A Labor Day accident at the intersection of I-95 and State Road 524 which resulted in the wrongful death of a motorist, has spurred some debate about whether the intersection is dangerous and needs to be re-designed or overhauled in some way.
Apparently, this intersection has been the scene of at least seven serious crashes this year — two of the crashes causing deaths. The intersection is actually the off-ramp of Interstate 95, where it crosses State Road 524 near Cocoa in Brevard County. The intersection is controlled only by a stop sign and stop bar painted across the roadway. Every other I-95 offramp in Brevard County is apparently controlled by electronic traffic signals.
At this intersection, drivers report feeling like they have to pull past the stop bar in order to try to see oncoming traffic. The Florida Department of Transportation is allegedly doing a study to see if the intersection needs to be changed or re-designed.
After I read the initial story, I wondered if the Department of Transportation or any other State agency could be held liable for allowing this clearly dangerous intersection to exist. After reviewing some case law, it appears not. Decisions regarding the plan of a road, road alignment, signage, traffic control devices, and improvements or changes to an intersection are called planning-level decisions. In Florida, government agencies are provided with immunity from suit for planning level decisions.
In Florida, governments can only be held liable for operational level decisions. The simplest way to think about operational level decisions is to ask whether the government created a dangerous condition. If so, the decision would probably be deemed operational.
As an Orlando personal injury lawyer, it doesn’t seem just to me that a government agency can have statistical data proving that an intersection is clearly dangerous, and not have any liability for not doing anything about it. I would be anxious to hear what you think.