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“I was on the expressway last night, it had rained hard, but had stopped raining for several minutes, all of a sudden I hit this huge pond of water covering all lanes and I hit the wall, others wiped out too, what are my legal options?”

Hi, I’m David Holub, a personal injury attorney practicing law in northwest Indiana.

Welcome to Personal Injury Primer, where we break down the law into simple terms, provide legal tips, and discuss topics related to the topic of personal injury law.

Today’s question comes from someone who contacted through our website who would like to know her legal rights when involved in a crash related to water ponding on an expressway. 

If you’re involved in a crash that results because of water accumulating on an expressway there are a number of legal issues which will need to be addressed.

First, if the government is involved, and it most always is when you are dealing with an expressway, the government cannot be sued except under certain special circumstances.

One of those circumstances is that you have to file a notice with the government that you intend to make a claim. This is called a tort claim notice.

It typically has to be filed within 180 days of an event.

For some government agencies it can be up to 270 days after the event.

I would recommend that you consult an attorney as soon as possible if you’re involved in this kind of the crash, however.

Even if you give timely notice to the government as required by the statute, the government can be immune from being held legally responsible for many roadway conditions.

When a hazard is created on a roadway because of a weather event, such as a snowstorm or a rainstorm, the government generally can’t be held responsible for your damages that are caused as result of that natural occurrence.

The real question is: are there ways around the barriers that the government puts up against suing it? Well, yes.

First, while the government can be declared immune from a crash directly caused by weather conditions, there are several exceptions to that rule. You will need an attorney to review the facts to see if any of those exceptions apply.

Second, if there’s a contractor involved, the contractor may be subject to suit, even if the government is immune from suit.

For example, suppose a contractor or an engineer or a construction company improperly designed the highway, and built it so it didn’t drain properly. In such as case they might be liable.

Or, what if a contractor installed a special re-tension pond with a pump that was supposed to pump water away from the roadway, but the pump failed because it wasn’t put in properly, or the switch that was supposed to trigger the pump failed because the sensor that was supposed to come on automatically didn’t work. Or, what if the power went out to the pump and there was no emergency backup power available to the pump. All of these things can lead to potential liability as contractors and engineers. It also could lead to government liability as well in some fact situations.

Why do we share this information with you?

Well when we try to answer questions like the one posed in this instance, we hope that by providing such general information, it will help people recognize and takes steps to preserve their legal rights.

I hope you found this information helpful. If you have questions about your legal rights if you get hurt due to the carelessness of another person, or as a result of substandard medical care, or due to a product defect, construction injury, or any other type of personal injury, please give us a call at (219) 736-9700. You can also learn more about us by visiting our website at www.DavidHolubLaw.com – while there make sure you request a copy of our book “Fighting for Truth”