Depending on the road section, after following the claims process and getting your letter to sue, you can potentially sue the state, local or federal government for San Bernardino Mountain pothole-related car accidents. Did you get in a car accident on a federally maintained road? Do you or a close family member have medical records to prove lost wages, hospital bills, and other damages related to poor road conditions in the San Bernardino Mountains? I recently attended a military veteran’s charity event in Lytle Creek (Paul Ehline Memorial Motorcycle Ride.) On May 13, 2023, the mountains were still green, and the ice-cold creek was flowing as we journeyed up the mountain with zero traffic in our private party motor vehicle.
On the way up, I noticed the city and county roads were pretty bad but doable with a truck. But once I got further up into the mountain, I noticed humongous potholes that looked like sinkholes. Many were large enough to swallow up a Bagger Street motorcycle. There was still snow in the hills after these historic snowstorms in Lytle Creek we just underwent. I also noticed large boulders and smaller rock debris particles everywhere. Basically, a motorcyclist could easily meet their doom here, especially at night, due to the poorly lit roads.
Medical Bills and Lost Wages Can Bankrupt Families
Keep in mind, in most cases, a car accident on this winding road could mean falling down a 100-foot or greater cliff traffic barrier or not. Even if you survive, the medical bills, property damage, and rescue expenses alone would be enough to bankrupt a small country. There is no such thing as a reasonable amount when you are stuck footing the bill for another person’s negligence. Generally speaking, you’d think car accidents are a dream for most car accident lawyers.
Sure, it’s great to make sure wrongdoers are held responsible. Sure, helping clients obtain the most financial compensation is a great goal. But not all of us personal injury attorneys are heartless.
But some personal injury attorneys are interested in preventing government negligence and serious accidents, to begin with. My previous articles discussed dangerous conditions like potholes in Torrance and Greater Los Angeles and Orange County proper. I detailed the failure of these agencies to protect their constituency after a car accident. The car accident lawyers at my law firm have also spoken about the negligence caused by construction debris and the recent copper theft, which is wreaking havoc with Caltrans and street lighting efforts.
Below, I will get into situations where road construction or past due maintenance is causing car accidents and medical bills, and what jurisdiction can be held liable for what. Prepare to take notes and pay close attention if you or a loved one suffered injuries or death on San Bernardino Mountain roads or bridges. At the very end, I will also offer you a free consultation to discuss your government negligence claims and obtain compensation from your own insurance company.
What is Sovereign Immunity?
Sovereign immunity is a legal doctrine that protects governments from being sued without their consent. It is based on the principle that the government, as a sovereign entity, cannot be subjected to legal proceedings or held liable for its actions unless it consents to be sued.
Sovereign immunity originated from English common law and was adopted by many legal systems around the world, including the United States. In the U.S., sovereign immunity applies at both the federal and state levels, although there are exceptions and limitations.
At the federal level, the principle of sovereign immunity is embodied in the doctrine of “governmental immunity,” which generally shields the federal government from lawsuits seeking monetary damages. However, the U.S. government has partially waived its sovereign immunity through the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), which allows individuals to sue the federal government for certain tortious acts committed by its employees.
What is Design Immunity?
Design immunity is a legal doctrine that protects public entities, such as government agencies and municipalities, from liability for injuries caused by the design of public facilities, including roads, bridges, parks, and buildings.
The principle of design immunity is based on the notion that public entities should have the ability to make design decisions without constant fear of liability as long as those decisions are reasonable and made in good faith. It recognizes that designing and constructing public infrastructure involves complex considerations, such as budgetary constraints, engineering standards, and evolving safety practices. Certain criteria must generally be met to establish design immunity as a defense against a lawsuit. These criteria vary depending on the jurisdiction, as design immunity laws differ among states.
However, common requirements for design immunity may include:
- Discretionary decision-making: The design decision must involve the exercise of discretion by the public entity rather than following a specific legal duty or requirement.
- Reasonable decision-making: The design decision must be reasonable at the time it was made, based on the information and expertise available to the public entity at that time.
