New York Car Accidents Caused by Defective Roadway Design or Construction: What is “Governmental Immunity” and Why is it Important?


Sometimes who is liable in a New York motor vehicle accident is clear.  For example, it will be clear that another driver is negligent if you were rear-ended, or if the other driver crossed over a double line side-swiping your vehicle, and even if the other driver was operating a truck with defective equipment such as poorly maintained brakes. 

But what is the case when an accident was caused by a defectively designed road, such as when road signs did not comply with New York’s guidelines?  For instance, when signs were simply not properly placed or if those signs were absent all together.  Perhaps a guardrail was absent, and if it had been placed in the proper place, a collision with a road hazard or another vehicle would have been avoided. 

However, bringing a claim against the government—whether it is state or federal—is not always so easy.  Governments are afforded what is called “sovereign immunity.”  This concept arose out of the English legal system’s belief that the king could not be sued, historically applied to New York and other states.  That is, States were legally immune from liability arising from decisions made by government officials or employees that could be attributed to their negligence. 

This would mean that the negligent design or construction of a roadway would not give rise to governmental liability to injured motorists.  However, our laws have now restricted the concept of sovereign immunity.  In New York, persons injured by the fault of government negligence may recover damages for their injuries.  In fact, a legal duty has been placed on the government that requires them to design and construct highways in such a manner that motorists will be reasonably safe.  The government must take into account how motorists and pedestrians will foreseeably use highways. 

An experienced Hudson car accident attorney is needed so that a thorough investigation into negligent design or improper road signage caused an accident in order to determine if the State of New York is legally responsible for your injuries.  Such an evaluation depends on knowledge of the law and the use of expert testimony as to whether a defective roadway claim may be sustained. 

In New York, for you to succeed on a claim against the State or a municipality on the grounds of defective roadway design, it must be proved that the government’s traffic planning decision was based on a plainly inadequate study or that the State lacked a reasonable basis for its plan.  If incorrect traffic studies, flawed calculations, or wrong factors were used, and such is proved to be the cause or contribution to the accident and injuries, than the State or municipality will be liable. 

The attorneys at Greenberg and Greenberg handle car accident cases based on defective roadway design throughout New York State, including Columbia, Greene, Rensselaer, and Albany County.  Our legal team has earned a reputation for dedicated service to our clients injured in New York personal injury accidents.  Please contact us today to receive a free case evaluation by dialing locally to 518-828-3336 or call toll free at 877-469-9300.