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Work Zone Collisions FAQ

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1)  What is a work zone in Georgia?

 

Georgia’s statute defines “highway work zones” as any  a segment of any highway, road, or street where the Department of Transportation, a county, a municipality, or any contractor for any of the foregoing is engaged in constructing, reconstructing, or maintaining the physical structure of the roadway or its shoulders or features adjacent to the roadway.

 

This is a long way of saying that any roadway that is being worked on is a work zone.

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2)  Do “highway work zones” only apply to Georgia’s highways and interstates?

 

“Highway work zones” do not only apply to Georgia’s highways and interstates.  Instead, the term applies to any roadway work zone as designated by the DOT, county, or city government.

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3)  Who can designate a work zone in Georgia?

 

Georgia law allows the state’s DOT as well as any county or city/municipality to designate a segment of highway, road, or street as a “highway work zone” as long as it is within their jurisdiction.

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4)  What is a work zone car accident?

 

A work zone car accident is at it sounds – any accident or collision that occurs within or around a work zone.

 

Construction workers need not be present and working at the time of the wreck for it to be considered a construction zone collision.

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5)  Who can be held responsible for a work zone collision?

 

If the injured person is another driver on the roadway, responsibility may be attributed to one or many entities for contributing to the collision, including:

 

  • Other Drivers on the Roadway;

  • Construction Company, Crews, and/or Subcontractors;

  • Government Entity Responsible for the Roadway;

  • Safety Inspection Companies;

  • Equipment Manufacturers and/or Suppliers;

  • Property Owner (for private roadways open to the public); or

  • Pedestrians/Bicyclists in Work Zone.

Basically, any person or entity that contributes to the collision may be exposed to liability and can be held responsible for your injuries.

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6)  Who can be held responsible for the fatality of a work zone crew member?

 

If a work zone crew member, laborer, or worker is injured and/or killed in a work zone, they likely have the opportunity to pursue workers compensation benefits through their employer and/or other contractors.

 

Unfortunately, the exclusive remedy provision of workers compensation statutes prohibit the injured or killed worker from seeking anything other than workers compensation benefits from their “statutory employer.” 

 

This usually means the work zone worker is not able to sue their employer or other contractors that hired them.

 

Injured or killed workers and their families may be able to bring a third-party claim against other parties and entities who contributed to the injury or death.  These can include:

 

  • Other Drivers on the Roadway;

  • Unrelated Construction Company, Crews, and/or Subcontractors;

  • Safety Inspection Companies;

  • Equipment Manufacturers and/or Suppliers;

  • Property Owner (for private roadways open to the public); or

  • Pedestrians/Bicyclists in Work Zone.

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7)  How do you prove negligence in a work zone collision?

 

Work zone negligence for a work zone collision depends on the type of collision and it’s causes. 

 

However, negligence can be proven through:

 

  • Scene inspection;

  • Vehicle inspection (on-board computer data);

  • Police report and testimony;

  • Traffic citations and dispositions;

  • Witness statements;

  • OSHA report, citations, and findings (if applicable);

  • Construction company incident report;

  • Construction company policies and procedures;

  • Employee files, training, and qualifications;

  • Violations of MUTCD traffic control regulations;

  • Expert testimony (accident reconstructionist, civil engineers, etc.)

 

Unfortunately, a lot of evidence may only be accessible once the case has been filed in court.

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8)  What types of workers are involved in work zone collisions?

 

The work zone works and crew members that are most often involved in work zone collisions are the ones that are exposed to risk for the longest period of time. 

 

These include:

 

  • Traffic control flaggers;

  • Surveyors;

  • Heavy equipment operators (pavers, graders, etc.); and

  • Other laborers.

Sadly, collisions involving work zone crews and workers happen too often, leading to the unnecessary loss of life for these families.

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9)  How to reduce worker fatalities in work zones?

 

Work zone collisions, injuries, and fatalities are so common that the Center for Disease Control has even released a report providing suggestions on how to reduce worker fatalities. 

 

These include:

 

  • Utilizing temporary traffic controls in a clear and consistent manner;

  • Provide properly trained flaggers;

  • Wear high-visibility apparel;

  • Employ properly trained equipment operators;

  • Conduct regular safety checks; and

  • Increase motorist education and speed enforcement.

Incidentally, failure to do these things could be evidence of negligence.

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10)  What duties do drivers owe in and around work zones?

 

Drivers owe a general duty to exercise due care and caution as well as maintain a proper lookout while driving, at all times. 

 

When it comes to work zones, drivers are also obligated to obey warning signs, adjust their speed, merge lanes safely, follow a safe distance behind other drivers, and be aware of their surroundings.

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11)  What are common reasons other drivers cause work zone accidents?

