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Thread: Legal action due to poor signage, design, etc.

  1. #1
    Mar 2006
    New York City

    Legal action due to poor signage, design, etc.

    A standard riposte one hears to limiting signage, signals, etc. for aesthetic or other reasons; or for executing non-standard traffic treatments (I'm looking at a photo in Texas of a tree planted smack dab in the middle of a residential street; 'natural traffic calming' I suppose!) is that the city will be sued, etc., by drivers who get into crashes as some result of the treatment.

    Has anyone seen a study that discusses the actual number of cases of successful lawsuits, or even the frequency with which this actually happens? Is it a bogeyman, or a real fear? I've seen studies, for example, that say that railroad crossings with 'good' sight distance have as many car/train collisions as those with 'poor sight distance -- but does having the proper distance at least absolve the city in case of a crash?

    Perhaps this has been discussed here before, but I couldn't find the thread -- in any case, be curious to see papers, hear examples, etc.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian Richi's avatar
    Jan 2008
    Tallahassee, FL
    In general, doing nothing is safer than doing something incorrectly. Far less likely to be successfully sued if you do not install a signal than if you install a signal that is not warranted or if the signal is not maintained or malfunctions. So it would be better to not instal a traffic sign than to install on that doesn't quite meet the standards in the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices. (MUTCD for short.) The MUTCD is gospel. It doesn't require installing devices, but if you do, make damn sure yo do it like the book says.

  3. #3
    In this age you can be sued for anything, but as previously mentioned, as long as you are in strict compliance with MUCTD you have a great chance of winning in a court

    So the tree in the road is not a reasonable traffic calming or safety device. They should put in a boulevard if they want landscaping in the median. If anyone in their agency ever wrote in a memo "That tree could be dangerous" and they plaintiff lawyers get a hold of it through a FOIA, the case is closed.

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