Report: In Six Years, South Carolina DOT Has Paid $30M for Bad Road Crash Claims

Poor road conditions in South Carolina have posed serious risks to motorists, motorcyclists, bicyclists and pedestrians in recent years. In fact, the problem has been so bad that The Greenville News reports the State Insurance Reserve Fund has doled out $30 million in six years for damage claims resulting from bad roads. That breaks down to an average of $5 million annually. pothole

Claims against the state Department of Transportation (DOT) primarily are the result of alleged road defects.

This information became available in a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request and then subsequent lawsuit filed by a local businessman in Greenville. The case ultimately resulted in the production of 32 pages detailing the state’s resolved claims from January 2005 through December 2010. There are also a few incidents wherein the claims resolved in the 1990s. Many of these claims involve damage to vehicles, including those that result from defects like potholes, but also injury and even deaths resulting from accidents caused by roadway defects. 

Costs for 95 of the claims, the news outlet reported, were for more than $100,000. The average damage payout was $65,000.

This is one important reason why our Greenville car accident lawyers know it’s important to examine in each accident case whether roadside defects played a role in the crash. It may not be the only cause of a crash, but when road defects are a factor in causing or worsening the effects of a collision, it’s worth examining because it may ultimately increase the amount of compensation victims receive.

Of the $30 million of taxpayer money that was spent on these claims, $23 million was paid to victims in damages and another $7.8 million was paid for legal costs to defend the DOT in claims. It’s not clear how much the state would have needed to spend to simply repair those roadway defects in the first place. We do know it’s proven true in other locations that the cost of repairs is actually higher than the legal costs, so municipalities delay repairs, cross their fingers no one will be injured and consider it a cost of doing business when someone is harmed.

The amount of these claims can vary significantly by year. For example, The News reported that in 2013, the state had paid nearly $19 million in the three years prior. In 2014, the state paid nearly $7.5 million for such claims.

Of the 640 claims for state damages between 2005 and 2010, damages were paid in 359 cases – or in 56 percent of the cases. Some claims were minor – several hundred dollars for minor vehicle damage caused by potholes. In other cases, the damage awards were far more substantial. For example, in the case of a crash that killed a 16-year-old, the state paid nearly $1 million.

In that case, the teen was driving in Allendale County when his vehicle skidded off a rain-slicked highway and flipped in a median. His mother later filed a lawsuit against the state, alleging the street was too deeply rutted, causing water to pool in it. That, she said, was what caused her son to lose control of the vehicle. Her claim also asserted the state was negligent in failing to maintain the slope of the median.

It’s worth noting that while the jury in that case awarded the family more than $11 million, the damage award was reduced because of caps on state lawsuit damages. Claims are capped at $300,000 for an individual and $600,000 per occurrence.

A substantial number of claims – 56 – involved allegations of water build-up on the roads. Other claims asserted:

  • Defective signs or signals;
  • Low shoulders;
  • Loose gravel or rocks on road;
  • Improper road design;
  • Improper pavement markings;
  • Fallen trees;
  • Defective median barriers or medians;
  • Potholes.

There was also one case alleging defective maintenance of a bridge resulting in collapse.

Contact the Carolina injury lawyers at the Lee Law Offices by calling 800-887-1965.

Additional Resources:

State has paid $30 million for DOT claims in 6 years, Jan. 29, 2016, By Tim Smith, Greenville News

More Blog Entries:

Steep Pavement Edge Drop-Off Cited in Accident Lawsuit Against DOT, Jan. 30, 2016, Greenville Accident Attorney Blog

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