Recently in Central Florida, a 50-year-old truck driver was killed when an allegedly drunk driver raced through a construction zone on State Road 528 traveling 92 mph in a 44 mph zone, making two aggressive lane changes before losing control and crashing. The 24-year-old reportedly impaired driver survived the work zone crash, and has been charged with vehicular homicide.
The incident underscores the increasing risk construction crews and other motorists face when working in or driving through Florida construction zones.
The Florida Department of Highway Safety & Motor Vehicles reports that in 2015 (the most recent year for which statewide data is available), there were more than 2,100 work zone accidents in the state. Of those, 1,223 resulted in property data, 887 resulted in serious injuries and 19 resulted in death.
It's likely we're going to see an increasing number of such cases in the coming years as our traffic infrastructure ages and more roads and bridges must be repaired or replaced.
There are a number of reasons work zones are prone to crashes. In many cases, they contain traffic patterns that may be odd or unpredictable, with lane patterns sometimes changing suddenly. In some instances, lane width is reduced significantly, and drivers may quickly have to merge at the last possible moment. Detours can take drivers to unfamiliar routes, and sometimes construction vehicles near the side of the road can obstruct drivers' vision. Highway workers often must stand just near traffic or large construction vehicles, and many aggressive drivers simply ignore work zone restrictions.
In cases where a worker suffers an injury on-the-job in a West Palm Beach highway construction zone car accident, they may have several options to recover damages. The first and foremost would be workers' compensation benefits. Chapter 440 of Florida Statutes details the processes and parameters of the state's workers' compensation law. This no-fault system of benefits will allow workers to receive coverage of medical bills and a portion of lost wages. Their families can seek workers' compensation death benefits if they die as a result of the crash.
While workers' compensation is considered an exclusive remedy (meaning workers can't sue their employer for further damages), there is generally nothing stopping a worker from seeking third-party damages too, against another contractor, property owner, general contractor or motorist.
In cases where motorists are injured in a construction accident, they too may want to explore several potential avenues of liability. They will want to examine whether other drivers may have been negligent. The owner of any vehicle involved may be deemed vicariously liable, as cars are considered a dangerous instrumentality in Florida. Injured motorists may also seek possible damages from the construction company if they were negligent in creating a dangerous condition on the road. For example, if the crews failed to offer adequate signage or warning of an upcoming bump, speed reduction or curve, the company could be liable for damages. Construction companies must meet certain federal and industry standards when it comes to these safety precautions, and failure to do so could be used as strong evidence of negligence in any subsequent personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit.