As with every other city in California, Fresno’s streets and roads are maintained by a combination of the City of Fresno and Caltrans, the California Department of Transportation. This responsibility is a tall one, as Caltrans is responsible for maintaining 250 state highways, over 52,000 miles of lane roads and 15,000 miles of centerline roads. Situated in District 6 of Caltrans’ Maintenance Division, Fresno and the surrounding area is literally in the middle of Caltrans’ maintenance objectives.
But why is this important for bicycle riders in Fresno? The answer is because even the slightest road hazard can be disastrous for you while riding your bike. Hitting a pothole, uneven pavement or using improperly marked bike lanes can cause serious accidents which can have long-term implications on your health and well-being.
Fresno Bicycle accident Lawyers Know How To Help You
Having the responsibility to properly maintain California’s roadways, Caltrans certainly has a tall task. However, they also have the resources and budget to handle most of these issues. So when they fail to uphold their responsibility, and a poorly maintained road or bike lane causes you to have an accident, they can be held accountable.
When you have to face Caltrans for damages you’ve suffered, the knowledge and skill of Maison Law can be invaluable. Our team of experienced, dedicated Fresno bicycle accident lawyers know how to approach state entities, the requirements that need to be met, and handle all the day to day responsibilities of a claim so that you can focus on recovery.
If you’ve been injured in a bicycle accident caused by a poorly maintained road in Fresno, contact us for a free consultation.
What Is Caltrans Responsible For In Fresno?
The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) is the government entity that is responsible for many of the roads and laneways in Fresno. Specifically, Caltrans has the duty to make sure that roads are properly maintained and safe for the public to use. In practice this means overseeing the following with regard to roads statewide:
In terms of maintenance, they handle a number of different defects and hazards in the road, like:
- 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
- Unmarked or poorly marked lanes
The biggest difference between a regular bicycle accident and one that’s caused by an improperly or poorly maintained road is how you can approach filing a claim. Normally, you would file with the at-fault party’s insurance company, but as a state entity, Caltrans is a bit more protected and the process is slightly different.
Can I File an Accident Claim Against Caltrans?
As a government entity, Caltrans has what’s known as “sovereign immunity” when it comes to most damage claims. However, this immunity is waived when there is a statute in place that expressly provides for damages. When Caltrans fails to properly maintain a road or bike lane and causes an accident, they no longer have immunity from a resulting injury claim.
However, while you have the legal ability to file a claim against Caltrans for any damages you suffered in a bicycle accident, the process is much different than a regular accident claim.
For one, as a government entity, you have to formally file a Notice of Claim that informs the state and Caltrans that you wish to pursue a claim against them. On top of that, there are two other requirements that you have to meet before you can officially file a claim:
- Damages – In order for a claim to be properly investigated and pursued, there is a damages requirement of under $10,000. If you believe your damages amount to over $10,000, you will need to file a claim with the Government Claims Program, a different (although related) government entity.
- Timing – Unlike most injury lawsuits in California, which have a two year statute of limitations, filing a claim against Caltrans must be filed within six months of the date of your accident. As such, it’s extremely important to have your claim as prepared for filing as possible.
If you don’t meet these requirements, not only can you not pursue a claim against Caltrans, but you also may miss out on recovering much needed support for your injuries and damage to your property.
Once you properly file your claim against Caltrans, there are still yet more considerations that are given to the entity. Under California law, Caltrans has 45 days to respond in writing to your Notice of Claim.
The reason for this timeframe is so that Caltrans can do its own investigation and evaluation of your claim. In some cases, an extension can be stipulated by both sides so that Caltrans can further investigate and respond to your claim.
In their formal written response, Caltrans can either accept liability and issue payment for your damages or they can deny your claim. If they deny the claim, you will have to file a lawsuit to recover damages.
In the unlikely event that Caltrans accepts liability and pays for your damages, payment can take up to 8 weeks to process.
Fresno Caltrans Bicycle Accident Damages
Once you meet the filing requirements and file your claim against Caltrans, you will have initiated the damages-recovery process. At this point, the process begins to resemble other bicycle accidents.
Your claim will likely have two parts: first, establishing that Caltrans was negligent in its care for the roads and that this caused your accident. Negligence is key for determining liability, and generally has four elements:
- Caltrans had a duty to keep the roadway properly maintained and safe to avoid harming others.
- Caltrans breached that duty by failing to properly maintain the road, which created a hazardous or dangerous condition.
- Caltrans’ breach of duty caused your bicycle accident in question.
- Your bicycle accident resulted in injuries and other losses.
With negligence established, the second part of your claim will be confirming that Caltrans was liable. This depends heavily on where the accident was located, as it could be possible that the stretch of road where your accident occurred was maintained by the City of Fresno or some other entity.
Once you can establish negligence and confirm that Caltrans is indeed liable for your damages, you can recover the following:
- Costs of medical treatment and care
- Loss of income, future lost wages, and benefits
- Reductions in future earning capacity
- Pain and suffering caused by physical injuries
- Impairments, disfigurement, and disabilities
- Loss of enjoyment of life
One consideration to watch out for is California’s comparative negligence statute, which means that any percentage of fault you have in the accident will reduce your damages by that same percentage.
Experienced and Skilled Fresno Caltrans Bicycle Accident Lawyer
When you’re injured by a substandard road or a hazard, it can feel very demoralizing and helpless. After all, if people responsible for keeping the roads safe for you and other bicyclists fail to do so and you’re injured as a result, what else can be done?
The answer is to file a claim and hold Caltrans accountable. Maison Law and our team of experienced and dedicated Fresno bicycle accident lawyers can help you do this. We have years of combined experience in dealing with claims involving Caltrans and other state entities. While this claims process is not the same as others, we can still help you navigate the complexities of this process to get you the support you need. To schedule a free consultation with our team, contact us today.