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Can a Government Agency Be Sued Due to Its Negligence to Maintain Roads?

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When it comes to enforcing road safety rules and reminding drivers about the importance of observing traffic laws, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration or NHTSA has never fallen short in the performance of its duties. Regardless of the type of vehicle one drives the NHTSA has programs that are intended to provide whatever information he/she needs to know about road safety.

It cannot be denied, though, that millions of vehicular accidents are faults of drivers. There are stories that say that back in 1896, all the registered cars in the whole of the United States numbered only to just four; two eventually collided with each other. Now, regardless of whether this story is true or not, what counts is the underlying message: that drivers commit mistakes and that these mistakes are followed by accidents.

Records from the NHTSA show that the most common causes of road accidents, wherein drivers are at fault, are drunk-driving, driver error, speeding, driver distractions and reckless driving. However, there are also instances when the causes of accidents are outside of drivers’ control, such as a defective car or car parts, or poorly constructed or damaged road. In the case of defective vehicles, manufacturers can be held liable; in the case of poorly constructed or defective roads, though, can government agencies be sued and held accountable?

The majority of states and the federal government agencies cannot be sued due to their immunity from lawsuits. This immunity, when referencing federal and state governments, is called “sovereign immunity”; if applied to cities, counties and other smaller government agencies, it is called “governmental immunity.”

According to the website of the Cazayoux Ewing Law Firm, despite this immunity, many government agencies, under specific conditions, allow lawsuits to be filed against them. Gross negligence in maintaining a roadway, for instance, is one of the conditions that would allow a plaintiff to sue a government office.

The pain and suffering undergone by individuals who sustain severe injuries in car accidents are no small concerns for these can alter the life of the injured and his/her family. If the cause of the accident is defective road, however, proving government negligence can be a mountainous task.

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