Who is Liable for a Car Accident in a Construction Zone in Virginia?
Liability for a car accident in a construction zone in Virginia can rest with contractors, subcontractors, workers, or other negligent motorists.
Construction Zone Car Accidents in Virginia
Virginia experiences over 90,000 construction zone accidents each year, with almost 40,000 motorists injured in these areas. According to the Work Zone Safety report of the Federal Highway Administration, 38.4% of construction zone collisions are rear-end accidents by other motorists, 22.8% are due to fixed objects, and 15.8% are due to accidents involving sideswiping. Deciding who is liable for a car accident in a construction zone in Virginia can be complex. Those liable for car accidents in a construction zone can include the following people and entities discussed below:
Distracted driving by a motorist is one of the most common causes of car accidents in construction zones. Estimates indicate that one-third of all car accidents in construction zones are due to motorists texting while driving, or while otherwise distracted. Typically, these accidents are rear-end collisions between vehicles. In these cases, typical rules and laws regarding liability for car accidents will apply, and you can hold the other driver responsible for any injuries or damages you suffered due to the car accident.
Construction Worker Fault
Construction workers are on the streets and highways to repair or replace dangerous roadways. Construction is necessary to keep Virginia roads safe. However, these construction sites themselves can become even more dangerous than the roads or bridges the workers are attempting to repair.
Some common reasons accidents occur in construction zones due to the negligence of the construction workers would include misplacing a sign or cone, debris from the construction in the roadways, misplaced barrels, poor traffic management, and inadequate lighting of the construction area. Attempting to navigate these unfamiliar roadway changes can prove overwhelming. While trying to get through the construction zone safely, you may feel confused or unsure where to drive on the road to avoid a collision.
Construction workers are required to abide by all government rules and regulations in construction work zones. These regulations would include federal, state, county, or municipal rules depending on the jurisdiction and location of the construction zone.
When a car accident in the construction zone is due to the fault of a worker, the issue of liability becomes more complex. If the victim is suing the worker, they may end up suing a governmental entity, a contractor, or a subcontractor. The challenge is to determine which entity is liable for the car accident. The laws surrounding suing a governmental entity are very different laws than when a victim sues another motorist.
Prevention of Construction Zone Accidents by Workers
Construction zones are dangerous areas full of opportunities for accidents. Common safety practices in construction zones should include the following:
- Clearly posted warning signs located far in advance of the construction zone
- Clearly marked zones of transition directing traffic through the construction zone safely
- A lane that is considered a safe lane, wide enough for motorists to pass-through
- A second clearly marked transition zone that directs motorists back into the traffic flow safely
Statute of Limitations
While you have the right to file a lawsuit regarding your car accident in a construction zone, your deadline, also known as the statute of limitations, will be different depending on the entity that you file against.
If the car accident was due to the negligence of another motorist, the statute of limitations is two years. Therefore, if you make sure to file your lawsuit within the first two years after the car accident you will be within the statute of limitations. However, it is important to note that this deadline is firm, and if you are even one day late, you may not have the ability to bring a claim for your injuries or losses.
Contractor or Sub-contractor
If it is determined that the contractor or subcontractor liable for your injuries is unrelated to the government, then the same statute of limitations will apply for a motorist. You will have two years after the personal injury from the car accident to file a lawsuit for your injuries and losses.
Specific rules apply if you are filing a claim against the government. If it is determined that the contractor, sub-contractor, workers, or equipment that caused the car accident in the construction zone was working for the government, then there is a different statute of limitations. Under VA § 8.01-195.7 the statute of limitations is potentially shortened as you must file a notice of claim within one year of the date of the car accident if you intend to make a claim against the Commonwealth of Virginia. However, if you fail to properly and timely file the notice of claim, then your case is likely over. The Commonwealth of Virginia will then have an opportunity to settle your personal injury claim resulting from the car accident. If a settlement does not occur, you may file your claim in court as usual.
Contact a Car Accident Attorney Today
As you can imagine, these cases are complex and determining who is liable for a car accident in a construction zone in Virginia can be difficult. A car accident attorney will conduct their own independent investigation, visit with witnesses, discuss the case with expert witnesses, negotiate with insurance companies, and determine liability in your case. Contact our legal team at the Parrish Law Firm, PLLC at (571) 229-1800 or online today for your free consultation regarding your car accident case in a construction zone.