- Substantial evidence: There must be substantial evidence demonstrating that the decision to adopt the particular design was reasonable.
Design immunity provides a shield against lawsuits challenging the design of public infrastructure. Suppose a public entity successfully asserts design immunity. In that case, it means that it cannot be held liable for injuries resulting from alleged design defects unless the claimant can prove that the public entity’s design decision was unreasonable or lacked substantial evidence.
Past Discussions on Design Immunity and Construction Zones
Often, the government will argue that roads are designed a certain way, and hence, you can’t sue if the road seems dangerous. However, if the roads are torn up, it becomes a negligent road maintenance issue, and we learned previously that design immunity is inapplicable to construction zones. (See Hilts v. County of Solano (1968) 265 Cal. App. 2d 161; Johnston v. County of Yolo (1969) 274 Cal. App. 2d 46; Mirzada v. Department of Transportation (2003) 111 Cal App. 4th 802; Grenier v. City of Irwindale (1997) 57 Cal.App.4th 931; Higgins v. State of California (1997) 54 Cal. App. 4th 177
It’s important to note that design immunity is not absolute and does not protect public entities from liability for issues such as negligent maintenance, failure to warn of known hazards or acts of gross negligence. Additionally, design immunity’s specific requirements and application may vary based on local laws and court interpretations. I have never gone into California’s federal road maintenance issues, at-fault parties, and governmental immunity in too much detail.
So bear with me as I get into some detail if a dangerous condition existed on a federal road that could cause car accidents and severe injuries, as I saw with my own eyes that day. Can you even recover financial compensation if you get serious injuries, or do you use these lands at your own risk, no matter the dangerous situation presented?
Are local government agencies responsible for federal lands? Are federal agencies exempt from lawsuits by people seeking compensation under sovereign immunity laws if they suffer severe injuries or have a wrongful death injury claim? I will answer these questions and more. In the end, you will be directed about how to receive a free consultation with a tier-one personal injury attorney in Southern California.
Car Accident Risk In Lytle Creek From Bad Roads
Granted, it was a huge mess from the storms. There were no warning signs or barricades to prevent a bicycle rider, truck, or another person from colliding with a hole and blowing out their suspension, wheel, or tires on the road up to Lytle Creek Firing Line that sunny May 13, 2023 day. When I was at the event, I immediately asked the vendors who were supposed to fix the roads. The bikers who rode Harleys made it up, but the way back down was far more difficult, even for an experienced motorcyclist.
Federal Government Agencies Never Fix the Roads Properly?
A local resident told me that these are federal roads, and they rarely get repaired. Even when repairs were made in the past, it was basically one man with a pickup truck tamping holes full of repaired asphalt.
When he “runs out, [or asphalt repair mixture] he leaves, and the other holes don’t get fixed.” (anonymous resident of Lytle Creek.)
Local government agencies are not generally responsible for managing or maintaining federal lands. Federal lands, such as national parks, national forests, and wildlife refuges, are typically managed and overseen by federal agencies at the national level.
The responsibility for federal lands lies primarily with the specific federal agency that has jurisdiction over those lands. For example, the National Park Service (NPS) manages national parks, the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) manages national forests, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) manages wildlife refuges.
While local government agencies may have some involvement or coordination with federal agencies regarding land use planning, emergency services, or certain agreements, the primary management and decision-making authority rests with the respective federal agencies. Local government agencies typically have jurisdiction and responsibility over land within their own boundaries, such as cities, counties, or municipalities.
It’s important to note that there can be collaboration and partnerships between federal and local government agencies in managing and maintaining certain areas. This collaboration may involve issues such as coordinating emergency response, providing visitor services, or implementing cooperative agreements for specific projects.
However, the ultimate responsibility for federal lands lies with the federal agencies that have jurisdiction over those lands.
What Do Experts Say?
I reached out to the expert witness, Rob McNealy of Flooristics.com. He states that “roadways are also common walkways for pedestrians. Any uneven surface can increase the risk of slips, trips, and falls.” Whenever potholes are formed, it’s prudent to repair them quickly; filling them with a repair mixture and then leaving the rest to fester when you run out is improper maintenance. McNealy asserts that when a government agency, in this case, the U.S. Forest Service.
