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Workers in construction zones around West Virginia face a significant risk of suffering from major injuries. Construction zones are inherently dangerous for workers because they happen to be located on highways, expressways and other busy traffic areas. Several roadways in West Virginia are undergoing construction and repair work. These construction zones are more vulnerable to accidents because of lane restrictions, diversions and sudden speed limit changes.
Workers who operate in these zones are also at risk of suffering injuries due to accidents not just because of the heavy machinery and equipment they work with, but also because of negligent or careless drivers who are distracted, inattentive or sometimes, impaired by alcohol and/or drugs.
These “accidents” are, for the most part, avoidable. For instance, recently a van hit two highway workers in a northern West Virginia work zone in a hit and run collision.
The highway crew was working on an off-ramp on westbound Interstate 70 at Wheeling when the vehicle hit several caution cones, knocked down one worker, and broke a rake out of the other’s hand before driving off, the department said. Police located a suspect, the release said. No names were released.
“Many, if not all, of these work zone accidents can be avoided if drivers pay attention, slow down, and move over when possible,” West Virginia Transportation Secretary Byrd White said.
Whether you are a worker or a motorist who has been injured by a negligent driver in a West Virginia construction zone, please remember that you have legal rights to compensation. Our experienced West Virginia construction zone accident lawyers can help you secure maximum compensation for your injuries and losses. Call us to find out how we can help you pursue your rights.
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, between 2016 and 2017, fatal crashes in work zones increased by 3 percent during a period when fatal crashes outside work zones decreased by 1.5 percent. In 2017, there were 799 fatalities in construction zones nationwide, of which 658 were drivers and passengers, 136 were pedestrians and bicyclists and 5 were classified as “others.”
Also, in 2017, 132 workers were killed in road construction zone accidents in the United States. During the same year, there were 222 fatal crashes involving large trucks and buses. Of the 710 fatal construction zone crashes in 2017, 283 occurred on interstate roadways and 348 on arterial roadways. In 203 of those crashes, speeding was a factor.
There are a number of reasons why construction zone accidents occur. Here are the most common causes of these types of catastrophic accidents in West Virginia:
Speeding: When drivers fail to follow posted speed limits in a construction zone, the consequences can be devastating. It is common knowledge that traffic in a construction zone typically stops and go, which means that the traffic is not free-flowing. This also means that drivers need to pay attention to the speed at which they are traveling.
Even if they are following the posted speed limit, oftentimes, the speed at which they are traveling may not be appropriate given the movement of traffic in the area. This type of situation could leave construction workers vulnerable to being struck by passing cars. However, it is important to remember that construction zone speed limits are intended to keep drivers as well as construction workers safe. Drivers can face fines for violating posted speed limits in construction zones. But, when they violate and cause an injury or fatal accident, they can also be held financially responsible for the injuries, damages and losses they cause.
Failure to obey signs: When you are passing through a construction zone, you will find several signs posted to warn you that there are workers on foot in the area. You may also come across speed limits that could vary depending on the work that is being done. It is crucial that everyone obeys these signs and cautionary signals. Often times, signs in construction zones will serve as warnings and directions to drivers advising them about upcoming road conditions such as lane closures or detours. If you are driving through a construction zone, it is crucial to be alert and pay attention to changing roadways conditions.
Inattention to roadway equipment: It goes without saying that roadway construction involves large pieces of equipment and machinery. These are often large and slow-moving, and could even move into a driver’s path. So, it is important that motorists are aware of their surroundings at all times. Many construction vehicles, because of their size, have blind spots, making it difficult for them to see approaching vehicles. Additionally, it may be more difficult to stop or maneuver these vehicles in emergency situations.
Merging issues: Some of the most horrific accidents in construction zones occur because of high-speed lane merging or delay in merging. In a construction zone, the width of the lanes and sometimes, the number of lanes available may be reduced. When drivers speed up while merging or wait until the last moment to merge, they could be at risk for deadly rear-end crashes or side-impact collisions.
Distracted driving: There is absolutely no room for error while driving through a construction zone. Driving while distracted in a construction zone often causes serious accidents. Some of the common distractions while driving include talking on the phone, texting, checking emails, social media, etc. For example, sending or receiving a text takes a driver’s eyes from the road for an average of 4.6 seconds. At 55mph it is the equivalent of driving the length of an entire football field, blind.
Impaired driving: Driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs can also cause major injury crashes in construction zones. Safe driving requires the ability to concentrate, make good judgments and quickly react to situations. However, alcohol and drugs affect these skills, which are very much needed when driving through a work zone where conditions are constantly changing.
Here are a few important steps drivers would be well-advised to take to help improve their own safety as well as safety of construction workers in work zones.
Keep a safe distance. When you enter a construction zone, it is important to increase your following distance. Ideally, you should have between two and three car lengths between you and the vehicle ahead of you. This will help ensure that you have enough time to stop if you need to do so. You have to expect abrupt stops in construction zones. So, if you are any closer, you could easily cause a rear-end crash. It is important to increase the following length when the weather is bad. If you are driving in rainy, foggy or slick conditions, increase the distance between you and the vehicle ahead.
