Everybody has seen a warning sign somewhere, in fact you can probably think
of several just off the top of your head. Displaying a proper warning
sign is vitally important in removing liability should an accident unfortunately
happen. Whether it’s someone slipping on an icy road, accidentally
touching a corrosive chemical with their bare skin, or a car getting in
an accident due to an unexpected road hazard, a proper warning sign can
absolve a property owner of some or all liability in these instances.
However, not just any sign will do. Many warning signs must comply with
state and federal regulations before they can be considered a legal absolution
of liability, and a failure to do so could reap extensive consequences
should an accident still result. A skilled North Carolina personal injury
attorney can help you go over the facts and evidence of your particular
case and determine if improper warning signage may factor into it.
Road & Highway Signage
North Carolina’s road signage is very heavily regulated, and must
conform to the Department of Transportation’s standards. Road corridors
that require extra caution, such as roads that may be icy during winter,
or be subject to landslides or wildlife crossings, must have DOT-compliant
signage at the entrance to said corridor in order to notify drivers to
proceed with caution. If this signage is missing, or even placed in non-conspicuous
manner that makes it difficult for a passing motorist to notice, then
a driver may not be held liable for any damage to their vehicle or injury
to their person.
Any roads under construction must be designated by proper signage, giving
drivers ample warning to avoid any potential hazards. If the surface of
the road has been altered in any way (such as the placement of steel plates
over an open ditch or an open lane with unfinished pavement), sings must
be posted to warn drivers of the change in road surface in order to expect
the sudden change in ride and avoid any potential accidents as a result.
Signage on private roads is slightly less regulated, however property owners
could still be liable under premises liability laws for any damage that
happens to someone else’s motor vehicle and any resulting injuries
that occur if any obvious unrepaired hazards are not clearly indicated
with warning signs.
Any major hazards, must be marked with a clearly visible sign indicating
the danger whenever any invitees (people explicitly or implicitly invited
to be on a premises, such as customers at a retail store) or licensees
(people not explicitly invited to be on a premises, but whose presence
is known and allowed by a property owner, such as service workers or delivery
people) may be present. This applies equally to both private and public property.
A common example of this would be a restaurant owner placing a yellow Caution
sign over an area where a patron has just spilled their water while an
employee goes to fetch a cleanup bucket. The presence of the liquid on
the ground is an unexpected hazard, and should another customer slip and
fall as a result of the liquid being on the ground, the restaurant owner
would be liable. However, by placing a sign indicating a wet floor slip
hazard in a conspicuous and easily visible place, the owner could potentially
fight back against any injury liability claims that may result from someone slipping.
Much like premises signage, hazards in a workplace must have signage warning
employees as to the presence of any dangers, and, likewise, many employers
must also provide training to employees who will be working directly with
these hazards as part of their job duties.
The most obvious example is chemical hazards. For certain warnings, such
as chemicals hazards, the NFPA diamond signs must be present in their
storage places, indicating what kinds of chemicals must be present and
their inherent dangers, and any other containers (such as spray bottles),
must be clearly labeled.
Any facility hazards, such as exposed electrical lines, large cracks in
pavement, step edges, or hot surfaces, must also be indicated with proper
signage. The presence of things such as building exits, fire extinguishers,
sharp edges, must be clearly designated with a Department of Labor-compliant
Twiggs, Strickland & Rabenau is a North Carolina personal injury law firm who have helped numerous clients
through a wide variety of personal injury and workers’ compensation
claims. Based out of Durham, our skilled attorneys have been given an
AV® Preeminent rating by Martindale-Hubbell® and are members of
the International Society of Barristers, the American Board of Trial Advocates,
and The Best Lawyers in America®.
If you have questions regarding a personal injury or workers’ compensation
claim, contact Twiggs, Strickland & Rabenau online or call their office
at (919) 701-8132 for a free case evaluation.