According to the National Safety Council, 954 people died, and 42,151 people suffered injuries in work zone crashes in a recent year. Work zone accident fatalities are increasing, as have the number of people who die in general car accidents has steadied.
This is not only because of the additional highway construction projects, as the nation finally invests in repairing aging roads. Much of the blame falls on individual drivers who do not exhibit the proper level of care in the work zone.
Highway work zone crashes are among the most severe types of accidents. Not only are drivers and their passengers at risk but also construction workers may suffer serious or fatal injuries. In addition, these legally complex accidents involve more potential causes and responsible parties.
The one certainty after a highway work zone accident is that you need an experienced construction accident lawyer to help you learn who was responsible for the accident.
However, in any car accident case, it is not what you know but what you can prove. You will likely receive nothing unless you have the evidence to back up your claim. Then, you will need to know how much your case is worth and fight to get the money you deserve.
Highway Construction Zone Dangers Are Getting Worse
A survey of highway workers shows how bad the safety problems have become in work zones. Nearly half of construction employee respondents to the survey said that at least three motor vehicles crashed into the work zone. Many respondents reported that at least one highway worker died in an accident.
There are more work zones throughout the country these days. States are flush with money from the recent bipartisan infrastructure legislation. They are now beginning large reconstruction projects that they have long delayed for lack of funds. In addition, more roads are deteriorating, as they have gone far too long without maintenance.
At the same time, drivers are getting worse. It is not an exaggeration to say that motorists are more selfish these days and care less about the safety of everyone else, including the construction workers who repair the roads on which they rely.
While authorities raise fines for work zone traffic infractions, they still do not enforce traffic laws vigorously enough in these dangerous areas. Drivers continue to break laws, largely without consequence.
Some law enforcement agencies place speed cameras in work zones, and they still do not make a significant difference. All the public awareness campaigns in the world are not enough to persuade drivers to slow down and pay attention. All it takes is one self-absorbed or reckless driver to cause a large crash involving multiple vehicles.
Work zone fatalities happen on both interstates and arterial roads. Most of these severe accidents occur on roads with a higher speed limit before entering the work zone. Motorists are driving through the work zone faster with less time to adjust.
Why Work Zones Are Extremely Dangerous for All in the Area
The danger begins at the approach to the work zone. There may be warning signs that drivers are approaching a work zone and the conditions the driver may expect.
Crews might place these signs in a way that fails to give drivers much warning. Alternatively, the approach can be well-signed, and a driver does not see it or ignores it. Either way, the driver needs to anticipate the work zone, so they can adjust as necessary to remain safe.
Numerous conditions can change quickly in a work zone, including:
- The lanes will be narrower
- There may be unpredictable detour patterns
- There may be oncoming traffic in the same roadway with no median
- The lane patterns can change quickly in a way that drivers are not expecting
How Drivers Cause Serious Work Zone Accidents
Drivers are the most common cause of construction zone accidents. Not only can they injure construction workers, but they can also hurt other drivers in crashes.
Most drivers may not use their best judgment or common sense in a work zone. When the speed limit drops in a work zone, there is a valid reason. However, some drivers may not slow down at all.
Even double fines, or other steep penalties, are not enough to convince drivers to slow down. Like every serious traffic infraction, the driver does not think or believe they can do what they want without consequences.
Other drivers are distracted when they approach a work zone. They may look down at their phone or do something else that takes their eyes off the road.
Even with signs posted well in advance, the driver may not see them until the last minute, if they even see them at all. Or they may disregard them.
Then, when they enter the work zone, they may not keep both eyes on the road or hands on the wheel. This time is when they need to have the most possible focus.
In general, drivers do not have much time to stop when traveling 50 miles per hour or more on a highway. It will take them at least 300 feet to stop. On a wet road, they need an extra 100 feet. A large truck takes 500 feet to stop.
Drivers need to slow down quickly, especially if they see a sign altering them to a work zone late.
Construction Workers Face Continuous Danger in the Work Zone
Everyone is in extra danger in a work zone. Highway workers are exposed to grave danger daily.
Injured construction workers may have a legal cause of action when they suffered an injury from a driver. While they cannot sue their employer, they file a lawsuit against another contractor at the site (if multiple contractors or subcontractors work there) or even a company that made work equipment.
