Do you and your Insurance Company know your Liability?
Traffic signs are everywhere. They provide us with warnings, directions and information. They can be found along public roadways, private roadways and parking lots. As of June 13, 2014 all agencies with public and private roadways which are opened for public travel are required to have a traffic sign assessment and management plan in place.
I know what you are thinking, that's great the government has more paperwork to add to their already inflated bureaucracy. Though that may be the case, if you are a commercial or industrial business, mall, shopping center, home owner's association, convenience store, gas station, just to name a few, with a parking lot or roadways, you should be preparing for traffic sign Retroreflectivity.
Why should you be concerned or taking note of traffic sign assessment and management? Well simply put if you allow motorists to drive on your property, which would almost be impossible not to, you are entering new realm of possible liability.
You along with your Insurance Company should know what the failure to prepare and plan for traffic sign assessment and management can mean. I bet most agencies and businesses don't even know what traffic signs are their responsibilities.
Why don't you humor me and let me give you an example how this can affect you. When your property was built, more than likely you or the owner at the time had to obtain a driveway or highway occupancy permit to enter and exit the public roadway. More than likely your plan had a stop sign at the entrance, no big deal, right? Wrong, if a driver leaving your property pulls out into the path of an oncoming vehicle and there is an accident, one of the things that the investigating agencies will be looked at is whether the proper traffic signs are in place and in operational condition. They will look at the signs in helping to determine who is at fault. Maybe not a huge deal if it is a fender bender, but what if there are major injuries or even worse a death. Now you can be certain the insuring parties, or family of the injured or dead are going to be looking for someone to pay for the damages and pain and suffering.
Get my point! In the example above we are only talking about one sign, a stop sign. Let me ask you a few things that the investigators will probably asking.
Property owner, what was the date the stop sign was installed? Do you have records of the purchase? Did the stop sign meet the highway traffic sign standards at the time of installation? Where did you purchase the sign? Was it installed to the proper height and mounting standards as required by the highway standards? When was the sign last assessed for compliance?
Holy cow! As a property owner how would you know any of that information? Simple: a traffic sign assessment and management program.
Now many permit and civil plans for properties have more than one stop sign on them, many have multiple signs. Did you also know that some state, county and local agencies add wording to the permit plans that give responsibility for the new roadway signs added during construction to the property owner. I know, you are asking why, would they do that. Simple, alleviate or pass the responsibility to someone else. Smart on their part, but bad for you and you insurance company.
The MUTCD (Manual on Uniformed Traffic Control Devices) is about to make all of our lives a little bit more interesting. I believe the door is opening for a flood of liability claims relating to traffic signs. The MUTCD and Federal Highway Administration have stated that private roads open to public travel are required to meet provisions of the MUTCD, including the minimum retroreflectivity standards. I know some people will argue that parking lots are not included, however I believe this extends to parking lots. My logic behind this is that there are drive lanes in a parking lot and what is a drive lane other than a private road. But hey I will let the lawyers argue that point in court.
A statistic obtained from Auto Insurance quotes.com, indicated that Nationwide Insurance's 2012 claim data showed 13 percent of all accidents occur in parking lots. During my research I have found that injuries to pedestrians are one of the fastest growing types of accidents which occur in parking lots. So my next question is are your Pedestrian crossing signs compliant?
As you can see, I am trying to make a point, if you do not have a traffic sign assessment and management plan in place or think that it can't happen to you all I can say is good luck. But just remember an implemented plan may be the cheapest insurance you could purchase.