Potholes are usually caused by wear and occur in areas with poor drainage and heavy traffic and where road maintenance does not keep up with the wear and tear of the road. Along with other poor road conditions, potholes contribute to 33 percent of traffic deaths annually. According to Wattel & York, potholes can cause wheel damage, tire blowouts, accidents, and injuries.
There are various problems caused by potholes, from causing you to lose control and crash into another vehicle to a driver trying to avoid a pothole and causing a chain reaction of collisions. But who is liable when potholes cause accidents? Let’s find out!
Liability For Pothole Accidents
One in five miles of highways and other roads and 45,000 bridges are in poor condition. If you suffered injuries in a motor vehicle collision, you have the right to seek compensation from those responsible. City, county, or state officials can be found responsible for your car accident caused by a pothole, as it is the government’s responsibility to maintain reasonably safe road conditions. However, to win your claim against the government, you must prove that the government failed to reasonably and safely maintain the road.
Government typically discovers poor road conditions by conducting regular roadways surveys or through people reporting dangerous conditions. If officials knew about the potholes or other poor road conditions but didn’t have enough time to repair them, they likely won’t be held responsible for damages. But suppose a pothole develops on a street in your city, and people express concerns at the city council meeting, and the pothole remains untouched for seven weeks. In that case, if the pothole damages your car, you will have a solid claim against the city, as officials knew about it and had a reasonable amount of time to repair it.
What You Need to File a Claim
Before filing your claim, you need to gather as much information and evidence as possible, including the following:
- The name of the road and the direction you were driving
- The exact location of the pothole
- Names and contact information of witnesses, if any
- Physical characteristics of the pothole, such as depth or size (if possible, take pictures)
Then, you will have to determine which government is responsible for maintaining the street or road in question. Local roads are generally maintained by a city or county, and highways by state governments (often with local and federal assistance). Lastly, the federal government is answerable for the federal highway system and interstates.
If you are unsure of which government entities are legally responsible for keeping the roads in a safe condition, getting legal help from a personal injury attorney could be helpful. After all, making a claim against any party comes with significant difficulties. Moreover, government departments have special conditions you need to fulfill when filing your claim. Sometimes, the government may admit to knowing about the poor road conditions. But if not, your lawyer can request past survey records, research the area, and interview locals to prove the government should have been aware of the pothole.
Depending on which legal avenue you choose to pursue, the car accident lawyer can determine what party or parties should be named as defendants in car accident claims or lawsuits.