 

Typical causes of work zone car accidents by other drivers can be attributed to their reckless and unsafe conduct, including:

 

  • Distracted driving (texting or talking on telephone);

  • Following too close (and rear-ending other drivers);

  • Speeding and unsafe merging in traffic;

  • Ignoring work zone signs and warnings;

  • Impaired driving (due to alcohol or drugs)

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12)  What duties do construction companies and their workers and contractors owe in and around work zones?

 

Construction companies operating in and around work zones are duty-bound to prepare the site for drivers and maintain safety for its workers. 

 

This usually means following OSHA laws and building codes, as well as implementing traffic control policies and devices as prescribed by the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices.

 

As a practical matter, it’s expected the work zone companies:

 

  • Carefully plan the construction project;

  • Employ qualified and trained workers, and adequately supervise these workers;

  • Provide adequate signage and other traffic control devices and warnings;

  • Operate and store machinery out of harms way; and

  • Properly and safely direct traffic around obstacles and work zones.

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13)  What are examples of construction company negligence in work zones?

 

Common examples of work zone negligence by the construction companies and crews include:

 

  • Blocking line of sight (with signs and equipment);

  • Inadequate or improper warnings signs;

  • Lack of (or inadequately trained) flagmen;

  • Lack of safety training;

  • Unsafely designed work zone detours/driving lanes;

  • Placement of signs, barricades or equipment in too close a proximity to moving lanes;

  • Poor lighting;

  • Failing to clear dangerous debris out of roadway;

  • Failing to operate heavy equipment safely;

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14)  What duties does the government owe in and around work zones?

 

Although suing the government or a government agency is trickier and harder to do, there may be times that the government has violated a duty in and around a work zone.

 

Governments and agencies that maintain streets and roads are responsible for ensuring the roadway is safe for drivers.  Usually, this means installing signs and other warnings for hazards on the roadway such as lane closures and lane shifts.

 

If the government agency is actually performing work on the roadway, then it may also owe a duty to due so in accordance with the standards and regulations that apply to private construction companies.  Lots of times, the internal policies and procedures will govern the extent of liability.

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15)  What are typical work zone collisions?

 

The most typical work zone car accidents usually involve vehicle-on-vehicle collisions. 

 

These include:

  • sideswipes where lanes narrow or lanes of travel shift;

  • rear-end collisions due to inattentiveness and speeding; and

  • collisions with construction vehicles entering and leaving the work one.

 

Although less common, there are times when work zone workers are hit and often killed by unsafe drivers.

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16)  What statutes and regulations may apply to a work zone collision in Georgia?

 

Statutes and regulations that may apply to proving negligence in a work zone collision include:

 

  • 23 C.F.R. Part 655 (MUTCD Regulations);

  • O.C.G.A. 40-6-75 – (Highway Construction & Maintenance Vehicles Operation);

  • O.C.G.A. 40-6-188 – (Work Zone Speeding);

  • O.C.G.A. 40-6-253 (Drunk or Impaired Driving);

  • O.C.G.A. 40-6-49 (Following too Closely);

  • O.C.G.A. 40-6-181 (Speeding);

  • O.C.G.A. 40-6-241 (Distracted Driving);

  • O.C.G.A. 40-6-253 (Drunk or Impaired Driving);

  • O.C.G.A. 40-6-49 (Following Too Closely);

  • O.C.G.A. 40-6-181 (Speeding)

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17)  What is the MUTCD?

Drivers owe a general duty to exercise due care and caution as well as maintain a proper lookout while driving, at all times. 

 

When it comes to work zones, drivers are also obligated to obey warning signs, adjust their speed, merge lanes safely, follow a safe distance behind other drivers, and be aware of their surroundings.

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18)  How are work zones organized?

Work zones are usually characterized and organized in to five parts as identified by the Federal Highway Administration, including:

 

  • Advance Warning Area:  This area communicates warnings in advance of what to expect.  This can include signs or signals indicating a lane merger, reduced speed limit signs, or signs notifying of a construction zone within a certain number of feet.

  • Transition Area:  This area transitions traffic out of its normal lane of travel, usually by the use of cones, barriers, and other devices to merge lanes.

  • Buffer Space:  This area is optional, where a length of roadway is barricaded to provide additional separation between traffic and construction crews.

  • Activity Area:  The activity area is where the construction or maintenance work takes place. Within the activity area is the work space, traffic space, and lateral and longitudinal buffer spaces. The work space is set aside for workers, equipment, and material storage. The traffic space is where vehicles pass through. The lateral and longitudinal buffer spaces provide protection for traffic and workers.

  • Termination Area:  The termination area gradually transitions traffic back its normal lane of travel and speeds.

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19)  What are driver safety tips to avoid work zone collisions and fatalities?

Some safety tips that all drivers can follow to reduce work zone car accidents, injuries, and deaths include:

 

  • Stay alert;

  • Obey signs and work zone flaggers;

  • Turn on headlights;

  • Don’t tailgate;

  • Don’t speed;

  • Don’t change lanes;

  • Actively avoid distractions (i.e. don’t use your cell phone);

  • Be patient.

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