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The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) is responsible for the design, construction and maintenance of about 50,000 miles of California’s roadways. With its duties comes an obligation to make the roads that it controls safe for use by the general public. If it has knowledge of a dangerous or defective condition on those roadways, it must repair that defect or condition. If it fails to make repairs within a reasonable amount of time, and an accident and injuries are caused by the condition, Caltrans can be held liable for damages.
Dangerous road defects and conditions can be causes of bicycle, motorcycle and car accidents. Some of the more common dangerous defects are:

  • Potholes
  • Steep shoulder drop-offs
  • Uneven pavement
  • Deep cracks in pavement
  • Damaged or improperly placed sewer or storm sewer grates and manhole covers
  • Trenches or temporary paving
  • Malfunctioning traffic lights

Caltrans might also be held liable if one of its employees negligently operates a motor vehicle or mechanical equipment and injures or causes the death of somebody.

The notice requirement

If you’re a bicyclist and you were involved in a crash and suffered injuries due to any of the above conditions on a Caltrans road, you’re probably eligible to make a claim against the entity. Bringing that claim can be difficult. If your claim is for damages in excess of $10,000, you’re first required to file and properly serve written notice of a claim against it before you can bring a lawsuit against it. You can’t sit on your rights either. That notice must be filed within six months of the date of your accident. You’ll want a skilled and experienced law firm to draft and timely file that notice for you. A defective notice can cause a perfectly viable lawsuit to get dismissed out. There are very few exceptions to this.

Time for Caltrans to respond

State law gives Caltrans 45 days to act on a personal injury claim. That time period can be extended pursuant to the agreement of Caltrans and the claimant. In the unlikely event that Caltrans accepts a claim, payment for damages suffered can take up to eight weeks. Don’t count on Caltrans accepting a claim though.

What you need to prove

You can expect Caltrans to ignore or expressly reject the claim notice during the 45 day period. That’s when a lawsuit can be brought. To be successful in that lawsuit, your must prove the following four requirements:

  • Caltrans was in control of the road that you were injured on
  • The road created an unreasonable risk of harm, or it was defective
  • Caltrans was warned or had actual notice of the condition or defect and failed to remedy it within a reasonable length of time
  • The condition or defect was the direct and proximate cause of the claimant’s injuries

Contact Bay Area Bicycle Law

If you or somebody close to you was injured on a roadway that you have reason to believe was controlled by Caltrans, contact our offices right away for a free consultation and case review. You’ll be able to speak and meet with an attorney from our firm who will listen to you carefully. Then you’ll be given an assessment of your claim. If we enter into a retainer agreement with you, no legal fees will be incurred for our time and assistance unless we obtain a settlement or verdict for you.
We work exclusively with injured cyclists in northern California. If you were injured in Davis, Sacramento, San Jose, San Francisco or anywhere in northern California and think Caltrans may be responsible for your injuries, contact us today.