As a St. Louis motor vehicle accident attorney, I know roadway design is not often the cause of crashes. So I was interested to see that St. Charles County officials have approved funding to repair an apparent safety flaw on a road in that county. According to a May 17 article in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, county officials authorized almost $24,000 to put guardrails on both sides of Augusta Bottom Road, which will protect motorists from going off the road and into a roadside pond. Two people died in such accidents last fall, setting off a local dispute over which government agency had the authority to improve the road. Fighting continues over another section that connects St. Charles County to Warren County.
Augusta Bottom Road is paved in the area where the guardrails will go in, in St. Charles County, but a gravel road as it approaches Warren County. Last October, 16-year-old Ella Neier of Washington died when her car went off the road above the pond, sending her into deep water. About a month later, Joseph Volmert, also of Washington, had a similar fatal accident.
The accidents triggered discussions about improving the entire length of road, but authorities quickly realized it wasn’t clear who owned the gravel section. The city of Washington has been maintaining it, but records show it belongs to the city of Augusta. Officials from both cities and both counties have agreed to seek a MoDOT grant to study the issue, but Warren County has refused to authorize paving or moving the road, regardless of the study’s results. The Neier family has collected donations for road improvements, but cannot use them until ownership is cleared up.
Ownership is an important question when government funds are low, but as a Missouri auto accident lawyer, I’m disappointed that this dispute is holding up potential safety improvements. Regardless of who owns the road, it’s not hard for visitors to see that it could use guardrails — it runs along the top of a levee with a steep drop-off to deep water below. The section in Warren County is gravel, which may even increase the risk of a crash. Interestingly, a commenter in a previous Post-Dispatch article suggests Warren County doesn’t want to take responsibility for the road because it doesn’t want to be sued. However, it’s unclear how the county will prevent lawsuits by refusing to improve the road even after these two crashes — which make the need for improvements clear.
If you were involved in a car crash through no fault of your own, you should call Carey, Danis & Lowe for help. We represent clients throughout Missouri and southern Illinois who were seriously hurt or lost a family member in an accident caused or worsened by someone else’s bad decisions. Most of the time, that means another driver, but crashes can also be caused or worsened by bad roadway design and maintenance. When that happens, our southern Illinois car crash attorneys can hold the government agency responsible for the road legally liable for the crash and its results (researching to determine ownership, if necessary). By claiming fair financial compensation, accident victims can pay for the medical care they need, make ends meet while they can’t work and be fairly compensated for their losses and pain.
Carey, Danis & Lowe offers free, confidential case evaluations, so you can contact us today without worrying about money or further obligations. To set up a meeting, send us an email or call 1-877-678-3400.