Always assume workers are present. It is important that you obey the signs including posted speed limits in work zones even when you don’t see workers construction workers at the site. Never assume that the speed limit or rules don’t apply just because they are not visible to you. Speeding in construction zones puts workers in grave danger. In addition, you could face fines for violating construction zone speed limits.
Follow instructions. Often times, flaggers may be posted in construction zones to help direct traffic around the work area. Always obey instructions from flaggers. Their directions will overrule any other traffic signals or signs in the area. Make sure you reduce your speed and be especially aware of your surroundings when you are in a work zone with flaggers present.
Avoid all distractions. When you are driving, a distraction doesn’t mean only a cell phone. There are a number of activities that distract drivers including eating, grooming, talking to passengers, etc. When you are driving in a construction zone, it is crucial that you remain on high alert. Turn down or turn off your radio, avoid any cell phone calls even if you are hands-free. Keep your hands on the wheel and eyes on the road.
Merge promptly. One of the most common causes of accidents in construction zones is lane closures and lane changes. When you see a sign posted for an upcoming lane closure, merge as quickly and as safely as possible.
While construction zones cause delays and frustrations for motorists, it is important to remember that all drivers have a responsibility to ensure safety. When drivers cause accidents due to their negligence (carelessness) or wrongdoing, they can be held liable for the injuries, damages and losses caused. When workers are injured on the job, in addition to workers’ compensation benefits from their employer, they may also be able to file a personal injury lawsuit against, for example, a motorist who caused the accident.
There are also several situations where a construction company may be held liable for a work-zone auto accident. This can occur when a construction company is not diligent about setting up a work zone site or when construction equipment owned by the company causes or contributes to a work zone accident.
A construction company could also be held liable if one of its employees causes the accident. Additional examples where the construction company may be liable for a construction zone accident include placing traffic warning signs for motorists in undesignated areas; creating confusion for motorists because of improper signage; affecting motorists’ vision with excessive or improper lighting; creating dangerous roadway hazards by failing to maintain the construction site; and failing to provide clear detour directions for motorists to avoid the construction zone.
In any type of construction zone accident, there are several steps you should take to ensure that you are protecting your legal rights and acting in your best interests. Here are a few steps you would be well advised to take.
File a police report. Make sure your account of what occurred gets in the official police report. While the civil lawsuit doesn’t hinge completely on a police report, depending on the facts stated in there and the determination of fault officials make, the report could be valuable when it comes to strengthening your case. File a report and obtain a copy of it for your own records. Your accident lawyer can also help you get a copy of this report from the relevant law enforcement agency.
Be careful about what you say. When you speak to other drivers or construction workers/managers at the site, state only the facts. Don’t assume things, admit fault or apologize. What you say at the scene can affect your personal injury case later.
Obtain evidence from the scene. Gather as much evidence as possible from the scene of the crash. This includes photos and cell phone videos of the accident scene, the road/traffic conditions around the construction zone, any signage present, and your injuries. It is also important that you get pertinent information from other involved parties including names, contact information, insurance details, vehicle license plate, etc. Also, obtain names, statements and contact information for anyone who may have witnessed the crash.
Get prompt medical attention and care. It is important to do this as soon as possible, even if you feel fine. Remember, pain can be masked by shock and adrenalin in the minutes and hours after an accident. Injuries and pain often surface later on. So, it is important that you get a thorough check-up from your physician as soon as possible. If you have suffered serious injuries that require emergency transportation, hospitalization, rehabilitation, etc., maintain a thorough record of your treatment and expenditures related to the accident.
Contact a lawyer as soon as possible. It is important to contact an experienced West Virginia personal injury lawyer who has successfully handled construction zone accident cases. Talk to your attorney before speaking with other parties’ insurance companies or lawyers. Let your attorney handle communications with the other parties. This will help ensure that your best interests are protected. Do not enter into an agreement or sign a settlement before consulting with your lawyer. Once you sign an agreement, the case will be considered closed and you may not be able to seek compensation for the losses you have sustained.
In such cases, injured victims may be able to seek compensation for damages including:
· Medical expenses
· Lost income
· Cost of rehabilitative treatments such as physical therapy
· Permanent injuries and disabilities
· Lost future income and benefits
· Pain and suffering
· Emotional distress
If you or a loved one has been injured in a West Virginia construction zone accident, the experienced personal injury lawyers at the Robinette Legal Group PLLC will help you evaluate your legal rights and options, and help you secure maximum compensation for your losses. We understand that the aftermath of an accident can take a severe physical, emotional and financial toll. We are here to help you navigate the process, get the support you need, and hold the at-fault parties accountable. Contact Us Today!
Robinette Legal Group PLLC 211 Everhart Dr, Ste 200 Morgantown, WV 26508 (304) 594-1800