Dangerous Conditions of Public Property’ and Successful Legal Actions Against Public Entities in California

Dangerous Conditions of Public Property’ and Successful Legal Actions Against Public Entities in California

Enduring severe or catastrophic injuries at the hands of an obviously negligent or reckless driver can be a difficult situation in which to find yourself. On one hand, you have a party (the driver) whose liability is obvious but, on the other hand, the extent of your damages may far outpace what you could ever hope to recover from that person. When it comes to getting all the compensation you deserve for your severe auto accident case, pursuing others beyond just the at-fault driver is often necessary, and an experienced Santa Barbara auto accident lawyer can help you do the thorough investigation to get that done.

Dangerous Conditions of Public Property in California and Legal Actions

Take, for example, a drunk driver who causes serious injuries. If the drunk driver who hit you was in the process of doing work for his/her employer, then the employer may be liable for your injuries under the legal theory of vicarious liability. If the drunk driver was under 21 years of age, then you may be entitled to compensation under California's "dram shop" / "social host" laws if you can establish that the server knowingly served someone who was underage. Yet another potential avenue for recovery is to pursue a public entity for something called a "dangerous condition of public property." A recent injury case from Culver City is an example of how this can work in your favor. 

The injured woman, T.Q., had parked her vehicle at one of the metered spaces along Washington Boulevard. While she stood immediately behind the rear of her vehicle, an allegedly drunk driver slammed into her, crushing both of her legs between the vehicles. The impact was so severe -- and the damage so bad -- that doctors had to amputate the woman's left leg. T.Q. sued Culver City for a "dangerous condition" that contributed to her injuries. California law says that a "public entity is liable for injury caused by a dangerous condition" if the injured person proves these things:

  1. The public entity owned the property.
  2. The property was in a dangerous state at the time of the crash.
  3. The property's condition created a reasonably foreseeable risk of the type of injury that occurred.
  4. The entity knew or should've known about the danger for long enough to have taken corrective action (but didn't).
  5. The plaintiff suffered actual harm as a result of the hazard.

How Proof of Noncompliance Can Help You 

One type of evidence that can be especially powerful in supporting your case is proof that the public entity did not follow the prevailing safety standards, laws, or regulations. In T.Q.'s case, her lawyers asserted that the city created a hazard by designing Washington Boulevard in such a way that "the number 2 lane [in the area in question] veers left and abruptly changes into interspersed metered parking spots without any clear demarcation, warning, striping, signing, or signaling, to notify drivers of the metered parking on the north curb of westbound Washington Boulevard." The defense's engineering expert testified that the California Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD), developed by Caltrans, is the "authoritative source for all streets and roadways open to public travel," and that the area where the crash occurred did not comply with the standards prescribed in the MUTCD. Specifically, the city had created a "lane taper" to direct moving vehicles into through lanes and away from vehicles parked at the metered spaces. The MUTCD directed that the tapering should have spanned a length of 194 feet, but it actually spanned only 166 feet.

Not only was the taper non-compliant in terms of the state standard established by the MUTCD, but it was also shorter than what was required by the city's own design plans. Proof like this can be highly persuasive and, indeed, convinced the Court of Appeal to revive T.Q.'s case against the city.

Car Accident Lawyer
John N. Frye, Car Accident Lawyer

A car crash has the potential to inflict life-changing harm. When it does, it's crucial to have a legal team who will fight for all the compensation that the law says you deserve. To accomplish this and more, look to the Santa Barbara personal injury attorneys at the law firm of Galine, Frye, Fitting & Frangos, LLP. Contact us at 805-617-1365 or through our website to get a free case consultation today. The faster you complete that consultation, the faster we can get started working for you.


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