Tort liability has become a major issue for today's highway designer. The nature of tort liability, current tort trends, and several tort issues that affect highway design are reviewed in this paper. Highway tort claims and losses have grown at a rate of 16% per year since 1972. During 1990, an estimated 33,000 to 35,000 claims were filed against state highway agencies. During the same year, state departments of transportation paid out between $200 and $300 million to defend and settle these claims. Government units at all levels probably lost more than one-half billion dollars to tort claims in 1990. Forty-four percent of the states responding to a 1988 AASHTO survey indicated that they had asked their legislatures to adopt or strengthen a "design immunity" statute. Without design immunity, they could be sued for improper roadway design. Thirty-six percent of the states indicated that they had tried to adopt (or strengthen) "economic defense" legislation. States without this defense find that the courts will not allow them to plead that they did not have enough money to fix all the deficient locations on their roadways as the reason that a roadway hazard was allowed to exist. One of the largest areas of current tort concern involves design practices for resurfacing, restoration, and rehabilitation (RRR) projects. Suits in virtually all of the states are helping to determine whether old roads may be partially improved to provide more capacity and safety without bringing them up to current standards.


  • English

Media Info

  • Features: References; Tables;
  • Pagination: p. 22-28
  • Monograph Title: Safety effects of roadway design decisions
  • Serial:

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 00715637
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Files: TRIS, TRB, ATRI
  • Created Date: Jan 23 1996 12:00AM