Construction Zone Accidents

In Canada, spring weather inevitably brings construction season along with it. Road construction dominates the streets in the warmer months. For drivers, this can cause complications beyond annoyance. Thousands of motor vehicle accidents each year occur in construction zones.

In a motor vehicle accident, typically an injured party’s only avenue for litigation is to sue the owner and operator of the at-fault vehicle. For example, if you are rear ended, you can sue the owner and operator of the car that rear-ended you. Conversely, if you are the at-fault party or the only motor vehicle involved in a collision, litigation is usually not possible.

There may be additional litigation avenues available if your accident occurred in a construction zone, however. When you are driving on a roadway, the owner of that roadway is an “occupier” within the definition of the Occupier’s Liability Act. Occupiers have certain responsibilities to keep people on their property reasonably safe. For the most part, the circumstances of a collision are not the fault of the road owner. In construction zones, however, the list of potential at-fault parties expands beyond the road owner. The construction company hired to do maintenance on a roadway also becomes an “occupier” of that roadway. Therefore, a construction company also has an obligation to keep the roadway they are working on reasonably safe for the people traveling on it.

Ways in which a construction company can fail to meet this obligation include, but are not limited to:

  • leaving hazardous debris on the roadway;
  • failing to place proper signage;
  • failing to use proper hazard warnings such as pylons;
  • allowing traffic to resume normal speed when it is unsafe to do so, such as in areas of uneven pavement or reduced lane availability;
  • failing to have a worker directing traffic, or failing to have a competent worker doing so; and
  • failing to hire competent heavy machinery operators.

Likewise, subcontractors can be held liable for similar reasons.

Ultimately, the owner of a roadway may be liable for hiring an incompetent construction company or vicariously liable for the actions of that construction company, depending on the wording of the contract between the parties.

Even if an accident appears to have been the direct result of another vehicle operator’s negligence, both that vehicle operator and the construction company’s negligent acts may have contributed to that accident. For example, if an oncoming car swerves into your lane of travel to avoid construction debris, both that vehicle and the construction company could be held liable. This is advantageous in the context of litigation because it means that two insurance policies may be available. If your injuries are significant, or multiple people are injured in the accident, accessing the construction company’s policy would be critical in ensuring there are sufficient policy limits to cover all damages.

As you can see, if you are injured in an accident that occurred in a construction zone, consulting a lawyer to sort through these issues is imperative.

Written by

Lauren Cullen is an associate lawyer at Siskinds LLP in London, Ontario. She practices exclusively in personal injury litigation and is a member of the Ontario Trial Lawyers Association (OTLA). Lauren completed her law degree at Western University in 2016 and subsequently articled at a top personal injury law firm in Toronto.