Injuries On Dangerous Roads
Utah is widely known for having some of the most scenic roads in the country. While most states dread road construction, Utah’s actually boast about the topic in humorous lighting. All that being said, Utah still sees its fair share of fatal accidents. In fact, there were 128 traffic deaths in 2018 and 20% of those people were not wearing belts, according to the Utah Highway Patrol. “Every crash death has a huge impact on our society,” of the Utah Highway Patrol. While these accidents are often a result of human error, other times it is the sheer quality of a roadway that causes the crash.
Most Dangerous Roads in Utah – Interstate 15
Starting at number one on our list of dangerous roads in Utah is the well-traversed Interstate 15. Running north to south through most of the state, I-15 passes through many of Utah’s most heavily populated regions, including Ogden, Salt Lake City, and Provo, all the way down to St. George. Anyone who has traveled this highway knows I-15 is a traffic hot spot for trouble. Here are the highest risk factors for an accident on this roadway.
• High speed limit (75 mph)
• Limited visibility due to large vehicles
• Heavy traffic congestion
• Accident-prone roadway
Interstate 15 has seen thousands of accidents in the last few years, and while Utah cities continue to grow, this highway is not getting any bigger…at least not for now. If you frequently use I-15 or plan to travel through Utah, remember to drive with caution on this route and be mindful of other drivers around you.
Highway 6 In Utah
Highway 6 has not only made it onto our list of most dangerous roads in Utah, but according to NPR, this route is also one of the riskiest rural drives in the country. Since 1996, there have been more than 150 accident deaths as well as a gruesome 500 serious accidents on just that middle portion of the highway. From Spanish Fork down to Price, this 60-mile stretch of roadway snakes through canyons on a tight and twisting route. Here are the risk factors you’ll want to keep in mind when traveling on Route 6.
• Narrow traffic lanes
• High freeway speed
• Busy truck route from SLC to Denver
• Frequent risk of head-on collision
Unfortunately, Highway 6 is not the best route to pass slow-moving vehicles on. Many fatal accidents occur on this roadway because drivers end up crossing into oncoming traffic. If you travel along the Wasatch Mountains on Route 6, drive safely and watch for oncoming traffic.
Utah’s Interstate 70
Interstate 70 ranks 3rd on our list of dangerous roads in Utah for having a scenic yet perilous route. Known as one of the main interstate routes connecting the east coast to the west (almost), the portion of I-70 in Utah is one of the few roadways that doesn’t actually pass through any major cities. Nevertheless, this highway presents imminent danger to those unfamiliar with driving on desolate roadway systems.
The following risk factors will help any driver see the true peril of Interstate 70.
• Zero services from Green River to Salina
• High elevation peak (7,886 feet)
• Snaking turns through Spotted Wolf Canyon
• More opportunities for distractions
Due to its long stretches of nothingness and steep climbs up to mesmerizing canyon views, it’s no surprise that this highway has made it onto our list. All drivers should be prepared when traveling this route, especially for the 100 miles between Green River and Salina.
Washington Boulevard in Ogden, Utah
The dangers of Washington Boulevard have been on the Utah Department of Transportation’s radar for quite some. A roadway that has seen at least one car accident a week since 2015, this busy route has a history of devastation for motorists and pedestrians alike. Passing through North Ogden’s rapidly-growing business district, if you’re a local commuter consider the following risk factors.
• Deadly crosswalk
• Only a two-lane roadway
• Busiest route in Weber County
• High tailgate zone
• Poor left-hand turn visibility
Ogden residents have even asked UDOT to install a crosswalk and light at 650 North on the boulevard to prevent further injuries. Sadly, some traffic is near impossible to avoid, but if you drive down Washington Boulevard often, keep a safe distance between cars ahead of you and make sure you can see oncoming traffic before making a left-hand turn.
Interstate 80: The Transcontinental
Interstate 80 differs from I-70 in that it actually runs from east to west and traverses the entire United States. This route begins in downtown San Francisco, California and travels all the way up to Teaneck, New Jersey. In fact, it is one of the original highways constructed in 1956. Unfortunately though, I-80 ranks third in Utah for having the highest traffic fatalities in the state. Like other roadways on our list, I-80, too, has a higher speed limit. Navigating this area has caused some deadly accidents in the past. Here are the following risk factors to driving on I-80 through Utah.
• Passes right through “spaghetti bowl” in SLC
• Dangerous winter road conditions
• Various animal migration areas
• High speeding zone
In the beginning of 2018, UDOT crews installed signs to help drivers know where to stop in case of an emergency. They also installed stretches of fencing to stop tragic accidents with migrating species in the future. If you’re on a cross-country road trip or simply taking a drive on I-80, watch out for nasty road conditions and other speeding drivers.
Road Conditions: Who Is Responsible?
Roadways throughout Utah must be designed to accommodate a wide range of traffic—including bicycles, motorcycles, all types of cars and large commercial trucks as safely as possible. When your town or city fails to do this, the municipality may be held accountable for any resulting damages.
Some of the conditions that may justify legal action in these cases include:
• Fundamentally dangerous road design, including slopes that are unsafe for the traffic mix in inclement weather
• Damaged or non-existent guardrails
• Obstructed or poor visibility at intersections
• The lack of essential warning signs and signals, including those required at railroad crossings
• Improperly designed or marked bike lanes, particularly near roundabouts
• Failure of road crews to observe critical safety guidelines and standards when setting up and working in construction zones
• Road defects and uncollected debris known to UDOT officials or representatives
Dangerous road conditions can include insufficient lighting, improper or obstructed signage, dangerous speed limits, poor road construction, malfunctioning traffic lights, uneven asphalt/potholes, and more.
