Hidden Threats to Driving Safety
A hidden threat to motorists is the roadway defect of the shoulder drop-off. Even a good driver may be unprepared for an unexpected dropping of the roadway – one they cannot anticipate in a moment’s notice. It is our reasonable expectation as motorists that municipalities will maintain their roadways properly, but this is not always the case.
The purpose of a roadway shoulder is to allow drivers a margin of safety. If they need to take evasion action, or there is a mechanical breakdown, or some other emergency, the shoulder is to help prevent a terrible wreck. However if the road surface is negligently created or maintained, the height differential can be so great as to amount to an unsafe defect. Such an elevation variance can create a danger that cannot be negotiated because of less than a second of driving time.
Road Defect Liability depends on Expert Witnesses
Shoulder drop-off claims require evaluation as to the nature and degree of danger. This must be in conjunction with road design engineers. They act as expert witnesses in assessing whether the motorist was presented with a negligent driving situation. Each case has to be investigated with an eye towards overcoming Ohio sovereign immunity defenses, if the roadway is public owned.
Usually it is a jury issue as to whether the ground elevation differential is sufficient to establish a credible claim of liability against the premises owner. Governmental departments are charged with responsibility for monitoring elevation defects. This legal obligation to the community runs from the design, through the construction and then the maintenance. Inspections should be an ongoing protocol of basic roadway monitoring and care.
Given the expectation of contradictory conclusions, the credibility of our experts is paramount in obtaining a successful result for our clients. The sooner measurements can be taken at the wreck site the better the odds of prevailing with legal representation.
The engineering focus will be on the paved portion and its mathematical relationship with the unpaved portion. Slope angles must be specifically measured and reinforced with an illuminating photographic record to preserve evidence. Sometimes the input of a human factors expert can be beneficial in establishing the unreasonable risk of harm presented by the roadway’s deviation from the expected standard of care.
Catastrophic Injuries and Death can result
Vehicles steered into a culvert or ditch, because of defective road slope, often strike the guardrail or earth with extraordinary force. Whether there is a non-braking, full-force blunt impact – or rollover – the injuries sustained are often very serious.