Tort claims against highway agencies have steadily risen since the early 1970's, when the AASHTO first began surveying States for information about tort liability claims. This is partly due to the trend of no longer allowing design immunity (sovereign immunity) for highway agencies in almost all States. There is evidence to believe that the majority of these cases involve allegations of faulty traffic control devices or maintenance. Even though the number of cases alleging design defects is relatively small in comparison, tort liability is still a real concern for highway engineers.

Tort is a legal term that refers to a civil wrong that has been committed, in this case by highway agencies. Negligence is a term used to refer to a classification of tort in which the injury is not intentional, but where there was failure to use due care in the treatment of others compared to what a "reasonable man" would have done. Liability is the responsibility to make restitution to the damaged party through an action or payment determined by the court. Finally, States protected with sovereign immunity for design cannot be sued for decisions regarding design. (Sovereign immunity is now only in existence in a handful of States. Also unlike a state, a county or municipality can't claim sovereign immunity even if they share some of the state's Constitutionally defined power.)

The AASHTO Green Book, other State adopted highway standards, Federal and State regulations and guidelines, and research publications issued by the Transportation Research Board are often used in tort cases to educate the jury about the standard level of practice for design. In addition, expert witnesses are used, who in turn rely on written text to explain the accepted standard practices for design to the jury.


Fearing suits Cities halt marking roads for bike facilities.   
Click here to read Illinois issue

No comments: