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The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) is in charge of keeping California’s roads safe, but sometimes unsafe road conditions can be at fault for car accidents or damage to your car.
In many liability cases, there is a party who is clearly responsible for the incident. With damage from debris on the roads, however, there is rarely one party that is clearly to blame. There are many different factors that go into determining liability for damage due to poor road maintenance. For example, if you were breaking a traffic law by driving over the speed limit or driving recklessly and you could have avoided the poor road condition had you been driving responsibly, the court will most likely determine you to be liable to some degree. If the damage to yourself or your car was due to debris that fell off a truck in front of you, the court would most likely see the truck company or driver as more liable.
The foundational aspect to proving liability is negligence. You need to prove that Caltrans had a duty to maintain the road and that their failure to uphold that duty was the cause of your damage. Caltrans has the duty of maintaining California roads so that they are safe to drive on. In situations where poor road condition developed very recently, assigning liability for damage to your vehicle can become complicated. Considering the sheer number of roads that they are responsible for and the frequency of debris, potholes, or cracks on them, Caltrans cannot fix every single issue immediately as it happens. They are, however, required to fix road issues within a reasonable period of time. If the road has been in poor condition for a relatively long time, they are liable for damages.
If you win your case against Caltrans, you may receive compensation in the form of damages to help you recover from the incident. The first part of the award will be composed of any medical expenses if you suffered an injury or repair expenses if there was damage to your car. If you did suffer harm, you may also receive compensation for wages if you needed to take days off work or if the incident reduced your overall earning potential. The courts also may consider compensation for pain and suffering and loss of consortium.
California follows the Pure Comparative Negligence Rule. The pure comparative negligence rule allows the court to adjust the compensation depending on the percentage that each party was at fault. For example, if the courts determine you to be 20% responsible for the damage, they will reduce your compensation by 20%. In this example, for an award of $10,000, the plaintiff would receive $8,000. In California, you may still receive some level of compensation even if the courts determine you to be more responsible for the incident than the defendant.
Highways are extremely dangerous places, and it is important that city and counties keep them in good condition so drivers can stay safe. If you suffered an injury or your vehicle incurred damage on a California highway, contact the Orange County car accident lawyers at DiMarco | Araujo | Montevideo. We have extensive knowledge of California law and can help you determine if Caltrans is liable. If you decide to file a claim against them we will also provide you with aggressive and skillful representation.