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Who Is at Fault in a Work Zone Crash?

who's at fault in a work zone crash

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if our state’s roads and highways magically fixed themselves?

We would never need construction work zones again. Just think — no more potholes, no more necessity for road widenings or added lanes, no more tree branches overhanging the road, no more faded lane markers that need repainting, and no more snow. Unfortunately, this is just not possible. Kentucky has 80,000 miles of roadway that need to be constantly maintained and improved. Chances are, you will encounter at least one work zone in your daily driving experience.

Unfortunately, work and construction zones are dangerous places.

Nationally, fatal crashes in work zones increased by 3% between 2016-2017, while the number of all other fatal crashes decreased by 1.5%. In Kentucky, the statistics are even direr; out of 1,261 construction zone crashes in 2019, (20% more than in 2018), there were 8 tragic fatalities.

What exactly makes these accidents so numerous?

You should always be able to recognize when you are approaching a work zone. There are temporary flashing signposts, flaggers, barrels, cones, panels, or signs on the back of workplace vehicles. Construction zone signs are uniformly orange backgrounds with black writing or symbols on them. You should also notice workers in bright-colored vests. You may have to merge into a different lane, and you will definitely be warned to slow down.

Believe it or not, some people do not merge when they should, follow the vehicles in front of them too closely, and fail to slow down. Although it is also possible that the zone is not adequately marked or organized, despite strict regulations, most work zone accidents are a result of distracted driving and/or speeding.

Distracted Driving:

The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet reports that 53% of work zone accidents in our state are caused by distracted driving. Drivers simply don’t pay attention. Instead of keeping their eyes and attention on the road, they text, talk on the phone, eat and drink, fiddle with the radio, reach for objects, smoke, interact with passengers — the list goes on. Just reading a single text can take a driver’s eyes off the road for five seconds. According to the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration), five seconds of inattention at 55 miles per hour is the equivalent of driving the length of a football field with your eyes closed. You can see how inattention could lead a driver to miss the warning signs of a work zone or an imminent lane change.


The NHTSA reports that in 2017, at least one driver was speeding in 26% of all traffic fatalities. Now combine the problem of speeding with a distracted driver and a construction zone — the risk goes up exponentially. You may be the most careful driver in the world, but you still have to contend with other drivers who may speed, merge without warning when their lane is taken away, or follow too closely and cause rear-end collisions.

So, who is liable in a work zone crash?

Ultimately, it could be anyone, which is why you need to consult an experienced attorney who can determine if you are owed damages and compensation if you were involved in a collision in a work zone. It may be possible that the state or the construction workers failed to follow regulations as far as proper markings and warnings. It may be that another driver is at fault.

The state of Kentucky or a local government agency:

The state may be responsible if the construction site is not properly managed, but claims of this sort are intricate and less than straightforward. You will definitely need to consult with an attorney to see what the liability is.

A construction company:

The company in charge of the work site may be liable if it fails to properly warn of upcoming changes in the traffic pattern, if it doesn’t account for nighttime lack of visibility, if it fails to maintain the construction site carefully (causing hazardous driving conditions), or if it fails to follow state regulations.

Another driver:

If a driver fails to exercise a reasonable degree of care, he or she is most likely to be found legally liable for an accident.

What should you do in case of a work zone crash?

  • Make sure you are safe. If you or your passenger are injured in an accident in a work zone, the first thing you should do is make sure that you are safe. Hopefully, a witness will have called 911, but if you are not sure of this and are able to, call yourself. Even if you feel well enough to refuse an ambulance ride to the hospital, make sure that the EMTs check you out thoroughly at the scene. Adrenaline and shock can mask pain, so you may not realize how seriously you are injured or even that you are injured at all. For instance, many whiplash and back injuries are not evident until the next day or even later. If you do not go straight to the hospital, make sure to see your own doctor as soon as possible, but definitely within 24 hours. Keep all documentation safely stored, as your attorney may need to prove that your injuries are related to the accident.
  • Wait until the police arrive. Wait at the scene of the accident until the police arrive to make an accident report. You will need a copy of this report if you pursue legal action or if another driver pursues legal action against you. If you can safely do so, take photographs of the accident.
  • No unnecessary information. Follow the advice of your insurance company: do not give away unnecessary information or admit fault. You may be under stress, confused, or in shock and may not have a clear idea of exactly what happened. Avoid the natural compulsion to apologize, as this may be taken out of context and used against you at a later date. Answer questions with facts only. Make sure to get the insurance policy number of the other driver (if there is one). When you get home, write down a complete account of what happened with as many specifics as possible. If you don’t feel able to write, you can make a voice memo on your phone. It is important to do this while the details are still fresh in your mind. For more information on what to do after an accident, click here.

Contact an experienced attorney who can help to evaluate your case and help you get the compensation you are entitled to. McCoy & Sparks has knowledgeable and experienced personal injury attorneys who offer free consultations.

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