Road traffic accidents in Florida have been a staple for late-night comedians and grim statistics for many years. Florida’s recent growth has led to an increase in roadway construction, meaning more construction workers on the roads, and more road construction accidents.
Although fatal injuries have been decreasing thanks to rapid emergency care and better vehicles, the number of accidents is on the rise. This is due to the greater number of road construction sites, road rage accidents, and distracted driving incidents. All these issues require good legal representation when the victims seek compensation following an accident.
The Growing Issue of Road Construction Accidents
Road construction accidents represent the intersection of construction sites and roadways, two areas of potential danger. Drivers are asked to navigate narrow areas crowded with traffic cones, barricades, flashing lights, and workers waving flags, often at high rates of speed. Construction workers must carry out tasks with heavy equipment while traffic speeds past less than five feet away.
Closing the entire highway is seldom feasible, so the best a construction company can do is use warning signs and barriers to keep cars and workers apart. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), there are more than 100 construction workers killed in construction zones annually, and the number increases each year. The causes are both careless drivers and unsafe working conditions. Everyone needs to be careful and safe when passing or working in a road construction area.
The Role of Legal Representation
No matter who is responsible for the cause of the accident (what attorneys call the “actual cause”), there are many individuals and entities who may share some fault. If you have been involved in a road construction accident, whether you are a worker or a motorist, you need the assistance of a skilled, knowledgeable road construction accidents attorney who understands the complexities of construction zone accidents.
The Importance of Experienced Legal Teams in Complex Cases
A complex case is one with multiple defendants, multiple issues, or which requires an extensive strategy to win. For instance, a complex case may involve:
- A government agency
- Outside contractors
- Legal analysts to explain why things must be done in certain ways
A complex case requires a legal team that has handled these types of cases before and knows what to look for and who to talk to when gathering information to assemble the case. The legal team at Ratzan Weissman & Boldt (RWB) is a prime example. Complex cases also require good knowledge of what is expected both in and out of court before the case ever begins.
How Legal Teams Help Families Seek Justice and Compensation
The goal of a road construction accident attorney is not to convince the insurance company to pay up. It is to convince a jury that the plaintiff deserves compensation and justice for their accident. To do this, the legal team has to find ways to show a jury that the other entities involved in an accident are responsible while still showing that the primary defendant is mostly at fault.
This multipronged approach shows a jury that several parties contributed to the primary defendant’s fault, while still holding them responsible. Without this, a sympathetic defendant could blame the other entities and escape their own responsibility. Demonstrating the multiple causes of an accident helps plaintiffs obtain multi-million dollar verdicts in devastating accidents.
Case Study: $45 Million Verdict in I-75 Interstate Accident
In 2015, a young medical student drove into a loaded tractor-trailer making an illegal U-turn across the I-75 at 11:35 p.m. It was dark, and the driver of the truck had never been to the area before. Raymond Astaphan died instantly when the roof of his car was sheared off by the trailer, and his passenger suffered serious injuries. Another driver was killed when a second 18-wheeler collided with the stalled big rig.
The construction truck driver, Juan Calero, was the immediate cause of the accident, and his employer, Ranger Construction Industries, Inc., was happy to let him be the fall guy for the incident. However, excellent legal work by RWB, the road construction accident attorneys for Astaphan’s parents, the plaintiffs in this case, found that Ranger Construction knew their drivers had been having difficulties exiting the highway, and that Calero needed a flagger and lights to stop traffic to safely accomplish the turn.
The RWB attorneys were able to show that Ranger Construction violated its contract with Florida DOT (which required providing drivers with safe means of ingress and egress to construction sites), and the jury found the defendants liable for Astaphan’s death. They awarded the plaintiffs a record 45 million dollars in compensation benefits and punitive damages.
Strategies To Prevent Road Construction Accidents
Highway construction accidents are not inevitable or the product of careless driving or negligent workers. With a few precautions and care, potential road construction accidents can be prevented and even eliminated in most cases.
Implementing Proper Safety Protocols and Systems
The Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) lists five common-sense rules for creating a safe construction work zone. However, like anything “common sense” these are only sensible if everyone uses them. Construction mishaps are a leading cause of preventable road accidents.
- Activity Area: The internal work area should be designed to minimize backing up and other maneuvering of construction equipment. The area should limit worker exposure to risk from traffic and other hazards.
- Speed Reduction: Vehicle traffic outside the area should be reduced through regulatory zones, including zero tolerance restrictions, barricades, lane reduction, flaggers, or uniformed law enforcement.
- Temporary Barricades: Barriers should be placed along the work area depending on space, traffic patterns, and lateral clearance. Construction vehicles should be kept clear of the roadway at all times.
- Worker Training: All workers should be trained on how to work next to motor vehicle traffic, how to evaluate space and traffic speed, and what to do in case of a vehicle incursion into the work area.
- Safety Planning: There should be a risk assessment done of the work site each day by a person designated by the employer. Daily planning sessions should be carried out by this individual.
Enhancing Oversight and Regulation of Construction Projects
In most states, the Department of Transportation oversees all road construction sites and contracts with private construction companies to carry out road work at the locations. Very few states (such as California) carry out road construction with their own crews.
To ensure oversight and regulation of road construction sites, drivers and workers need to insist their legislators hold their Departments of Transportation accountable for the safety of the highway workers and the construction zones.
The Future of Road Construction Safety and the Role of Law Firms
Legal teams and law firms have the edge over the average person when they dig into these cases. Often, they find that the government knows what is happening, it just cannot or will not act. In one case, where a driver was seriously injured by a lane diver (a driver cutting through lane stanchions), RWB’s researchers found that Florida’s DOT knew that placing stanchions closer than mandated—five feet apart rather than 10 feet apart—would reduce accidents by up to 90%.
Construction accident lawyers that win and publicize major cases can help put pressure on lawmakers to change the laws. They can also bring these lapses to public attention by publicizing their wins and cases.
If you have been the victim of any road construction accident and need legal representation for a personal injury claim, contact Ratzan Weissman & Boldt at 305-374-6366. The initial consultation is free.