Who Fixes State Controlled Roads in California?
Most roads in California are not under federal control. Local governments, such as county or municipal departments of transportation, are usually responsible for the maintenance and repair of roads within their jurisdiction. In this case, it would be appropriate to contact the relevant local authority in San Bernardino County, California, to inquire about the specific agency responsible for repairing the roads in the Lytle Creek area.
So we did that, and we informed that the roads in question are, in fact, under the exclusive control of the U.S. federal government. Like most cities and counties, San Bernardino and Riverside have a department dedicated to road maintenance. They can usually be able to direct you to the appropriate road maintenance agency. Most freeways, for example, are maintained and repaired by Caltrans.
Accidents on public property can include
Federal, State, and Local governments make government properties safe and secure for tourists.
Who actually repairs Roads throughout the 660,000-acre San Bernardino National Forest in Riverside and San Bernardino counties?
The responsibility for repairing roads throughout the 660,000-acre San Bernardino National Forest in Riverside and San Bernardino counties falls under the United States Forest Service (USFS) jurisdiction. The USFS is a federal agency located inside the U.S. Department of Agriculture. This agency manages and maintains our national forests, including U.S. road infrastructure.
Within the San Bernardino National Forest, the USFS maintains a road network managing ingress and egress access to various recreational areas, campgrounds, and other facilities within the forest. Their duties include handling road construction, maintenance, and repairs, including activities like grading, resurfacing, snow removal, and addressing safety hazards.
If you have questions about road repairs at the San Bernardino National Forest, it would be best to contact the local USFS office responsible for forest management. They can provide you with the most up-to-date and accurate information regarding road maintenance and local repair activities in that area.
Causes of USFS Road Damages
Rain and Stormy Conditions
Iced-Up Road Conditions
Again, cold roads are rarely seen in California unless you drive in Lake Arrowhead, Big Bear Rancho, Palos Verdes Estates, or Rolling Hills Estates. As you walk the winding highway toward the mountain, you might be caught in thin air. Many city dwellers know nothing about this situation when driving. The average accident rate for road ice in the US is 13 %. Unfortunately, it remains true if a vehicle is equipped to run on snow chains. On the left is a typical example of damage from cold weather storms, snow, and rains.
Negligent Repairs and Maintenance
Poorly maintained or damaged infrastructure, such as broken railings, unsafe playground equipment, or defective structures, can result in injuries—workers who do poor maintenance before the rain cause serious accidents.
The most prevalent pothole is often found in high-traffic areas where many big trucks are in operation and cause pressure on the asphalt surface.
Imagining a tree falling onto the street from behind and rock crashing into steep hills is a must-see. Many motorists could have avoided the mishaps without poor designs, which were the result of the accident.
Do Valleys And Low Lying Areas Present Special Dangers?
Sometimes lower elevations and valleys are on snowy roads where some regions are not impacted. The reason is cold air is stronger and densityier than warm air. Basically, this allows the tree to descend from higher elevations, although these are just minor hills. Clear nights with relatively few clouds produce cooler temperatures. Asphalt surfaces are generally cooler in a warmer place than the air below them. It makes low-lying places colder, at about 2-5% colder, compared to high elevations at relatively shorter distances and in higher elevations in the vicinity of. The city temperature is higher in the countryside than in urban regions. However, it’s usually double swords.
Common Accidents on Public Property
Common accidents that may occur on public property can vary depending on the specific location and circumstances.
However, some common types of injuries that can occur on public property include:
- Slip and fall accidents: Slippery or uneven surfaces, inadequate maintenance, or failure to address hazards like ice, debris, or wet floors can lead to slip and fall accidents. Uneven sidewalks, potholes, broken steps, or other defects in walking surfaces can cause individuals to trip and fall.
- Accidents Due to Inadequate Lighting: Insufficient lighting in parking lots, walkways, or public spaces can increase the risk of accidents, including falls, assaults, or collisions.
