Who is Liable for Construction Zone Accidents?

Construction road sign against a blue sky - construction zone accidents concept

Construction zones can be hazardous locations — not only for workers, but for those who drive through them. However, determining liability for a car accident in a construction zone can be complex, and there can be many factors involved that may have led to the accident. Importantly, a construction crew does not need to have been present when the crash happened in order for a collision in a work zone to be considered a construction zone accident. Depending on the circumstances, a town, city, or another driver might also be responsible for a car crash that takes place in a work zone.

Causes of Construction Zone Accidents

There can be many reasons construction zone accidents occur in Washington. Equipment can fall into the road, creating a hazard for drivers. Flying particles can create visibility issues or change the surface of the roadway. Drivers may also be confused by rerouting or construction zone signage, resulting in driving behaviors that lead to collisions. Other common causes of construction zone accidents can include the following:

  • Rear-end collisions — Rear-end collisions can happen when vehicles slow down while driving through a construction zone or follow too closely.
  • Collisions with medians — A vehicle can collide with a median or barrier that is not properly put into place. These types of collisions can also occur due to a driver’s inattention, distraction, or failure to observe.
  • Covered lane markings — If lane markings are not visible or covered with debris, it can be more difficult for drivers to differentiate between lanes.
  • Debris in the roadway — In the event debris is not properly removed from the roadway, a driver may need to brake or swerve suddenly to avoid the obstacle, or they may blow out a tire. This can create a chain-reaction accident with other vehicles.
  • Lack of warning signs — A lack of signage or a misplaced sign can cause confusion for drivers and present hazards.
  • Inadequate lighting — If the lighting in a construction zone is inadequate or not positioned properly, a driver may not be able to see the signage or debris in the roadway, resulting in a collision.
  • Poor design of the construction zone — If the design of the route requires drivers to maneuver their vehicles dangerously, accidents can arise.

Car crashes in construction zones can result in serious injuries. Depending on how the accident happened, a victim may suffer soft tissue injuries, broken bones, concussion, lacerations, disfigurement, and permanent disability. Often, these types of injuries require extensive medical treatment and time lost from work. By filing a personal injury action against the responsible party, a victim may be entitled to recover the economic damages they suffered — as well as monetary compensation for their pain and suffering.

Who is Responsible for a Construction Zone Accident?

Many construction zone accidents are caused by another party’s negligence, carelessness, or recklessness. However, there is not just one party who is automatically responsible for a construction zone accident — there can be several parties who should be held accountable, based on the facts of the case. Construction companies, municipalities, and other motorists on the road may all potentially be held liable if it can be shown that they were negligent.

Construction Companies

Construction companies owe a duty of care to motorists who drive through their work zones and must warn about the potential dangers. If they breach this duty by failing to place proper signage, remove construction debris, or keep the area in a reasonably safe condition, they may be held liable for motor vehicle accidents that occur as a result. In addition, a construction company might incur liability for accidents that arise because of improper lighting positioning, unreasonably narrow lanes due to poor placement of cones, and operating heavy equipment without warning lights.


Depending on the circumstances, a municipality may also incur liability for a construction zone accident. If the state, county, or town responsible for maintaining the roadway should have closed down the road or redirected traffic — and failed to do so — they may be responsible for a victim’s injuries. They may also be held liable for failure to take other steps to protect drivers such as warning about lane shifts, closures, or other dangers.

Other Drivers

In certain cases, another driver may be at fault for a construction zone accident. Driver negligence is one of the most common reasons for collisions in these locations. For example, if a driver failed to use precautions when traveling through a construction zone or they were distracted by their cell phone and failed to see the signage, they place other drivers and their passengers at risk. Another driver might also be to blame for a crash that happened due to their speeding, driving under the influence, or inattention.

Determining Liability in a Construction Zone Accident

The facts and circumstances of a construction zone accident must be carefully investigated to determine who is at fault and should incur responsibility for the damages suffered. In some cases, more than one party might be to blame. An experienced personal injury attorney can assess the facts of a case to determine who a lawsuit should be filed against. However, liability is not always clear, and it may be necessary to bring an accident reconstructionist into the case who can review the data and help prove fault.

Contact an Experienced Washington Personal Injury Attorney

If you were in a car accident in a construction zone caused by someone else’s negligence, you may be entitled to recover your economic and non-economic damages. The Bellingham personal injury attorneys at Robinson & Kole offer aggressive advocacy to car accident victims throughout Washington State and work diligently to secure the best possible outcome in every case. We welcome you to contact us for a free consultation by calling 800.640.5616 or by using our online contact form. Se habla Español.