New York City never seems to be completed. It’s always under construction. As part of this process, New York’s Department of Transportation is responsible for maintaining about 6,000 miles of roads and highways, as well as over 700 bridges and tunnels. Each year, workers, motorists and pedestrians are injured or killed by some form of negligence occurring near highway construction sites.
There are laws in place to protect victims of highway construction accidents, as well as laws and programs designed to prevent them. Whether an on-site worker or a passerby, all victims have a right to recover compensation if he or she is injured from highway construction. Filing a personal injury claim can be complex in any situation, especially if you’re facing a painful recovery. Understanding the Department of Transportation’s safety protocol around roadway construction and how liability is determined in an accident will help you make informed choices about your legal options.
New York Highway Safety Statistics
Current national data shows 672 total U.S. fatal highway construction-related incidents in 2018 alone.
- 755 people died (including all vehicle occupants, construction workers and pedestrians)
- 122 of those who died were pedestrians
- 124 victims were employed construction workers
New York State’s Work Zone Safety program was designed to prevent injuries and fatalities by advocating for safe driving through highway construction zones. In 2018, 701 crashes occurred in New York State’s roads and bridges. These accidents resulted in 329 injuries and 13 fatalities to both construction workers and motorists.
The campaign further reports the following facts:
- Around 35,000 people in the U.S. are injured each year in highway construction car accidents
- About 4 out of 5 people in these accidents are drivers and passengers traveling through the work zones
- 25 NYC Department of Transportation employees have been injured by work zone accidents since 2009
The Work Zone Safety campaign aims to prevent workers, motorists and pedestrians from injury with safety guidelines and legal consequences.
Driver Liability and Protections for Construction Workers
Most highway work zone accidents are caused by reckless driving. Common causes that hold the driver liable are:
- Speeding leads to rear-ends and other collisions with other vehicles and equipment
- Distracted driving and failing to read signs causes drivers to miss the signs marking the work zone, potholes, equipment and dangerous conditions
- Failing to merge properly results in ignoring warning signs and failing to accommodate construction zones
In an effort to improve safety, the Work Zone Safety Campaign employs a variety of methods and laws to encourage people to drive carefully. Failure to comply with these requirements can result in injury or death, as well as serious legal consequences.
The purpose of the Campaign is to protect the safety of those working in and driving through dangerous locations. Certain driving requirements even apply to the drivers of emergency response vehicles, tow trucks and construction vehicles.
Move Over Law
This law states that on any multi-lane roadway, drivers must slow down and carefully move to one lane when approaching any stopped vehicle with flashing lights. This may include construction and maintenance vehicles, ambulances, police vehicles, fire trucks and tow trucks. Moving over could make a difference of life or death for workers working along busy traffic.
Violating the Move Over Law may result in two points on your license and minimum $150 fine for a first offense.
Obeying the Flagger
Flaggers are employees in reflective gear who stand at the edge of construction zones to control traffic around the work site. The Department of Transportation declares flaggers have the …same authority to control traffic as traffic signs, signals and police. This means that all drivers MUST obey flaggers, and can be held liable for any injuries caused by failing to do so.
Safe Work Zone Measures
To ensure best safety practices within highway work zones, New York State enforces the following measures within highway construction zones:
- Reduced speed limits in work zones
- Performing highway work during off-peak hours
- Flagging operations and concrete barriers
- Use of brightly colored cones to separate work zones from traffic
- Use of reflective sheeting on work zone signs
- Rumble strips to alert motorists of change in road conditions
Most work zone speed limits in New York are 25 miles per hour, or 20 miles per hour below the set speed limit. Fines for speeding are doubled in a work zone. The Work Zone Safety Act of 2005 states that anyone with two or more work zone speeding convictions is subject to face a suspension of their driver’s license.
Despite these protections, driving safely through a work zone is still a risk for any motorist. Highway work zones have been found liable for many accidents due to various forms of negligence.
