Last year, a tragic auto accident in Boston made national news and raised the question of liability when it pertains to road conditions and what responsibility municipalities and the state have when a vehicle accident occurs because of a road hazard.
The fatal incident occurred at approximately 8:00 a.m. on a Friday morning. The 35-year-old victim, a teacher on her way to the elementary school where she taught, was traveling on Interstate 93 when a manhole cover suddenly became airborne and smashed into the windshield of her vehicle. The car kept going until it smashed into a wall shortly down the road. Statements issued by law enforcement investigating the accident say it is believed the young woman was killed instantly.
Video obtain of the scene shows a large SUV drove over the manhole right before it flew up into the victim’s windshield. Transportation workers were immediately dispatched to check the entire infrastructure of the area’s highway system to ensure that the roads’ 900 manhole covers, electrical panel covers, and grates were securely in place.
States, cities, and towns all have a duty to ensure that the roads we drive on are not only designed and built safely, but they also have a duty to maintain those roads and provide a hazard-free environment. If they fail to do so, and a person is killed or injured in a vehicle crash caused by the overseeing entity’s negligence, the victim and/or their families can sue for damages.
In addition to the government entity that was in charge of roadway where the accident occurred, victims may also be able to sue the company who designed the road or the construction company who built it, if it can be proven that an action on their part caused the defective area or condition.
Suing a government for damages is different than suing a private individual or party. This is because of the doctrine of sovereign immunity, which is supposed to give a government entity immunity from being sued unless they agree to the lawsuit, however, there are exceptions. This is why it is critical to contact an experienced North Carolina wrongful death attorney if you have lost a loved one in an accident where the municipality may have been negligent.