If you were injured on public property, including a public roadway, you may have a claim against the municipality (or the BC government if the property is owned by the Province). This is because governments have a duty to keep a road in such a reasonable state of repair that drivers may travel upon it safely.
The most common claims arise out of:
- delinquent snow removal
- inadequate signs
- debris on the road
- obstructions blocking viewlines, and
- malfunctioning traffic signals.
Policy vs. Imprementation
Governments must balance their duty to keep roads safe with all their other duties. They are not required to implement all possible safety measures. Courts must defer to a government’s policy decisions as to how to spend tax money. However, once a policy has been decided upon, the government and its contractors must implement that policy properly.
Where there is a government policy for snow removal, failure to comply with that policy can constitute negligence. However, your claim against the government will only succeed if you can show that the accident would not have happened but for the negligent snow/ice removal.
Inadequate Road Signs
If the government knows that a particular section of road is dangerous, and that danger is not apparent to a reasonable driver, they have a duty to warn drivers, usually by installing the appropriate sign. However, as with snow removal, you still have to show that if the sign had been installed, the accident would likely have been averted.
Debris on the Road
As with snow removal, the policies governing road inspections and cleaning cannot be challenged by the courts, but failure to follow those policies can support a claim of negligence. It is also important to identify the source of the debris, if possible, as the person who caused the debris on the road could also be held liable.
Obstructions Blocking Sightlines
This is similar to signs, in that the government may be liable if they know about danger caused by an obstruction, but fail to take reasonable steps to remove it. Another potential party would be the property owner, again, if he or she was aware of the danger caused by the obstruction.
Malfunctioning Traffic Signals
When a traffic signal malfunctions due to inadequate maintenance, or a known malfunction is allowed to continue for an unreasonable period, the government may be liable for resulting accidents.
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