When a Work Zone is Liable
A dangerous road can cause car accidents and injury due to a lack of proper signage or failing to follow safety precautions. City and state agencies, independent contractors and maintenance companies may be held liable if they fail to do their part to make sure the work zone is safe. A roadway construction site may be proven negligent for:
- Failing to use an adequate flagger
- Lack of adequate signage alerting motorists of conditions with enough time to adjust speed
- Unreasonably narrow lanes with poorly placed cones or plastic barriers, forcing motorists to maneuver unsafely
- Failing to remove debris that obstructs clear lane divisions
- Failing to move or properly warn of debris or heavy equipment, causing cars to swerve off the road, into another lane or oncoming traffic
- Causing particles such as sand to blow onto the road, creating a hazardous change in the roadway surface for cyclists and motorcyclists
- Operating heavy equipment without adequate warning lights
- Positioning lighting structures improperly and obstructing motorists’ vision
There are cases of work zone accidents where the negligence is obvious. For instance, if heavy equipment fell into the road or struck an individual or their vehicle, the construction company will be held liable.
Comparative Negligence Law and Worker’s Compensation
Due to the sudden changes in traffic conditions near work zones, these areas are often the location for multiple-car accidents, or chain reaction collisions. Determining liability in this case can be legally complicated as several drivers may be partly at fault. New York is a comparative negligence state, meaning you can still claim damages even if you were partly responsible. However, your settlement would be proportionately reduced depending on how much you contributed to the accident.
If a victim is a construction worker on the job, he or she is entitled to worker’s compensation benefits from their employer. The individual may also be entitled to a personal injury claim in addition to worker’s compensation benefits. In any case, it’s important not to hesitate with the legal procedure and know the best actions to take moving forward.
What to Do after a Highway Construction Accident
It’s in your best interest to perform the following steps if you’ve been involved in a highway construction accident:
- Move yourself to a safe location and call 911 for a police officer and/or an ambulance.
- As soon as possible, call your insurance company to report the accident. They may be able to start processing your claim and guide you through action to take at the scene.
- When speaking with police or any other parties involved, provide an honest report of what happened by stating only facts. Do not say anything that can be interpreted as guilt or admitting fault. For example, don’t apologize even if it feels impolite. Remember that anything you say could make you look guilty and weaken your case.
- Record statements and obtain contact information from any witnesses of the accident.
- Take pictures to document the construction zone, road conditions, signage, and any injuries or damage to your car.
- Seek medical attention even if you feel unaffected. The shock of the accident may mask the pain of any injuries. It’s important to have documentation of any injury, waiting too long to report your injuries will weaken your claim and chance of a settlement.
- Reach out to a personal injury lawyer to help you build a case and maximize your compensation. Your insurance company may appoint an attorney for you, but independent representation may serve you better. A lawyer will help communicate between all parties involved and advocate for your best interest.
Highway Construction Statute of Limitations
A personal injury attorney will evaluate all the documentation you provide from the accident and provide crucial guidance to maximize your chance of a favorable outcome. A skilled attorney will work to identify evidence to prove the negligence of other parties responsible for your injury. The statute of limitations for personal injury cases is three years, meaning you have three years from the day you sustained your injury to take legal action.
The statute of limitations for filing a worker’s compensation claim is two years. It’s important to follow the directions for specific worker’s compensation deadlines. Any hesitation to file can be used against you. Even if you are partially liable for the accident, it’s still possible to recover compensation. Don’t hesitate in fighting for the settlement you deserve.
Contact a Personal Injury Lawyer
Construction companies and the entities that hire them are responsible for the safety of those navigating through hazardous work zones. Filing a claim for your injury under such circumstances may require navigating through complex areas of law.
The lawyers at Sobo & Sobo have decades of experience investigating construction-related personal injury claims across the Hudson Valley and the Bronx. Allow our experts to identify crucial evidence on your behalf and negotiate with legal parties to fight for your rightful settlement. If you or a family member have suffered injuries or wrongful death after a highway construction accident, our attorneys are ready to pursue financial compensation for the damages and suffering you’ve endured.
Contact Sobo & Sobo today at 855-468-7626