Dangerous Road Conditions
Not all car accident cases are the same. Sometimes, uncommon circumstances are involved that make proving liability a bit more difficult. This can be the case when dangerous road conditions contributed to or fully caused your accident. There are typically two types of personal injury claims surrounding accidents caused by dangerous roads:
• Government liability: If a road has a defective design or if it has not been properly maintained and results in your accident, you may have a claim against the government. These cases have a unique layer of complexity due to the government’s involvement as a defendant.
• Driver negligence: If a road becomes dangerous due to adverse weather conditions, it is the responsibility of each motorist to adjust his or her driving to ensure safety. For example, if a driver speeds during a heavy rainfall, hydroplanes, and crashes into another vehicle; this driver is responsible for any resulting injuries.
Vehicle Damage Due To Poor Road Conditions: Who Is Liable?
Figuring out who is liable for most car accidents isn’t a mystery. If you are stopped at a stop sign, and the car behind you rear-ends you, then that driver is most likely liable for damage to your vehicle and for any injuries you suffer. But what if your vehicle is damaged (or you are injured) because of:
• shoulder drop-off
• oil and chip
• construction zone
• icy or snowy roads,
• wet roads.
? In many cases, it is the government entity charged with maintaining the road where your accident took place. But there are also times when someone other than the government is responsible.
The Government’s Responsibility to Maintain Roads
As mentioned above, the city, county, or state charged with maintaining the road where your accident occurred may be responsible for any damage caused by poor road conditions. The theory here is, because it is the government’s job to maintain the roads, the government is also responsible for any damage that results when roads aren’t kept reasonably safe. The key here is what is considered “reasonable.” The government won’t always be responsible simply because your vehicle was damages by the questionable condition of a road. State laws typically allow the government a reasonable amount of time to discover poor road conditions and a reasonable amount of time to repair them. Governments generally discovery dangerous road conditions in one of two ways:
• through individuals reporting a dangerous condition, and
• by conducting regular surveys of the roadways.
If the government has not discovered a dangerous road condition, there is a good chance it will not be responsible for any damage the condition causes. The one exception may be, if the dangerous condition has been around long enough that the government should have discovered it. In that case, the government may still be on the hook even though it did not actually know about the poor road condition. Also, the government will not likely be responsible for damage caused by a dangerous road condition if it has not had enough time to repair the condition.
If you are going to make a successful claim against the government for damage to your vehicle caused by poor road conditions, you will have to prove two things:
• the government knew about the poor road condition (or should reasonably have known about it), and
• the government did not repair the poor road condition within a reasonable amount of time.
Making a Claim
The first thing you will want to do is take down relevant information. Record the following:
• the general location of the poor condition, i.e. what businesses/landmarks are nearby?
• the name of the road
• the direction you were traveling
• the exact location of the poor condition in the road
• the physical characteristics of the poor conditions, e.g. size and depth of a pothole
• the names and contact information of any witnesses
If you think you may have a claim, you will need to find out which government body is responsible for maintaining the road in question. You can likely find out which government body is responsible by calling your local county commissioners’ office. If they are not responsible, they can likely tell you who is. Once you determine which government body is responsible, you will need to give the government body notice of your claim. You will probably need to do this quickly. Typically there is a limited amount of time to make such a claim. If too much time has passed, you may lose your right to make a claim.
Proving Your Claim
Chances are, the government is not going to send you a check for your property damage just because you make a claim. You will have to prove the government is legally liable. First, you need to show the government knew about the poor condition. The government may admit to its knowledge of the poor condition. If not, you have a couple of options:
• Request Survey Records: Government bodies conduct regular surveys to check for poor road conditions. You can request these records. Examine them and determine whether someone previously located the poor road condition that caused your vehicle damage.
• Show the Government Should Have Known About the Poor Condition: This could be difficult. It will take some leg work. You will have to take measures to research the area. One way to do this is to interview people who live nearby.
Are There Limits on Damages in a Bad Road Condition Case?
If you file an administrative claim with the government for vehicle damage because of bad road conditions, depending on your state’s laws, there might be a cap on the dollar amount you can recover via the claim process. But this issue is a little more nuanced than that. If you’re asking for more than a certain amount, the government might ask you to specify whether you intend to file any future lawsuit in small claims or regular civil court. Your answers could affect the government’s decision whether to settle your claim. The amount you’re seeking in damages will also dictate your future options. If your claim is denied or no action is taken by the government, and you’re allowed to file a lawsuit, you’ll have to choose whether you’re going to file in small claims court (where you can only ask for up to a certain amount) or in regular court, where there are typically no caps on what a plaintiff can seek. Since these kinds of cases are limited to property damage, which is usually easy to quantify, you should be able to plan ahead and navigate a path that leads to full compensation for your losses.
Free Initial Consultation with Lawyer
It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when. Legal problems come to everyone. Whether it’s your son who gets in a car wreck, your uncle who loses his job and needs to file for bankruptcy, your sister’s brother who’s getting divorced, or a grandparent that passes away without a will -all of us have legal issues and questions that arise. So when you have a law question, call Ascent Law for your free consultation (801) 676-5506. We want to help you!
8833 S. Redwood Road, Suite C
West Jordan, Utah
84088 United States
Telephone: (801) 676-5506