Riding a motorcycle in any state can be dangerous. However, it’s particularly risky in Louisiana. The major reason for the increased number of motorcycle accidents in the state is due to poor road conditions.
Like any motorist, motorcyclists have a duty to take care when operating their motorcycles, and watch out for obvious road damage that may lead to an accident. But are riders always at fault if the accident is caused by poorly maintained roads?
Can the state ever be held responsible, since the state is tasked with repairing these roads?
In this article we discuss many of the nuances pertaining to Louisiana law and holding the state responsible for motorcycle crashes due to poorly maintained roads.
If you are involved in a motorcycle crash, it’s always important to contact a qualified and experienced attorney that can help you navigate the law, and ensure your rights are protected. The Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD) is responsible for maintaining state highways and interstate highways under state jurisdiction. The state, through DOTD, is charged with ensuring these roads are safe for travel and may be responsible for any damage that results when roads aren’t kept reasonably safe.
However, the key here is what is “reasonable.”
Although the state has the responsibility to maintain the roads, this doesn’t mean that they are liable for every accident caused by poor road conditions. State laws allow the government a reasonable amount of time to discover the condition, and a reasonable amount of time to fix it.
However, the government may be liable for resulting damages if:
- the government knew (or should have known) about a particular road issue,
- did not repair the condition in a reasonable amount of time, and
- an accident occurs as a result of the condition.
Most governments have what is referred to as “sovereign immunity,” meaning they cannot be sued without permission. However, many states also provide avenues to suing the government in certain circumstances. In Louisiana, Louisiana Governmental Claims Act (LGCA) covers sovereign immunity.
The LGCA establishes special rules, exceptions, and notice requirements involved for bringing a claim against the city, the parish, and the state of Louisiana as a whole.
The process is complex and requires you to first file a claim before taking any legal action. Fortunately, vehicle accidents are one of the easier situations in which the government can be sued.
When making a claim against the government, it’s extremely important that all necessary steps are completed in an orderly and timely fashion. Although the LGCA establishes rules that allow a claim to be brought against the government, there are also strict deadlines and forms of proof that must be established in order for the claim to proceed.
Like anybody, the government doesn’t want to admit liability and is hesitant to hand out a check just because you make a claim. You will need to prove that the government is legally liable.
As noted above, you must be able to show that the government knew about the poor road conditions, did not take action, and that an accident resulted.
This means that it is very important for you to document everything related to the accident, including:
- witness statements
- prior road conditions
- police reports
- vehicle reports
- survey records, etc.
Save anything that could help your case. Although the state can be held responsible for an accident resulting from a poorly maintained road, determining responsibility and filing a successful claim against the government can be difficult.
An experienced and qualified attorney that knows the nuances of sovereign immunity and laws pertaining to motorcycle accidents in Louisiana can help you through this process.
Not only can an attorney act as an investigator on your behalf, but they can also help you navigate through legal procedures and ensure deadlines are met.