Can You Claim for Pothole Damage?

When a driver suffers injuries and property damage in a car accident, the first step toward recovery is determining who was at fault. In a single vehicle accident, a driver may assume that he or she is automatically to blame since there were no other drivers involved, but this is not always true. If dangerous road conditions or a road in disrepair causes an accident, the government entity responsible for maintaining the road may bear liability for the driver’s damages. Learn more by speaking with a reliable NYC car accident attorney.

There are many factors that can complicate a civil claim against a government office or agency. First, many have “sovereign immunity” or immunity from civil liability due to their standing with the government. There is generally also a much briefer statute of limitations available for pursuing these claims. For example, the statute of limitations for filing a personal injury lawsuit after a car accident is two years in most states. However, a claim against a government office or agency may need to meet a much shorter statute. In some places, this may be as short as six months.

When Is the Government Liable for an Accident?

The government office responsible for the road where an accident occurred may fall under municipal jurisdiction at the local level, the state’s Department of Transportation or Department of Public Safety at the state level, or the United States Department of Transportation at the federal level for interstate highways maintained by the federal government. When determining if a particular government office or agency is liable for an accident, it’s important to assess the foreseeability of the accident. The government is not automatically responsible for accidents that happen due to poor road conditions.

Government transportation agencies generally learn about dangerous road conditions from reports filed by drivers and from regular surveys performed on their roads. It’s possible for a dangerous road condition to appear one day and cause an accident only a few hours later. The government agency responsible for that stretch of road could not reasonably foresee such an event, so it’s likely they would not be held liable for the accident.

Succeeding with a Pothole Claim

If the government agency responsible for a road should have discovered a problem before it causes an accident, then that agency is likely to bear liability for the resulting damages. Anyone who wishes to pursue a claim against a government agency or office must prove that the government either knew of the issue or should have reasonably learned about it by the time the accident occurred. The claimant must also prove that the defendant did not take appropriate steps to correct the issue in a reasonable time.

A driver who suffers injuries and other damages from a pothole may have to contact people who live in the area and ask them about whether the pothole has been a known issue. If they report that it has been, the driver may use this as proof that the government agency should have known about and addressed the issue if there are records of complaints or reports from locals. The driver may also request survey records to determine whether the government agency had already located and identified the pothole, but failed to fix it in a reasonable time.

Regardless of the assumed chances of success for a lawsuit against a government entity, the driver in such a situation should always report the incident as soon as possible. Taking legal action against any government entity will likely require meeting a much shorter statute of limitations than a claim against a private citizen, so working quickly and hiring a qualified New York City injury lawyer is the best way to protect a driver’s chances of securing compensation.