Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Legacy Department

Civil Engineering

Committee Chair/Advisor

Ogle, Jennifer H

Committee Member

Chowdhury , Mashrur A

Committee Member

Sarasua , Wayne

Committee Member

Sharp , Julia


After losing sovereign immunity in 1985, SCDOT employees now focus a significant amount of time in processing tort claims and lawsuits filed against the agency. This is an important issue for transportation agencies considering the fact that money spent defending tort claims and lawsuits, is no longer available for safety and mobility improvements on the state highway system.
The South Carolina Department of Transportation (SCDOT) processes approximately one thousand claims per year and is engaged in nearly one hundred lawsuits per year. SCDOT has paid just over a half million ($523,607) to settle on 1007 claims - approximately 1/3 of those received in the last three years. While the claims are more plentiful, the lawsuits have a much larger impact on the state's budget. For the most recent 300 closed lawsuits (approximately three years worth), SCDOT paid out almost $10 million ($9,897,507.42) in settlements on 159 lawsuits. Over half of the lawsuits received are lost in court or settled outside of court.
A thorough analysis of tort claims and lawsuits will be a good opportunity to manage the risk of future claims and lawsuits by analyzing past events and improving roadway elements or maintenance processes that might result in these legal challenges.
This research aims at reducing the impact of claims and lawsuits as well as numbers of claims and lawsuits against SCDOT. To obtain the goal of this study, different tasks have been carried out to develop better understanding of current situation of tort claims and lawsuits in SC as well as magnitude of costs associated with them, including: conducting a country wide online survey, comparing different models and algorithms to select the appropriate model for analysis of current data base of claims and lawsuits, using descriptive statistics and classification tree analysis to identify factors and combinations of factors associated with tort risk in SC, and finally matching claim data and accident data to develop better understanding of claims in terms of driver, roadway, and vehicle characteristics.
In continue, to define a process enhancement system that can respond effectively to claims and lawsuits, current SCDOT tort claims business process, data capture and data entry has been assessed. As a result, a decision support system framework has been developed to aid in processing and preventing such claims and lawsuits, and also to identify cost - effective countermeasures to reduce receipt of tort claims and lawsuits, benefit-cost analysis of preventative actions have been conducted.
It is expected that the results of this study will provide a standardized process and decision support system to aid in reducing the impact of claims and lawsuits as well as hopefully future numbers of claims and lawsuits against SCDOT. Lowering the amount of payouts for tort claims and lawsuits will not only help SCDOT invest more money in safety projects, but will also result in lower costs associated with SCDOT employees who perform field investigations, data entry, decision making, and other claims related tasks.



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