such as ice or road debris;
  • 17 percent are caused by sun glare;
  • 11 percent are caused view obstructions;
  • 9 percent are caused other highway related conditions;
  • Four percent are caused by snow, fog, or rain; and
  • Four percent are caused by other weather-related conditions.

Only three percent of environmental condition crashes are caused by signs or signals, and one percent caused by road design. These two environmental conditions add up to just 2,000 collisions per year in the entire country, of the 2.2 million collisions annually. As such, the chance of your collision being caused by poor road design or a non-functioning traffic sign or signal is just 0.09 percent. A municipality can also be held accountable in some other environmentally caused crashes, such as if a tree is left for years blocking a stop sign, potholes or sunken sewer grates are not patched in a reasonable amount of time, or when debris is left on the road for weeks or months on end without street sweeping. However, whatever the cause of the collision may be, the municipality must have had actual or constructive knowledge about the dangerous condition, and there must have been enough time for the city to take action. For instance, if road damage is caused by a storm on Tuesday and you crash on Wednesday, the municipality will not likely be liable.

Choosing an Attorney to Take a Municipality to Court in Your Personal Injury Case

Proving that a local government is responsible for your traffic collision or slip and fall is very difficult, however. You need to work closely with an experienced Philadelphia attorney when going up against a city government, as you will have to offer a mountain of evidence proving that party’s negligence.Call the Philadelphia personal injury attorneys at van der Veen, Hartshorn, Levin & Lindheim today for assistance.



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