- Negligent Security Incidents: Insufficient security measures or inadequate response to known risks can lead to incidents like assaults, robberies, or other criminal activities on public property.
- Vehicle accidents: Accidents involving vehicles can occur in parking lots, roadways, or intersections on public property due to factors such as poor signage, inadequate traffic control, or road hazards.
- Sports or recreational injuries: Injuries can occur during participation in sports or recreational activities on public property, such as in parks, playgrounds, or sports fields, due to inadequate maintenance, defective equipment, or lack of supervision.
It’s important to note that this is not an exhaustive list, and injuries on public property can vary widely depending on the specific circumstances. One thing you will for sure see is the hubcap graveyard all along the last four miles of Lytle Creek Road and cliffs. As I was driving down, I saw a car with damaged wheels and blown tires waiting for a tow truck. The problem for them is that there is no cell tower reception, so they had another driver go down and call for them.
Suppose you or someone you know has been injured on public property. In that case, consulting with a personal injury attorney to evaluate the circumstances, determine potential liability, and explore legal options for seeking compensation is advisable.
How Do I Make a Vehicle Damage Claim with the United States Forest Service (USFS)?
To make a vehicle damage or bodily injury claim with the United States Forest Service (USFS), you will typically follow these steps:
- Document the incident: Collect as much information as possible about the incident that caused the vehicle damage. Take photographs of the damage, gather any relevant documents or reports, and write down the details of the incident, including the date, time, location, and any witnesses present. You can seek money to recover the cost of any out-of-pocket expenses later.
- Contact the local USFS office: Locate the nearest USFS office that oversees the area where the incident occurred within the San Bernardino National Forest. Contact them by phone or in-person to report the incident and inquire about the claims process. They will provide you with the necessary guidance and any required forms or documentation.
- Complete the necessary forms: The USFS may have specific forms or paperwork to initiate a vehicle damage claim. If available, obtain these forms from the local office or their website. Fill out the forms completely and accurately and provide all the requested information. Be sure to attach any supporting documents, such as photographs or witness statements, as required.
- Submit the claim: Once you have completed the forms and gathered all the necessary documentation, submit your claim to the USFS. Follow the instructions provided by the local office regarding the preferred method of submission, which may include mail, email, or an online claims portal.
- Follow up: After submitting your claim, it’s advisable to follow up with the USFS to ensure they have received your claim and to inquire about the next steps in the process. They may require additional information or documentation, and staying in communication with them is important throughout the claims process.
Please note that the claims process may vary slightly depending on the specific procedures and requirements of the local USFS office. Contacting the office directly will provide you with the most accurate and up-to-date information on how to proceed with your vehicle damage claim.
Rapid Government Claim Notice is Critical
Rapid government claim notice is critical when a person intends to file a claim or lawsuit and be covered against a government entity for injuries or damages. Government entities, whether at the federal, state, or local level, often have specific procedures and deadlines for filing claims against them.
One important aspect of these procedures is the requirement to provide timely notice of the claim. This notice is a formal communication to the government entity, informing them of the intent to seek compensation for injuries or damages caused by their actions or negligence. The idea here is to help the government entity to investigate you accident claim. They are supposed to gather relevant information, and potentially resolve the matter before it proceeds to litigation. But normally, they ignore your claim or send a denial letter.
The specific deadlines for providing government claim notices can vary depending on the jurisdiction and the type of claim involved. These deadlines can be relatively short and may range from a few weeks to several months from the date of the incident or discovery of the injury. Failing to adhere to these deadlines can result in the claim being barred, meaning the injured party may lose their right to seek compensation.
To ensure compliance with the necessary notice requirements, consulting with an attorney experienced in handling claims involving cars against government entities is crucial. They can guide you through the process, ensure the proper notice is provided within the required timeframe, and help protect your legal rights.
Is there a Statute of Limitations to Sue in Dangerous Road Condition Cases?
Yes, there is typically a statute of limitations in dangerous road condition cases, which sets a time limit for a lawsuit in Greater Los Angeles and other locales. The specific statute of limitations can vary depending on the jurisdiction and the type of claim involved. It’s important to consult the laws of the relevant jurisdiction for precise information.
