Archive for April 2011

Initial Design Errors

Sometimes roads are just wrong to begin with.

A sharply curved road can lead to cars leaving the roadway

  • A curve banked in a manner that results in cars leaving the roadway
  • An unnecessarily sharp curve
  • A combination of vertical and horizontal curves that places a sharp horizontal curve at the crest of a vertical curve
  • A road that conflicts with pedestrian traffic
  • A bridge without a sidewalk for pedestrians
  • A highway with a steep embankment
  • A road with a series of trees or utility poles right next to the lane of travel

In some cases, the design started out okay (back in the 1920s). But design inadequacies under current standards should be identified and corrected when the opportunity arises.

While it’s true that our streets and highways don’t need to be brought to compliance with design standards immediately, new requirements for roadway safety should be implemented when a significant project is undertaken. At that point, the project engineer should look around to assess and correct all substandard conditions. And, until substandard conditions are corrected, a municipality needs to post warning signs or implement an interim solution.

Excerpt from my Highway Design Liability booklet.  Contact me, if you’d like a copy free of charge.

The Duty to Provide Safe Roads

The law is clear in Washington State: Our street and highway departments have a “duty to provide reasonably safe roads and this duty includes the duty to safeguard against an inherently dangerous or misleading condition.”

An intersection with a history of collisions suggests that the road is unreasonably hazardous.

What are some of these conditions?

  • Intersections with a history of collisions that show an obvious need of a traffic signal or signs, to bring order to streets that converge and result in conflict,
  • A steep embankment on a curve in need of a guardrail,
  • A lack of chevrons to warn of a sudden sharp curve, or
  • A cable median barrier on a 60-/70- mph highway that is wholly inadequate to redirect or even restrain errant cars to prevent innocent people from being hit head-on.

Important Practice Tip: Examine first-hand all aspects of the road where the collision occurred for design/operational problems before ever considering a settlement with a defendant driver that will destroy joint and several liability. Too often, I’m approached with the defendant’s $25K policy limits as an associating attorney’s “war chest” for a case against the State. Too late. Not to mention that $25K is a drop in the bucket in these very complex and expensive cases.



Why care about highway design?

My partners at SKWC and I care a lot about highway safety.

Highway Design Injury Attorney Seattle/Hoquiam Keith Kessler at SKWC

"Highway Design Liability" - Keith L. Kessler (04/2010)

Our biggest reason for caring is that we’ve seen a lot of horrible things happen to innocent people simply because a road or highway was designed in an ill-conceived manner. Because of these avoidable tragedies, many of which we learn about only when someone gets into a catastrophic accident, my partners and I are passionate about making roads safer.

Recently, I poured this passion for safer roads into a booklet called Highway Design Liability (published and produced by SKWC).

If you’re interested in getting a copy of it, please just contact me. In the meantime, thanks for visiting  Please check back frequently, as I aim to write about two to three posts per week.