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Auto Accidents Caused by Contractors in Construction Zones


A highway contractor controlling traffic on a public highway owes a duty of care to motorists based on the general duty of care owed by a highway contractor to the public. That general duty is that a highway contractor has “a duty to protect the public against dangerous conditions existing where the public in rightful use of the roadway might encounter such conditions.” Ray v. Silverado Constructors, 98 Cal. App. 4th 1120, 1134, 120 Cal. Rptr. 2d 251, 262 (4th Dist. 2002), review denied (Cal. Aug 28, 2002).

The duty extends beyond passage through the construction zone to areas immediately adjacent to the work area.

Under Cal. Civil Code § 1714(a): “Everyone is responsible, not only for the result of his or her willful acts, but also for an injury occasioned to another by his or her want of ordinary care or skill in the management of his or her property or person, except so far as the latter has, willfully or by want of ordinary care, brought the injury upon himself or herself.” In Rowland v. Christian, 69 Cal. 2d 108, 113, 70 Cal. Rptr. 97, 443 P.2d 561, 564 (1968), the California Supreme Court listed seven policy factors to consider when determining whether to create an exception to the general duty of care mandated by § 1714. Those seven factors are:

  1. the foreseeability of harm to the plaintiff,
  2. the degree of certainty that the plaintiff suffered injury,
  3. the closeness of the connection between the defendant’s conduct and the injury suffered,
  4. the moral blame attached to the defendant’s conduct,
  5. the policy of preventing future harm,
  6. the extent of the burden to the defendant and consequences to the community of imposing a duty to exercise care with resulting liability for breach, and
  7. the availability, cost, and prevalence of insurance for the risk involved.

Within the general category of highway accidents, the supreme court has recognized the commonly known fact that inattentive drivers sometimes cause collisions. As stated in Cabral v. Ralphs Grocery Co., 51 Cal. 4th 764, 775, 122 Cal. Rptr. 3d 313, 248 P.3d 1170, 1177 (2011) (involving a car colliding with a truck parked on the side of the highway):

In the generalized sense of foreseeability pertinent to the duty question, that a vehicle parked by the side of a freeway may be struck by another vehicle leaving the freeway, resulting in injury to either vehicle’s occupants, is clearly foreseeable. Drivers are supposed to control their vehicles and keep them on the traveled roadway, but common experience shows they do not always do so. Freeway drivers may be intoxicated, distracted, blinded by the weather or sun, sleepy or sick, and for any of these reasons or others may drive off the roadway. (Italics added by Shipp court.)

If you were injured in an auto accident caused by negligent contractors in a freeway construction zone, you may have a claim against the other driver and the contractor. Contact us for a free consultation to discuss your claims.

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