Work Zone Accidents Can Be Serious and Deadly
Often, there are multiple cars involved in a work zone crash. Since vehicles are close together with little space between them, there is often no such thing as a simple highway construction accident. Crashes often lead to chain reactions and pile-ups.
In addition, work zone accidents tend to cause more serious injuries, because:
- One driver has slowed down while the other may not have made any effort to decelerate, leading to a high-speed rear-end crash.
- Work zones often have concrete guardrails and other barriers a motorist may hit.
- Narrower roadways mean a higher chance that a driver can run off the road in an accident.
- The higher possibility of a multi-car accident means that a driver can experience two jarring impacts in a crash.
- There is more of a probability that a motorist will lose control of their vehicle, either in an accident or trying to avoid it.
Common Work Zone Accidents
Here are some common types of crashes in a work zone:
- Rear-end crashes, when a driver does not see a car slowed down in front of them or a front motorist stops suddenly in front of someone else.
- Sideswipe crashes, when a motorist veers out of their narrow lane into the lane next to them.
- Multi-car or chain reaction accidents. Drivers may not have enough time to stop for an accident in front of them.
Construction Contractors Can Also Cause Work Zone Accidents
Drivers do not just cause the risks. The carelessness of the construction crew may endanger motorists in several ways:
- Not giving adequate notice to drivers of changes in road conditions
- Leaving debris or equipment too close to the roadway
- Workers are too close to drivers, forcing the motorists to take sudden and evasive action
- Designing a project with unsafe lane patterns during the construction period
- Leaving the road that drivers are passing through in dangerous conditions
Truck Drivers Cause Many Work Zone Accidents
The other major danger drivers face in a work zone comes from large trucks. The lanes are usually narrower in a construction zone, and the shoulder is often closed. Motorists must drive alongside large trucks with little room to spare. The road may leave little room between the truck on one side and a retaining wall on the other.
What makes things worse is that truck drivers may be unable to always stay in their lane. They may be speeding through the work zone, or the driver cannot adjust to the changing conditions. Roughly one-third of fatalities in work zones occur in accidents involving large trucks.
Investigating Work Zone Crashes Can Be Challenging
Many responsible parties can contribute to a work zone accident, and you need a lawyer to figure out each one’s liability. You must file the right claim against the correct party because you may not get a second chance.
Each party may point the finger at someone else when you simply need to find who was accountable. The other driver’s insurance company may blame the construction contractor, or they can claim that another driver was accountable.
Your attorney will need to conduct a quick yet detailed investigation, so you can know from whom you will need to seek compensation. Then, you might have to deal with multiple insurance companies, and potentially your own.
How to Prove Your Work Zone Accident Claim
Here are some potential sources of evidence that your lawyer can use to prove legal responsibility for your work zone accident:
- Eyewitness testimony from people who saw the accident
- Photographic evidence of the scene of the accident
- Photographic evidence of what the work zone and the approaches to it looked like at the time of the accident
- Dashcam or traffic camera footage
- Testimony from an accident reconstruction expert
You will have to meet your burden of proof in a highway work zone case. For each responsible party, you must prove your case by a preponderance of the evidence. You do not need to show who bears which proportion of the blame.
Damages in a Highway Construction Zone Case
Then, you also must prove your damages.
You are entitled to full financial compensation for:
- Economic damages that represent the money that you had to spend or lost as a result of your accidents injuries
- Non-economic damages that compensate you for the experience of your accident, including what you may need to live with in the future
The insurance companies and the responsible parties will do everything possible to avoid paying you what you deserve.
Your attorney will need to fight hard on your behalf. When doors slam in your face early in the claims process, your attorney will bust through them for you. The insurance company does not get the final say in your case. When you hire a strong attorney to handle your case, they will take the fight to the insurance company.
Always contact an attorney right after your accident. With so many things happening in a work zone, you will have a limited amount of time to investigate the circumstances of your crash.
A Car Accident Lawyer Can Help You
Whether you are a construction worker who suffered injuries due to a driver, or a driver who suffered injuries in a road work zone crash, you need legal help. A personal injury attorney in Long Island can unpack what happened and evaluate your options for compensation.
Start the process now to preserve evidence and ensure you meet all deadlines for your case.