In general, dangerous road condition cases may fall under the category of personal injury or premises liability claims. Statutes of limitations for personal injury cases can range from one to several years, depending on the jurisdiction. Some jurisdictions may have a specific statute of limitations for claims against government entities or public agencies.
In such cases, it’s crucial to be aware of and adhere to the applicable statute of limitations. Failing to file a lawsuit within the specified timeframe can result in the claim being time-barred, meaning the injured party may lose their right to seek compensation for the damages caused by the dangerous road condition.
To ensure you have accurate and up-to-date information regarding the statute of limitations for dangerous road condition cases, it is recommended to consult with a qualified attorney who specializes in personal injury or premises liability law in the jurisdiction where the incident occurred. Ehline Law Firm can provide victims with specific guidance and explain the applicable based laws and regulations of that particular jurisdiction in bite-size pieces to all new clients.
Key Evidence for a Strong Government Injury Claim
When building a strong government injury claim, gathering key evidence is essential to support your case in most states, including Texas and California.
While the specific evidence needed can vary depending on the circumstances and the type of injury claim, the following are some common types of evidence that can strengthen a claim against a government entity:
- Incident documentation: Gather any documentation related to the incident, including incident reports, police reports, accident reports, or any other official records that describe the event and its circumstances.
- Photographs or videos: Take photographs or videos of the accident scene, the dangerous condition or hazard that caused the injury, and any visible injuries sustained. Visual evidence can help establish the condition of the premises or infrastructure at the time of the incident.
- Witness statements: Collect statements from individuals who witnessed the incident or have knowledge of the dangerous condition. Their testimonies can provide additional support and credibility to your claim.
- Medical records: Always seek out and obtain copies of your medical records. This information should include the diagnosis, treatment, and prognosis of the victims’ injuries. Medical records also serve as crucial evidence in support of the extent and nature of your injuries.
- Expert opinions: In certain cases, expert opinions may be necessary to establish liability or prove the government entity’s negligence. For example, citizens may need an expert witness in engineering, safety, or other relevant fields to analyze the conditions or problems that led to the injury and provide an opinion on whether the government entity failed in its duty of care to avoid the crash.
- Maintenance and inspection records: Request maintenance and inspection records from the government entity or municipality responsible for the property or infrastructure where the incident occurred. These records can help establish whether the entity or contractor was aware of the dangerous condition, like spilled oil, cracks in the asphalt, a missing stop sign, or a bad pothole, or if proper maintenance and inspections were neglected. Our successful advocates won’t let them slide if they discover these problems and do not maintain or correct the roadways after such an alert.
- Correspondence and communications: Preserve any correspondence, emails, or other communications with the government entity, such as reports of the hazardous condition or any complaints filed before the incident.
- Compliance with notice requirements: If there are specific notice requirements for filing a claim against the government entity, ensure that you have documentation showing compliance with those requirements. This may include proof of timely notice sent and received by the appropriate government office.
It’s crucial to consult with a personal injury attorney experienced in handling claims against government entities to understand the specific evidence needed in your case. They can provide guidance on what evidence is most relevant and assist you in building a strong government injury claim.
Schedule a Free Consultation With a US Forest Service Accident Attorney Today
Did you or our vehicle passengers get hurt due to dangerous road conditions? Some Los Angeles drivers may be able to recover some compensation for personal injuries and property damage from their own insurance company, depending on the motor vehicle insurance coverage they purchased. This means you may be entitled to compensation for the ambulance, lost wages, and more. Call us to exchange words about your unique situation anytime, 24/7, from San Jose to San Diego, CA.
We won’t charge for your consultation, so it’s risk-free and confidential. That means you owe us nothing unless you form an attorney-client relationship with us, and we win—call (213) 596-9642 to discuss obtaining the compensation you and your loved ones deserve with a compassionate, award-winning law firm. We will find ways to get you paid and get your life moving back in the right direction by getting you total recovery for your loss.
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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