In the long-run, construction on Kentucky roads makes travel safer for everyone. Unfortunately, road construction in-progress creates short-term disruptions that can make driving less safe for drivers.
State and local governments have regulations in place to try to ensure the safety of road construction work zones, but these rules do not always prevent accidents and injuries. Read on to understand more about the work zone requirements for the road construction workers and drivers in the Bluegrass State.
Construction Zone Crash Statistics
According to the National Work Zone Safety Information Clearinghouse, in 2017 there were 94,000 crashes that occurred in a road work zone in the United States, resulting in 37,000 injuries. In 2018, there were 671 fatal work zone crashes that resulted in 754 fatalities.
Kentucky recorded 1,251 construction zone crashes in 2019, a 20% rise from the previous year, resulting in the tragic deaths of eight individuals. To put the statistics in context, one person dies every 13 hours in a work zone, and one injury occurs every 13 minutes in a work zone. Perhaps surprisingly, according to the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, four out of five victims in work zone crashes are motorists, not highway workers.
There is no shortage of examples of work zone crashes in Kentucky.
- In Bowling Green, Kentucky six people were killed and a child was injured in a crash on Interstate 65 in a construction zone where a three-lane section narrows to two lanes.
- In Munfordville, a multi-vehicle crash on Interstate 65 occurred where bridge repair was happening and the roadway merges from three lanes to one lane. A semi-truck approached the congested area in the right lane and failed ot yield to stopped traffic in the lane closure and struck several vehicles.
- In a treacherous accident in a work zone in Cumberland County, a tractor trailer struck a barrier wall, side-swiped a crane, hit a pickup, crashed into a guardrail and slammed head-on into an SUV. This then caused a chain reaction that involved another pickup in the accident. The truck driver who caused the accident was allegedly driving under the influence.
- In Boone County, a big rig slowed due to construction work. The driver behind the truck failed to brake and ran into the back of the truck, went under the semi, and veered off into the median. The construction zone experienced other dangerous incidents, despite posted warnings beginning four miles before the construction area.
- Three construction workers were hit by a car in a work zone in Anderson County after the driver swerved to avoid colliding with another vehicle. Fortunately, none of the construction workers died in the accident.
The examples above reflect some of the unique aspects of road construction work zones that make accidents more likely to occur in them as compared to open roads.
Why Do Crashes Occur in Work Zones in Kentucky?
First, let’s pause to examine what constitutes a work zone. A work zone constitutes the area around any temporary work site for maintenance or construction on or near highways, roads, and streets. Construction workers usually demarcate work zones through the placement of cones, barrels, or barriers, in the roadway. However, the absence of any such markers does not necessarily indicate a road free of workers. Warning signs, a shadow vehicle, or flashing lights could also signal the presence of a work zone, especially when the work operation involves mowing, pot-hole repair, pavement striping, or snow plowing.
Maintaining and upgrading roadways necessitates work zones, obviously. However, work zones nevertheless represent a particular hazard for drivers, because they cause an unexpected change in traffic flow and traffic patterns that requires drivers to slow down and navigate cautiously. A construction zone that lacks adequate markings and warnings to drivers puts the public at risk of accidents, principally through two mechanisms:
- Driver Inattention: These days drivers face any number of distractions, including chatting with a passenger, texting or checking social media, eating, and applying makeup, to name just a few. Driver attention forms an essential foundation of driver safety, but it is especially important for avoiding accidents in work zones. Construction zones alter traffic flow by erecting obstacles and requiring changes in speed and direction. To get through them in one piece, drivers need to keep their eyes on the road, their hands on the wheel, and their minds on safety. No surprise, then, that distracted driving was cited as a factor in 53% of Kentucky work zone crashes in 2018.
- Speeding: Drivers must reduce speed in work zones to promote safety. The Kentucky legislature has granted the Transportation Cabinet the ability to reduce speeds in highway work zones and to post signs indicating that double fines are imposed when speeding in a work zone. When drivers fail to pay attention to the speed limit in work zones, accident risk grows.
Rear-end collisions represent the most common accident in a work zone filled with speeding or distracted drivers. But, of course, any accident in a work zone puts motorists and construction workers at risk for serious, even fatal, injury. In order to avoid work zone crashes, we encourage all drivers to pay attention, respect flaggers, and slow down.
Who is At Fault in a Work Zone Crash?
If a crash in a Kentucky road construction work zone has left you injured, you may want to know who has legal liability for your injuries. The answer depends on the facts and circumstance of your accident, but as a general rule, fault lies with anyone whose dangerous actions or poor decisions led to the crash, such as:
If the accident that injured you involved a collision with another vehicle, that vehicle’s driver may have caused the accident by driving carelessly or recklessly. A driver who fails to exercise a reasonable degree of care behind the wheel generally faces legal liability for any accident caused by that conduct.
A Road Construction Company
A construction company that manages a work zone could face liability for actions or inactions that cause an accident. For example:
- Incorrectly placing traffic warning signs or improperly indicating lane closures or restrictions;
- Using inadequate warning lights or signs at night;
- Failing to maintain the construction site and to clear it of hazards; or
- Failure to properly mark detour directions to avoid the work zone.
