The Duty to Provide Safe Roads

The law is clear in Washington State: Our street and highway departments have a “duty to provide reasonably safe roads and this duty includes the duty to safeguard against an inherently dangerous or misleading condition.”

An intersection with a history of collisions suggests that the road is unreasonably hazardous.

What are some of these conditions?

  • Intersections with a history of collisions that show an obvious need of a traffic signal or signs, to bring order to streets that converge and result in conflict,
  • A steep embankment on a curve in need of a guardrail,
  • A lack of chevrons to warn of a sudden sharp curve, or
  • A cable median barrier on a 60-/70- mph highway that is wholly inadequate to redirect or even restrain errant cars to prevent innocent people from being hit head-on.

Important Practice Tip: Examine first-hand all aspects of the road where the collision occurred for design/operational problems before ever considering a settlement with a defendant driver that will destroy joint and several liability. Too often, I’m approached with the defendant’s $25K policy limits as an associating attorney’s “war chest” for a case against the State. Too late. Not to mention that $25K is a drop in the bucket in these very complex and expensive cases.