California Construction Zone Accident Attorneys
Drivers in California are expected to know and follow all of the state's traffic laws, including the laws that deal with construction zones. There are numerous construction projects in the state at any given time. As of Oct. 1, 2022, the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) shows there were 788 ongoing road construction projects in the state. Caltrans provides a searchable map to view construction projects in your area. While road construction projects are necessary to keep the roads in good condition, construction zones also come with an increased risk of motor vehicle accidents caused by drivers who fail to follow the laws. Some of these construction zone accidents involve serious injuries and deaths when people violate the rules.
California features hundreds of thousands of miles of rural and urban roads that require regular maintenance. This means that construction workers are working throughout the area at various locations in the state. Unfortunately, traffic accidents happen more frequently in construction zones.
The National Safety Council (NSC) reports that 44,250 people were injured and 857 were killed in work zone accidents across the U.S. Out of the fatalities, 192 occurred in California. If you were injured in a work zone accident or lost a close family member in this type of collision, you need to understand your rights and legal options. Working with an experienced work zone accident attorney at the law firm of Steven M. Sweat, Personal Injury Lawyers, APC might help you increase your chances of recovering full compensation to pay for all of your losses.Common Types of Accidents in California Work Zones
Construction zones are marked so that motorists are aware that they are approaching them. Speed limits are reduced because of the ongoing work, and traffic might be funneled into fewer lanes as cars drive through the work areas. When motorists fail to pay attention or violate the various laws surrounding construction zones, the following types of crashes can occur:
- Rear-end collisions
- Crashes involving construction workers or road work equipment
- Collisions into barriers or medians
- Rollover accidents
- Crashes with other vehicles in the construction zone
Rear-end work zone accidents typically happen when a driver fails to notice that traffic has slowed ahead and brake in time to prevent a collision. These types of accidents might happen when a motorist drives inattentively or is distracted. Depending on the speed at which the rear driver is going at the time of the crash and the size and weight of the involved vehicles, rear-end work zone accidents can result in serious injuries or fatalities. Some rear-end work zone crashes will also involve multiple vehicles in a chain.
Drivers who speed through construction zones also run the risk of colliding with workers or road equipment. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that an average of 123 highway construction workers are killed each year. California has the sixth-leading number of road worker fatalities with an average of 49 workers killed each year in work zones.
Failing to merge appropriately when work zones reduce the number of available lanes also can lead to accidents, including rollovers, side-swipes, collisions with barriers or medians, and others. Many work zone accidents could be prevented if people obey the laws when passing through work zones.Work Zone Laws in California
Under Cal. Veh. Code § 22362, motorists who speed while they are within 400 feet of a construction zone are presumed to violate California's basic speed law. Speed limits in construction zones in California can be set as low as 25 mph.
According to Cal. Veh. Code § 42009, traffic fines for speeding in construction zones are doubled. Other types of violations in construction zones that result in doubled fines include the following:
- Disobeying traffic control devices
- Improper passing
- Failing to yield the right-of-way
- Failing to use turn signals, stopping, or turning improperly
- Failing to obey signals to stop
- Recklessly driving
- Driving while under the influence
- Having open containers of alcohol
The rules are stricter in work zones because of the dangers of accidents caused by negligent driving behaviors.Causes of Work Zone Accidents
Work zone accidents can result from multiple causes. When vehicles are forced to slow down while approaching, entering, and driving through work zones, traffic jams can occur. These jams can then lead to accidents caused by inattentive, aggressive, or distracted drivers.
Vehicles suddenly slowing down because of a work zone can increase the risk of accidents, especially on highways on which drivers normally travel at high speeds. Drivers can cause rear-end collisions that can turn into multiple-vehicle crashes when they drive inattentively and fail to slow down in time to avoid an accident.
Some accidents happen when drivers are forced to merge before entering work zones in which some lanes are blocked off. When there aren't appropriate warnings before it is time to merge, drivers can be caught unaware until they must suddenly merge, causing them to swerve into a lane or strike barriers or equipment within the construction zone.
Work zone accidents are commonly caused by a lack of signage or improper signs in the construction zone. Construction crews are supposed to place signs well in advance of a construction zone so that drivers can be aware they are approaching a work zone. Proper signage can help drivers to prepare and slow down before entering a work zone. If there aren't proper signs, motorists will not know they need to slow down until they suddenly come upon stopped or slowed traffic, forcing them to suddenly stop or resulting in collisions.
Low visibility conditions and poor lighting can lead to construction site accidents at night. Drivers who can't see the work zone, equipment, or workers at night have a much higher risk of being involved in collisions. For this reason, road workers are supposed to wear highly visible clothing and to place signs to warn motorists so that crashes can be prevented.
In some cases, construction zone accidents happen because of missing barriers or cones. These types of barriers are meant to prevent vehicles from driving into the work zones and to define where the boundaries are. If barriers or cones aren't properly placed, motorists might accidentally enter blocked-off lanes and strike workers or equipment inside.Who Is Liable in a California Work Zone Accident?
Multiple parties can be liable for a work zone accident in California. Motorists must follow the temporarily reduced speed limits and other rules that apply to work zones. These laws are in place to prevent potential injury accidents involving road workers and other drivers. People who fail to follow the laws when workers are present and signs are placed to indicate the work zone can face strict penalties. California also has a move-over law that mandates drivers must move over to give space to workers in construction zones as well as to disabled, stopped, or first-responder cars along the sides of the roads.
Construction crews and agencies that are responsible for managing and repairing the roads must also comply with numerous safety regulations. When a government agency or private construction company violates the rules and causes an accident, it can be liable. The following are some of the potentially liable parties in a work zone crash:
- Other motorists
- Construction workers
- Construction company
- Government entity
- Designer and manufacturer of defective equipment
An experienced construction site accident attorney can review your case and identify the potentially liable parties that should be included in your lawsuit.Damages in a Work Zone Accident Claim
The damages that might be available to you in a work zone accident claim will depend on the facts and circumstances of what happened. You might be able to recover the following types of economic and non-economic damages:
- Past and future medical expenses
- Past and future wage losses
- Property losses
- Burial and funeral expenses in wrongful death cases
- Loss of the income the deceased victim would have earned over their expected lifespan in wrongful death claims
- Physical pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Loss of consortium/guidance in wrongful death claims
Construction zone accidents can be devastating and result in permanently disabling injuries or death. If you were injured in a work zone accident or lost your loved one because of the negligence of someone else, you should talk to an experienced attorney at the law firm of Steven M. Sweat, Personal Injury Lawyers, APC. Our attorneys have decades of experience handling all types of motor vehicle accident claims, including those involving construction zones. Call us for a free consultation today at 866-966-5240.