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Can You Sue if You Get Hurt in a Crash on a Private Road?

August 1, 2022

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There are many types of roads that drivers use in Ohio. They include rural roads, residential streets, urban streets, state routes, multi-lane highways, and federal interstates. Traffic laws on these roads are enforced by sheriff’s deputies, local police officers, and state highway patrolmen. When people are injured on them, they can sue the drivers who caused their accidents, if those drivers were violating a traffic law or driving negligently.

However, not all roads in Ohio are built, maintained, or patrolled by governmental agencies and employees. Some roads are built on private land, and they aren’t subject to the same traffic laws as public roads. However, crashes can and do occur on these roads, and people who are injured on them because of others’ negligence can still sue for compensation.

What Are Common Types of Private Roads?

The most common types of private roads are:

  • Private neighborhood roads: Most neighborhoods and subdivisions have roads that are accessible to the public and thus maintained by local governments. But some neighborhoods and subdivisions are gated or located in unincorporated communities. These residential areas are often responsible for the upkeep of their own roads, which is paid for via community or homeowner’s association fees.
  • Private residential roads: Some farms and very large parcels of land may make use of private roads to help residents, their families and guests, and their employees navigate their land. As with private neighborhood roads, the building and upkeep of these roads is the responsibility of the landowners.
  • Private business roads: Many businesses use roads on their private property to help guests and customers get around.  They include resorts, golf courses, shopping malls, and other large retail complexes. These roads often appear similar to public roads, and they often include traffic control signage such as speed limit signs, stop signs, and more.

Who Can Be Sued for Accidents on Private Roads?

There are typically three potentially at-fault parties after crashes on private roads:

  • Property owners: The people and parties who own the properties where private roads are located may be ruled liable after crashes, if they failed to make the roads safe to drive on. For example, they may be considered liable for a crash that occurred due to a lack of a stop sign at an intersection or because they failed to keep the road free from potentially dangerous debris and hazards, such as failing to fill potholes.
  • Other drivers: Although traffic laws typically aren’t enforced on private roads, drivers can still be held liable if their negligence causes crashes that injure others. For example, a driver who is under the influence of alcohol, driving while distracted, or driving recklessly can be held liable for a crash even if they can’t be cited or criminally charged for the offense due to being on private property.
  • Road builders: When a company builds a road negligently and in a manner that puts drivers in danger, they can be held liable if their negligent design or construction causes or contributed to a crash. For example, a road builder could be held liable if they built a road that’s too narrow or that isn’t structurally sound.

Proving Fault After Private Road Crashes Can Be More Difficult

Because law enforcement officers usually don’t patrol private roads and typically don’t issue citations after crashes on them (unless they have an agreement with the owners of the private properties), fault may be more difficult to prove. In addition, some injured victims are reluctant to file compensation claims after crashes that occur on private property that belongs to friends, family members, or even their neighborhoods.

When victims do seek compensation, insurance companies are much more likely to deny their clients’ liability after crashes that they caused if there are no tickets or citations. On the flip side, victims’ insurers may claim they’re at fault for their own crashes when the other driver isn’t clearly assigned fault. All of these factors can make it more difficult to get compensation, especially when victims go it alone.

Contact Us After a Crash on a Private Road

At Nurenberg, Paris, Heller & McCarthy, we often use tickets and citations as part of the evidence we collect when we build injury claims for our clients. But those documents aren’t everything when it comes to getting compensation for innocent victims. Our investigations go far beyond police records, and they include gathering all available evidence to determine what happened and prove fault.

If you or someone you love is hurt in a crash on a private road, our Ohio car accident lawyers want to help. We know that you may be unsure of your next steps or whether you’re even eligible for compensation. Contact us today for a free consultation.

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