Liability for a Road Hazard Accident

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A hazard on the road can quickly turn a road trip into a car accident. When roads are not properly maintained then the buildup of smaller issues -- a pothole here, a missing sign there -- can lead to car accidents that didn't need to happen. Here’s a look at the types of road hazards in Washington State, and who is liable for a road hazard accident, by Bellevue personal injury lawyer Max Meyers.

Types of Road Hazards

Poor maintenance often creates road hazards. The following lists some of the most common hazards on the road that can lead to an accident.

  • Potholes/uneven road surface conditions
  • Debris in road, such as a fallen tree
  • Snow or ice
  • Incorrect/lack of traffic or safety signs
  • Unmarked junctions
  • Sharp turns
  • Confusing work zones
  • Poorly maintained painted lines
  • Missing guardrails


Determining liability for an accident caused by one of the hazard types above depends on who handled the danger. Bellevue drivers can report a traffic safety concern if they see one.

Liability for Road Hazards

The first thing to consider when thinking about responsibility for a road hazard is who handles maintenance. Usually, city, county, or state entities control maintaining roads to a reasonably safe standard. In addition to determining which institution might be held liable, you’ll also need to prove whether or not negligence occurred.

Neglect means failing to act with proper care. In regards to road hazards, you’ll have to show that the agency responsible for the road maintenance knew of the risk but failed to take action to correct it in a reasonable amount of time. For example, a city may not be held liable for an accident caused by debris on the road from wind, unless the city knew of the rubble and waited an unreasonable amount of time to remove it.

Can you sue?

One of the most pressing questions in terms of liability for a road hazard accident is whether or not you can even sue the responsible party. That’s because, in most states, the state imposes sovereign immunity laws. These laws prevent the state from being the subject of a lawsuit.

However, Washington eliminated its sovereign immunity laws in March of 1961, stating that “The State of Washington…consents to the maintaining of a suit or action against it for damages arising out of its tortious conduct to the same extent as if it were a private person or corporation.” As such, you may be able to sue a Washington government entity or city if you can prove negligence.

Contact an Attorney to Learn More

If you have been harmed by a road hazard, filing a claim against a government entity is a complicated process. To ensure that you have a representative on your side who can guide you through the process, call Max Meyers Law PLLC. Contact the office today for a free case consultation at 425-399-7000

Max Meyers
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Max is a Kirkland personal injury attorney handling cases in Seattle, King County & surrounding in WA State.