We’re all familiar with the orange barrels and cones on roads and highways which signal upcoming construction zones. These areas can be hazardous, especially in heavy traffic at particular times of the day, and drivers and workers alike can be at risk in close proximity. Despite the many warning signs and flashing lights, all construction zones differ and not all drivers follow the precautions carefully. Some drivers still speed and disregard solid lines which forbid lane changes, and the use of a mobile phone in these zones can further increase the risk of an accident.
Of course, state transportation departments across the nation are ready with their suggestions for drivers moving through construction zones, chief among them being: avoid changing lanes unless absolutely necessary; refrain from tailgating and “road rage” of any kind; minimize all distractions, such as cell phones and loud music; and always keep an eye out for all construction equipment and workers anywhere within the work-zone.
However, accidents in construction zones are not always the driver’s fault. Poorly-marked zones can potentially cause confusion and send a driver into a wrong lane, concrete barrier, or another vehicle, while slow-moving construction vehicles with improper or missing warning lights may move into the road without allowing drivers enough time to yield. Here are some common types of accidents which occur in these zones:
- Rear-end collisions – Often caused by tailgating, distracted driving, failure to recognize slow or stopped traffic, or a combination of these.
- Collisions with equipment – Includes slow-moving work vehicles and construction equipment in or near the paths of vehicles.
- Collisions with warning equipment – Including barrels, signs, lights, and other warning devices, as well as motorized construction signs, which are typically large and heavy and may total a car which strikes one.
- Sideswipes – Narrow lanes and erratic shifts often increase the risks of sideswipe accidents in construction zones, especially when lanes shift or end suddenly.
- Striking workers – These zones pose constant risks for construction workers due to their proximity with moving vehicles. As such, fines for traffic accidents are often doubled in work-zones and penalties for injuring or killing a worker can be particularly harsh.
Most accidents in construction zones on roads and highways happen in only a split-second, but can have life-changing consequences. Here are some important tips to keep in mind on the road:
- Don’t tailgate – Be prepared for unexpected stops in front of you and always maintain safe braking distance.
- Be alert – Avoid all distractions and be mindful of every detail when entering a construction zone. Be prepared for lane-shifts, uneven pavement, and construction equipment, and note the proximity of all cars around you.
- Slow down – Speed limits are usually reduced in work zones, and it’s important to remember that this is as much for the safety of drivers passing through as it is for any on-foot workers in the area.
- Don’t get distracted! – In a construction zone, keep both eyes on the road and your hands on the wheel. Drive cautiously, avoid using or looking at cell phones or getting too involved with the radio, and be ready for anything that may require an immediate evasive maneuver.
If you are involved in an accident in a construction zone, you may have a viable claim against the other driver and, depending on particular factors, the construction company may be held at least partially responsible, as well. Was there an adequate warning, not only for construction but the particular hazard which contributed to the accident? Were the warning lights malfunctioning or missing entirely? Did a work vehicle suddenly obstruct the road and cause you or another driver to swerve?
The defendant in a claim involving a work-zone accident may be another driver, the city, county, or state responsible for the construction, or a combination of these, depending on the nature of the accident. While suing another driver after an accident is a relatively straightforward process, filing suit against a municipality requires special consideration. Under “sovereign immunity,” some suits against the government may be barred even if a city, state, or its employees were negligent and an individual was injured as a result. States vary in their approaches to this principle, and Illinois uses “state claims acts:” these statutes generally limit the state’s immunity, establish procedures for claims against it, establish a board, commission, or court to determine these claims, and may limit damages which can be recovered.
If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident in a construction zone, you need an experienced personal injury attorney. Contact Mike Agruss Law today for a free consultation. We are a Chicago-based personal injury law firm, and helping our clients is about counseling, advocating, and ultimately solving problems. With years of experience successfully representing the people and not the powerful, we will file your claim and take care of the insurance company, medical bills, property damage, and lost income. We will handle your case quickly and advise you every step of the way, and we will not hesitate to go to trial for you. Lastly, our personal injury lawyers are not paid attorney fees unless we win your case. Our no-fee promise is that simple. You have nothing to risk when you hire us – only the opportunity to seek justice.