A State or Local Government Agency
A state or local government agency responsible for road construction work could face legal liability much as a construction company might, such as by failing to mark a work zone or to keep it appropriately managed. Pursuing a claim against a government entity often differs in significant ways from taking legal action against a private individual or entity, however, making it important to secure the legal services of an experienced construction work zone accident injury attorney.
Steps to Take After an Accident
Take the following steps after a motor vehicle accident in a road construction work zone to protect your health, well being, and legal rights to compensation.
- Seek Medical Attention. Always prioritize seeking prompt medical attention after any motor vehicle accident. Allow a first responder to evaluate you at the scene and, whether or not you take a ride to the hospital in an ambulance, also follow up with your regular doctor or a “doc-in-the-box” for a check-up within 24 hours. Never mistake feeling “ok” at the accident scene as a sign you escaped the crash unscathed. Many serious, even life-threatening, motor vehicle accident injuries do not necessarily show significant (or any) symptoms immediately. Plus, because of the stress and shock of an accident, you might not even feel pain from injuries that do exhibit immediate symptoms. A check-up with a physician can spot injuries and prevent them from getting worse. It can also help to establish a connection between the accident and those injuries, which may prove useful to your attorney in seeking compensation for you from at-fault parties and their insurance carriers.
- Report the Accident. You almost always have a legal obligation to report your accident, so call 911 after a crash in a road construction work zone. Wait for the police to arrive and do not leave until they have given you the all-clear. While you wait, try to snap some pictures of the construction zone where the accident occured, if you can do so safely. By their nature, construction areas change constantly, and you may need to preserve a record of how the zone looked when you drove through it and ended up in a crash. The police may also take pictures of the scene, and they will almost certainly prepare a report, which you (or your lawyer) can obtain a copy-of in the following days.
- Choose Your Words Carefully. The police who respond to the construction zone accident scene certainly ask you to describe how the crash happened. An insurance adjuster may also ask you similar questions. No matter who questions you about the accident, exercise caution in what you say. Stick to the facts only. Do not editorialize, or offer your perspective on who was at fault. Also, do not apologize or make comments about what you should have done to avoid a crash. All such statements could get taken out of context and misinterpreted as admissions of fault.
- Keep Documents Organized. You may feel inundated with paperwork after the accident and be tempted to throw everything you receive all in the shredder. Don’t. Every piece of paperwork relating to your accident could represent an important piece of evidence for your lawyer to use in seeking compensation for your injuries. From doctor’s bills to communications with the insurance company, be sure you keep it all in a safe place.
- Seek legal help right away. Do not delay in speaking with an experienced construction zone accident injury attorney about your rights. The sooner you have a skilled lawyer working for you, the better your odds of recovering the compensation you deserve.
The steps above reflect general advice, of course. To learn about additional steps you may take after sustaining injuries in a road construction work zone accident, contact an experienced attorney right away.
Recovering for Your Damages
If your lawyer determines that someone else’s wrongful conduct caused the work zone accident that injured you, then you may have the right to seek compensation from that party. Every construction zone case has its own unique elements, but generally speaking, crash victims may seek compensation for:
- Medical Expenses: You likely already have medical expenses, like bills from a hospital stay or doctors’ visits. In addition to those expenses, your injury may require long term medical support, like physical therapy or assistive devices like a wheelchair. The party with legal liability for your accident may owe you damages to compensate you for these expenses.
- Loss of Income: Your accident injuries may have caused you to miss work, resulting in lost wages or salary. Additionally, if your injuries prevent you from returning to work in your former capacity, then they will also cause you to lose out on future earnings. A legal claim against the party with liability for your accident can usually seek these “lost wages” as damages.
- Property Damage: While damage to your vehicle is common in all car accidents, work zone crashes may cause extra-severe damage because of the potential obstacles and rough road conditions in a work zone. Legal actions against liable parties can seek to recover the cost of repairing that damage.
- Pain and suffering: Out-of-pocket expenses constitute just some of the harms caused by a construction zone crash. Victims of these accidents also suffer physical discomfort and mental anguish. Parties with legal liability for accidents should compensate victims for those harms, as well.
- Loss of Enjoyment: Similarly, road construction work zone accident victims should receive compensation for the harmful effects their crash injuries had on their lives and close relationships.
Clients sometimes ask us about “punitive damages” in connection with construction zone accidents. These damages seek to punish a legally-liable party for doing someone harm. Kentucky limits a victim’s right to recover punitive damages to situations in which the wrongdoer acted with malice, oppression, or fraud. An attorney can help you determine if your case is one of the rare cases that may be eligible for punitive damages.
Seek Experienced Legal Help for Your Construction Work Zone Accident Injuries
Road construction work zones create unique hazards for motorists. If a crash in a work zone has left you or a loved one injured, you may have rights to recover significant compensation. Contact an experienced team of Kentucky construction work zone accident lawyers today to learn more.