Caltrans is well aware that the theft of copper wiring from light poles along highways and major roads has become an all-too-common occurrence, resulting in a lack of proper lighting and posing a significant danger to drivers. Metal thieves will steal whole power transformers and anything of value along California roads.
Metal theft is a growing problem in California, and it’s not just causing financial losses for individuals and businesses. It’s also putting people’s lives at risk. One of the most concerning aspects of metal theft is the disabling of streetlights, which can lead to poor visibility and an increased risk of traffic accidents in many California counties, especially in Fresno.
Copper Thieves and Aluminum Solutions?
According to Caltrans, metal thieves have been stealing copper wiring from highway lights, which causes the lights to go out and can lead to dangerous driving conditions. The issue has become so prevalent that Caltrans has started to use alternative materials, such as aluminum wiring, to prevent theft. However, this has not stopped the problem completely, and many areas in California still experience poor lighting due to metal theft.
Poor lighting can make it difficult for drivers to see the road ahead and identify potential hazards, such as pedestrians, bicyclists, and other vehicles. It can also make it harder for drivers to judge their speed and distance, which can result in accidents. This is especially true for drivers who are unfamiliar with the area, as they may not be aware of the specific hazards or road conditions.
Poor or no lighting on California roads and highways is a major factor in traffic accidents. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that over 50% of traffic accidents occur at night when visibility is reduced. Inadequate lighting increases the likelihood of a driver not seeing a pedestrian or another vehicle, making it difficult to react in time to avoid a collision. For motorcyclists in particular, not seeing a groove in the asphalt or a pothole can spell a death sentence.
According to the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), lighting on highways and roads plays a vital role in maintaining public safety. Caltrans is responsible for installing and maintaining lighting systems on state highways and interstate freeways. However, budget constraints have led to a decrease in the maintenance of lighting systems, increasing the number of poorly lit areas on California highways and roads.
Accidents resulting from poor or no lighting can be severe and sometimes fatal. Victims may suffer injuries such as broken bones, spinal cord injuries, and traumatic brain injuries. In some cases, victims may lose their lives due to the severity of the accident.
Rear Enders Increase with Poor Lighting
One of the most common types of accidents caused by poor lighting is rear-end collisions. When drivers can’t see the vehicle in front of them clearly, they may fail to react in time, resulting in a rear-end collision. Pedestrian accidents are also common in poorly lit areas, especially when pedestrians are crossing streets or walking alongside them.
Motorcycle riders are also at a higher risk of accidents caused by poor or no lighting. Motorcycles are less visible than other vehicles, making it more difficult for other drivers to see them. Poor lighting on the roads can exacerbate this problem and increase the risk of accidents.
What does SDS stand for in Caltrans?
In Caltrans, SDS stands for “Standard Specifications.” The Standard Specifications are a set of technical specifications, guidelines, and procedures used in California State Highway System construction activities. Failing to follow standards is one way to show Caltrans should be held liable for paying motorists in accidents.
The liability for accidents caused by poor lighting falls on the responsible parties, which may include local or state governments, private property owners, or utility companies, not just the copper thieves. The California Tort Claims Act allows individuals to file claims against public entities for damages caused by dangerous conditions on public property, including inadequate lighting.
Free Consultation With a Lawyer
If you’ve been injured in an accident caused by poor lighting or no lighting, it’s essential to consult an experienced personal injury attorney. A qualified attorney can investigate the accident, gather evidence, and build a solid case to ensure you receive the compensation you deserve, lawsuit or not.
The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) has been working to repair and replace damaged lighting fixtures in response to the ongoing issue. However, even with their efforts, accidents can and do occur due to insufficient lighting caused by copper theft. When such accidents happen, it’s important for drivers to know their legal rights and options for seeking compensation.
This article will explore the liability of Caltrans under the California Tort Claims Act (CTCA) and the steps that drivers can take if they have been injured in a collision due to inadequate lighting on the roadways. Let’s see who’s to blame and who should pay when you get left in the dark.
Understanding the California Tort Claims Act
The California Tort Claims Act is a set of laws that governs when and how people can file lawsuits against government entities, including Caltrans. Under the CTCA, government agencies are generally immune from liability for injuries caused by their actions or inactions. However, there are some exceptions to this immunity.
One such exception is when a government agency’s negligence leads to an iFailureligence occurs when a government agency fails to perform a duty it owes to the public, such as maintaining and repairing public roadways. Suppose a driver can show that Caltrans was negligent in failing to repair or replace damaged lighting fixtures and that this negligence caused or contributed to their accident.
In that case, they may be able to pursue a claim against the agency. Caltrans has many defenses, including qualified and sovereign immunity. But Caltrans must also maintain systems that thwart thieves in each district, as Caltrans is on notice of the defects and lengthy delays in crews making repairs.
What is the Caltrans Government Claims Program?
The Caltrans Government Claims Program is responsible for managing claims filed against Caltrans for damages, injuries, or other losses resulting from Caltrans’ actions or inactions. The program handles claims over $10,000 and investigates the circumstances surrounding the incident to determine if Caltrans is liable for the damages or injuries, including personal property loss and maybe even theft. This is all a known safety risk, and Caltrans needs to decide how to deal with it before more motor vehicle wrecks occur.
If you need to request a claim form, you can write to the Government Claims Program for Claims over $10,000 at the following mailing address:
Government Claims Program, Office of Risk and Insurance Management, Department of General Services, 707 Third Street, 6th Floor, West Sacramento, CA 95605.
