Highway construction activities peak every year in the summer months, and 2020 is no exception. Everywhere a work zone exists, the risk of an accident increases. Motorists, passengers, and highway workers suffer numerous injuries from summer work zone car accidents. But drivers can take steps to prevent these accidents.
Work zone accidents have many different causes, but the number one cause is driver error. Speeding, distracted driving, and failing to abide by work zone traffic controls are the most common driver mistakes.
Reduced speed and cautious driving are essential precautions for driving in a highway construction zone. That’s especially true since special Virginia laws apply to operating a motor vehicle in a work zone. Higher penalties apply to violations of work zone restrictions.
The majority of work zone accidents involve multiple vehicles. Trucks — especially tractor trailers — frequently are part of construction zone accidents. One reason is that large, heavy trucks have much longer stopping distances than smaller motor vehicles. Accidents often happen when a truck has to suddenly stop or slow down without warning. Trucks also have significant blind spots, which cause problems greater than normal when traffic is tightly congested in work zones.
In multi-vehicle work zone accidents, the most frequent types of crashes are head-on, side (or angle) impact, and rear-end collisions. All of these accident types can cause serious injuries, especially when vehicles travel at higher rates of speed.
The chain reaction nature of multi-vehicle work zone accidents often makes it difficult to determine legal responsibility for an accident.
In Virginia, at-fault drivers are legally responsible for compensating victims for their injuries. However, state law provides that any contributory negligence by the victim completely bars recovery, even if another driver was more at fault.
In some situations, a construction company may be liable for injuries caused in a work zone accident. Companies performing the work have a duty to operate in a safe manner and to warn motorists of dangers.
Determining legal responsibility in a work zone accident is a complex and challenging task. Reconstructing the events leading up to the accident is often difficult, particularly when an accident involves multiple vehicles.
If you suffered serious injuries in a Virginia car crash that occurred in a work zone, it is essential to talk with an experienced personal injury attorney who knows Virginia personal injury law. Attempting to recover compensation for your injuries without legal representation may well result in undermining your ability to receive payment for your injuries from the at-fault individual.
Motor vehicle drivers and passengers are not the only victims in work zone accidents. Highway construction workers often receive injuries as well. In most cases, the worker will be covered by Virginia workers’ compensation insurance, which pays for medical expenses, wage losses, and resulting disability.
In addition, if a motor vehicle driver caused the accident, the worker may have a third-party personal injury claim against the at-fault motorist. This claim is completely separate from the workers’ comp claim.
Depending on the circumstances, the personal injury claim may entitle the worker to more compensation than workers’ comp provides. However, asserting a third-party claim does not mean the worker receives a double recovery. Generally, amounts paid by workers’ comp must be reimbursed if a third party pays for the same items.
A highway worker injured in a work zone accident should consult with a Virginia personal injury attorney concerning any potential third-party claim arising from the accident. At Renfro & Renfro, our Richmond auto accident lawyers also handle workers’ compensation cases, so we can assist injured workers with both types of claims.
Drivers should always take extra precautions when driving through a work zone. Using common sense and staying alert are essential.
The Virginia Department of Transportation tells drivers to “expect the unexpected” in a work zone, which is a primary reason for staying alert. You never know exactly what the drivers around you might do next, where workers will be, or when heavy equipment might move into your path.
Avoiding distractions goes hand-in-hand with staying alert. Focusing solely on the task of driving is more important than ever in a work zone. Don’t eat or drink, check your phone, or even talk on the phone when you’re in a work zone. Stay focused on getting through the work zone safely and without incident.
There are other things that you should not do in a work zone. Speeding and tailgating are two common causes of work zone accidents. You should never do either one when you’re in a work zone.
Keeping a safe distance behind other vehicles is extremely important at all times. That gives you time to stop if the vehicle ahead stops suddenly. It also may prevent you from being rammed into the car in front of you if your vehicle is rear-ended. Keeping a safe distance is especially critical when large trucks are part of the traffic.
Finally, if traffic controls tell you to stay in your lane, obey them. Abiding by all traffic control measures (including signaling workers), signs, and signals in a work zone is absolutely essential.
If you suffered serious injuries in a work zone accident, the Richmond auto accident attorneys at Renfro & Renfro are here to help. We also assist clients with workers’ compensation claims from work zone crashes and other job-related accidents. We invite you to contact us for a free consultation.