Auto Insurance Claims and Highway Accidents

If one of the contractor’s men signals a motor vehicle to proceed and the motor vehicle is struck by a piece of the contractor’s equipment or if the highway is not in proper condition to travel over, the contractor may be liable.

There seems to be a great deal of confusion as to what is the legal effect of the signs that contractors place along the highway. Supposing a contractor puts up a sign which says, “Highway closed for three miles—proceed at your own risk.” In some states that sign might have the legal effect of relieving the contractor of responsibility for his own negligence. But the better rule seems to be the rule of common sense. Even though the highway is “closed to travel,” if the contractor knows that the highway is being regularly used by motorists, he may be liable for his negligence.

Some lawyers have figured out that it is better to sue the contractor for breach of contract rather than for his negligence. That might eliminate the bugaboo of “contributory negligence.” You may say that the injured automobile driver didn’t make a contract with the highway contractor; how can he sue in contract? There is a rule in law that says that a person for whose benefit a contract is made may sue just as though he were one of the parties to the contract. This is known in law as the “third-party beneficiary rule.”

Courts have said that highway contracts were made for the benefit of the traveling public. Anybody who is injured by reason of the failure of the contractor to take proper precautions, becomes a third-party beneficiary of the contractor.
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Ruff Roads Construction, Inc. had a contract with the State of New York to rebuild 8.9 miles of highway between Syracuse and Oswego. The contractor was obliged to provide safe passage for the traveling public during construction, to provide red lights and flares at night and maintain a watchman at all times.
Mr. Farmer driving his car from work at midnight collided with an unguarded bulldozer; the red lights and flares had blown out and the watchman had fallen asleep. Mr. Farmer sustained property damage and bodily injury.

Remedy: Even though Mr. Farmer files a claim against the State of New York, his quickest remedy is to press his claim against the Ruff Roads Construction, Inc. The contractor broke his contract by obstructing the highway, by not having red lights and flares and by failing to have a watchman at all times.

Automobile manufacturer, dealer or garage. Under certain circumstances a person who manufactures, assembles or sells a product to the public may be liable for any injury sustained from a defect in the product. A manufacturer may be liable for failure to use care in the manufacture or assembly of an automobile. He may be liable not only to the immediate purchaser but to others.


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