Six construction workers were killed recently when a car crashed into their work zone along a stretch of I-695 in Baltimore County, Maryland.
The accident is among the latest in a concerning trend for work zone crashes and fatalities. Nationwide, work zone traffic deaths reached a 16-year high in 2020. In Texas, work zone crashes claimed the lives of 246 people in 2021, a 33% increase over the previous year. They also seriously injured more than 800 people.
Work zone accidents can give rise to car accident lawsuits, work injury claims, and wrongful death claims.
Maryland Incident Tragic, Avoidable, and All Too Common
On March 22, a passenger car driver attempted to change lanes, struck another vehicle, lost control, and crashed into a work zone, killing six highway workers.
The accident is under investigation, and charges could be filed against the driver. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) says that issues related to speeding and construction worker protections are among the factors being investigated.
The fatal crash occurred one month ahead of National Work Zone Awareness Week, an annual event that aims to raise awareness about work zone safety.
- The National Work Zone Safety website reports that fatal work zone crashes increased 46% between 2010 and 2020.
- In 2020, 857 people died in work zone crashes and 44,000 were injured.
- Both the number of work zone fatal crashes and fatalities continue to rise. Work zone fatalities reached a thirteen year high in 2019 and increased again in 2020, according to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).
- Around 20 – 25% of fatal work zone crashes involve a rear-end collision; approximately 30% involve a commercial motor vehicle, and about 33% involve speeding.
- Highway work zone crashes happen most frequently when drivers are not paying attention to changing road conditions, says FHWA.
- A 2022 survey of highway contractors found that most (64%) reported crashes into their work zones. Nearly one-third reported five or more work zone crashes in the past 12 months.
Texas Work Zone Crashes
National trends in work zone accidents, fatalities, and injures are reflected in Texas, where rapid growth has accelerated demand for road construction projects. At any given time across Texas, an estimated 40,000 road workers are active on 1,000 miles of roadway projects.
Ahead of last year’s National Work Zone Awareness Week, the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) reported some alarming statistics about Texas work zone crashes:
- In 2021, there were over 26,000 work zone crashes in Texas.
- These crashes resulted in 244 deaths—a 33% increase over 2020—and 856 serious injuries.
- Dallas County had 3,748 work zone crashes in 2021; Bexar County had 2,966; and Harris County had 1,833.
- According to TxDOT, speeding and driver inattention are among the leading causes of work zone crashes.
- From 2012 – 2021, Texas work zone-related crashes increased more than 30%, TxDOT data shows.
Driver and Passenger Work Zone Dangers
Road workers face tough workplace conditions, with speeding traffic oftentimes just feet, or inches, away from them. And while work zone safety campaigns rightly focus on the risks to the men and women of the construction industry, statistics show that motorists face greater risks from work zone crashes.
- Drivers and passengers account for the majority of those injured and killed in work zone crashes.
- Of the 857 people killed nationally in 2020 work zone crashes, 680 (79%) were drivers and passengers, while 117 were workers.
- 195 of the 244 work zone deaths reported in Texas in 2021 occurred to motorists and vehicle passengers, compared to 3 roadside construction workers killed in these accidents.
- Motorists and passengers are nearly twice as likely as highway workers to die in work zone crashes and more than twice as likely as workers to be injured in a work zone crash, the 2022 Work Zone Awareness Survey found.
- Bicyclists and pedestrians in work zones also face crash risks. In fact, there are more annual pedestrian work zone deaths than there are deaths of pedestrians at work, such as the six workers killed in the I-695 Baltimore crash.
- Thirty-eight pedestrians and four bicyclists lost their lives in Texas 2021 work zone crashes.
Work Zone Accident Injury Claims
There’s a lot going on at highway construction sites. Drivers must navigate temporary lanes and redirected traffic in close proximity to workers and heavy equipment. Within these tight quarters, the margin of error is reduced. Tragedy can strike in a split second.
Sorting through the wreckage of a work zone crash can require shutting the highway down for hours. And after that, injury claims resulting from the crash can take even longer to sort out as investigations drag on for months and even years.
The injury claims that can arise from a work zone crash vary. Some of the different scenarios include:
- Injured workers can file a workers’ compensation claim with their employer. They may also be able to file a personal injury lawsuit if the accident was caused by a negligent driver, such as a distracted, speeding, or intoxicated motorist, or a negligent subcontractor (i.e., a worker for another construction company).
- The families of construction workers killed on the job may be able to claim benefits through their deceased loved one’s workers’ compensation. Death benefits, including wages and burial expenses, are payable to a surviving spouse, minor children, and other dependents.
- Road worker fatalities can also lead to a wrongful death lawsuit against a negligent third party, like a motorist. Wrongful death lawsuits are a type of personal injury claim that can provide damages for funeral expenses, loss of future earnings, loss of retirement benefits and inheritance, the pain and suffering of the deceased and their loved ones, and more.
- Injured drivers and passengers can potentially file an injury lawsuit against a negligent construction company, general contractor, or subcontractor. For example, workers may have failed to adequately warn drivers about a lane closure or failed to follow some other work zone safety standard.
Get Legal Help from a Texas Work Zone Accident Attorney
Highway crashes like the one in Baltimore offer a tragic reminder that work zones are accidents waiting to happen. A distracted driver could sideswipe another vehicle and carom out of control. A tractor trailer carrying a heavy load could have trouble stopping and plow into a construction site. Lane change patterns might confuse motorists and set off a deadly chain reaction.
When a work zone accident does happen, it can lead to claims against multiple parties, but there is a narrow window to identify who may be responsible and hold them accountable. Serious injuries require a serious legal team. There are many injury lawyers in Texas, but there’s only one Texas Hammer. With 50 years of handling auto and work-related accidents, you can trust us to make things right.