The National Academies

NCHRP 20-06/Topic 24-03 [Final]

Guidelines for Drafting Liability Neutral Transportation Engineering Documents
[ NCHRP 20-06 (Legal Problems Arising out of Highway Programs) ]

  Project Data
Funds: $50,000
Research Agency: Parker Corporate Enterprises, Ltd
Principal Investigator: Terri Parker
Effective Date: 1/22/2019
Completion Date: 1/22/2020
Comments: Completed. Published as NCHRP LRD 83


In the legal system, transportation engineering documents drafted by the transportation industry include manuals, studies, research documents, memoranda, and email. These documents are frequently used by litigants and courts as evidence bearing on the standard of care or duties for transportation agencies sued for alleged negligence in operation of transportation facilities. The documents often unnecessarily use language and phrases such as “hazardous” and “high risk” that have pejorative meanings in the legal system and tend to make things done or not done by transportation agencies appear in a worse light than if more neutral and objective language was used in drafting the documents. Non-neutral language can increase the potential for transportation agencies to be determined to be liable for damages.

There is a need for a legal language style and drafting guide to be used by developers and reviewers of engineering documents, particularly safety-related research studies that are frequently used within the legal system as evidence of the level of performance reasonable for transportation agencies.


The objective of this research is to produce a style and drafting guide that may be used as a practical resource for researchers, practitioners, and those who implement safety projects. This guide would address how to avoid concepts and language that can have legal implications by promoting clear, direct, objective, and fact-based expressions. This guide should be developed through research by lawyers who have a background in tort liability involving organizations that use engineering documents to design, construct, and/or maintain facilities, products, or systems that are often the subject of tort claims.

Status: Completed.Published as NCHRP LRD 83 .

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