Work Zone Accidents
With the first mild weather of spring comes the sprouting of orange cones and barrels on streets and highways. Construction season can be frustrating for drivers when they experience delays getting where they need to go because of bottlenecks or detours. Often that frustration can lead drivers to take actions that result in collisions that may injure other drivers or construction workers.
The Illinois Department of Transportation reports that there are more than 7,000 motor vehicle crashes in work zones each year in the state. The state has taken steps to attempt to reduce serious injury accidents and fatalities by enacting stiffer penalties for speeding and for motorists who hit construction workers inside of a work zone. Penalties can include hundred or thousands of dollars in fines, driver’s license suspension, or prison time if a worker is hit.
But if you’re a driver who was injured in a crash that wasn’t your fault, or you’re a construction worker, pedestrian, or bicyclist who was hit by a driver, you’re looking for solutions other than criminal penalties. You have medical bills adding up and you may have lost time from work, which means you may be sweating how to pay your rent or mortgage and other household bills.
For construction workers injured in work zones, worker’s compensation may help. Drivers, pedestrians, or bicyclists will have to turn to insurance claims for compensation.
What is a Work Zone?
In some ways, a work zone should be self-evident. It’s a stretch of street, road, or highway where work is being performed. A variety of types of construction activity may be happening in a work zone. Construction could mean grinding down the asphalt and rebuilding the road, sealing cracks, painting new stripes, or installation of water and sewer lines, among other activities.
Work zones should be marked by warning signs or other signals, such as flashing lights, telling drivers where a given work zone starts and stops. Flaggers or police officers also may be present to direct traffic through or around the work zone.
A work zone remains a work zone even though no construction is going on at a given moment. As long as those markings are in place, that stretch of road is a work zone, even after construction workers have gone home for the night.
Common Causes of Work Zone Accidents
Some common negligent driving behaviors that lead to construction zone crashes include:
- Tailgating, or following too closely behind another car
- Distracted driving, such as texting or talking on a cell phone while driving
- Drunk driving
- Driver inattention — not noticing that lanes are closed or that the flow of traffic has been altered, or that there is equipment in the roadway
- Failure to yield to construction workers, construction equipment, or other drivers
Sometimes accidents happen in work zones because proper warnings weren’t posted or the road was left in a condition that is conducive to causing collisions.
Liability in Work Zone Accidents
When you’ve been injured in a work zone accident, determining who should be responsible to compensate you for your injuries and damages can be a complex process. There may be some combination of factors that led to the wreck. The driver who hit you may have been negligent, but the workers also may have been negligent in preparing the site and left road conditions that contributed to your wreck. You may end up in the position of making claims against both the driver and the people or agency responsible for the road work.
Because of the complexity that may be involved in getting compensation for a work zone accident, it’s a good idea to consult with a personal injury lawyer who has experience handling claims stemming from work zone crashes. An experienced work zone accident attorney can oversee an investigation into your accident and gather the evidence to support your claim. It’s always important to prove that someone else was negligent when you make a claim for injuries and damages from an auto accident, but it’s even more important in a work zone crash because of the strict penalties attached to negligent driving in construction zones.
A good personal injury lawyer also will be able to sort through the facts of your case and identify who should be responsible for paying your medical bills and other damages associated with the crash. Your attorney can help you make claims to the appropriate insurance companies, and work to get you the settlement you deserve.