Generally only Six Months to File a Claim Directly
According to California Government Code Section 911.2, any person who wishes to file a claim for damages against a public entity, such as Caltrans, must file a claim with the entity within six months from the date of the incident. The state considers this to be a reasonable period. Failing to file a claim within this time frame can result in the claim being barred unless there are exceptional circumstances allowing a longer time.
If you have been involved in an accident due to poor lighting caused by copper thieves on a California road maintained by Caltrans, you may be able to file a claim with the Caltrans Government Claims Program. The written claim would be for the damages and any personal injury sustained. To file a claim, you will need to provide specific information about the incident, including the date, time, location, and nature of the incident, as well as any injuries or damages sustained due to dim lights or no lighting at all.
Proving Negligence and Poor Road Maintenance?
Proving negligence on the part of Caltrans can be a challenging task. To establish negligence, a driver must show that Caltrans had a duty to maintain and repair the lighting fixtures, that the agency breached that duty, and that this breach caused or contributed to their injuries. Additionally, the driver must provide evidence that they suffered damages as a result of the accident. Here, Caltrans will try and argue that lights going bad is foreseeable and besides that, it doesn’t have the money to fix or maintain the lights.
To prove that Caltrans had a duty to maintain and repair the lighting fixtures, a driver must demonstrate that the agency had actual or constructive knowledge of the dangerous condition caused by the lack of proper lighting. This can be established through evidence such as prior complaints or reports of damaged lighting or evidence of similar accidents in the area.
Once it has been established that Caltrans had a duty to maintain and repair the lighting fixtures, a driver must show that the agency breached this duty by failing to take adequate measures to address the issue. This can include evidence that Caltrans failed to promptly repair or replace the damaged lighting fixtures or evidence that the agency failed to take steps to prevent copper theft in the first place.
Finally, a driver must show that the lack of proper lighting on the roadway caused their injuries. This can be established through evidence such as eyewitness testimony, accident reports, and medical records.
Steps to take after a poor lighting auto accident?
If you have been involved in an auto accident that occurred due to poor lighting conditions, it is important to take the following steps:
- Seek medical attention: The first and foremost step is to seek medical attention for any injuries sustained in the accident. Even if you feel fine, it is still advisable to see a doctor as some injuries may not be immediately apparent.
- Document the accident scene: Take pictures and videos of the accident scene, the vehicles involved, and any other relevant details, such as the poor lighting conditions. This will help in determining liability and in filing an insurance claim.
- Gather information: Get the contact information of any witnesses to the accident and the other driver(s) involved. Also, obtain the name and badge number of the responding police officer.
- Contact your insurance company: Report the accident to your insurance company as soon as possible.
- Contact a poor lighting accident attorney: If you have sustained serious injuries or if the negligence of another party caused the accident, it is advisable to contact an attorney who can advise you on your legal options.
- File a claim: If you have suffered damages such as medical expenses, lost wages, or pain and suffering, you may be entitled to compensation. Your attorney can help you file a claim and negotiate with the insurance company on your behalf.
Remember, poor lighting conditions can contribute to auto accidents, and taking the necessary steps to protect your rights and interests is important. From reduced visibility to misjudging distances, the risks are real. If you’ve been involved in an accident caused by poor lighting or road signage, you have the right to seek compensation through the Caltrans Government Claims Program.
Ultimately, it is the responsibility of everyone to work together to ensure that California’s roads and communities are safe and well-lit. By taking steps to prevent metal theft and promoting awareness of the dangers of poor lighting, we can reduce the risk of accidents and keep our communities safe.
With the help of an experienced attorney, you can navigate the claims process and receive the compensation you deserve. Remember, when it comes to road safety, every driver and pedestrian deserves to feel safe and protected, regardless of the time of day.
When filing a claim, it’s important to include specific details about the accident and your injuries, such as the date and time of the accident, the location, the parties involved, and any witnesses. You should also include a detailed description of your injuries, including any medical treatment you’ve received, the extent of your injuries, and how they have impacted your life.
Speak With Seasoned Bad Freeway Lighting Attorneys
Your attorney can help you gather and organize all of the necessary documentation to support your claims, such as medical bills, police reports, and witness statements. They can also help you calculate the total damages you seek, including compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other damages. Just because it was a theft crime doesn’t make Caltrans any less liable for failing to safeguard pre-engineered lighting for autoists using the roads. They must contract properly to safeguard against know defects in each district it maintains.
Filing a personal injury claim can be a complex and overwhelming process. Still, with the help of an experienced attorney, you can feel confident that your case is being handled properly and that you have the best chance of receiving fair compensation for your injuries.
- Caltrans Government Claims Program. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://dot.ca.gov/programs/traffic-operations/government-claims-program
- California Government Code Section 911.2. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/codes_displaySection.xhtml?lawCode=GOV§ionNum=911.2.
- Caltrans working to repair lights damaged by metal thieves https://abc30.com/caltrans-working-to-repair-lights-damaged-by-metal-thieves/474315/
Michael Ehline is an inactive U.S. Marine and world famous legal historian. Michael helped draft the Cruise Ship Safety Act and has won some of the largest motorcycle accident settlements in U.S. History. Together with his legal team, Michael and the Ehline Law Firm collect damages on behalf of clients. We pride ourselves in being available to answer your most pressing and difficult questions 24/7. We are proud sponsors of the Paul Ehline Memorial Motorcycle Ride, and a a Service Disabled Veteran Operated Business. (SDVOB.) We are ready to fight.
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