If you’re like most Americans, you probably spend a fair amount of time in your car. Work commutes, errands, kids who need to get to and from school, and those other activities you’re involved in require some serious miles in the car. You do everything you can to ensure your drive is safe, but things happen all the time you don’t expect. For example, you never know if the person behind you is paying attention to the road or applying their makeup. You never know if the person headed toward you on the opposite side of the road is sober. You just don’t know.
When an accident happens, it’s typically easy to assign blame. A drunk driver who crosses the lines and ends up in oncoming traffic is to blame for an accident. The person behind you who didn’t stop in time for any number of reasons is to blame for rear-ending you. Unfortunately, not all accidents are caused by another person. Sometimes an accident occurs because there is something wrong with the car or even something wrong with the road. If you hit a pothole and your vehicle sustains damage as a result, who is liable for that? Do you work with the city, the county, or the state to find out who is responsible for the damage to your car?
Who Maintains the Roads?
If you are involved in an accident in which you hit a pothole and your vehicle is damaged, the responsible party is the government entity who maintains that road. It might be the city, it might be the county, or it might even be the state. Without any specifics as to the location of your accident, it’s not possible to say here who is responsible. If you are within city limits, you will more than likely find that it’s the local city government to blame for your issues. If you are outside the city limits, you’ll find that the county is probably the responsible entity. If you’re on a major interstate or highway, you might even find the state is responsible for the maintenance of the roadways.
What You Should Know
It is relatively easy to find out who maintains the roads in any area, but it’s not always that easy to place the blame for vehicle damage on that entity. It might seem like a simple situation, but it’s not. It’s easy to assume that because that government entity is responsible for road maintenance, damage to the road that’s bad enough to damage your car is their fault – except that it’s not in most cases. The government must believe the pothole is unreasonably safe.
This is difficult to prove. For example, the government entity responsible for maintaining roadways often relies on the public to let them know if there is any significant damage to a road. This means they are allowed reasonable time to have a problem reported, to discover a problem, and to fix the problem at hand. If there are multiple reports of a dangerous pothole or you drive this route regularly and it’s been there for months, you can safely assume someone is not doing their job to maintain the safety of the road. If it’s a fairly new situation and it’s never been reported, there is a good chance the entity in charge of this situation is going to deny your claim.
- You must be able to prove the government knew the road condition was a problem or they should reasonably know it was a problem
- You must be able to prove the government did not repair the road condition in a reasonable time
For example, if the pothole has been there for six months, the government has had ample time to repair the situation. This is a good starting point if most people in the community are aware there is a dangerous pothole that only continues to get worse. If you are worried the government might argue that if you’re aware of the pothole and have been for so long, you should have avoided it and not hit it. However, if you swerved to miss debris in the road, to miss a car pulling out in front of you, or you simply didn’t notice it on a rainy day, you are in the right.
How to File a Claim
The easiest way to file a claim against the government entity responsible for the pothole you hit that ruined your car is to contact an attorney. You aren’t required to retain an attorney to handle your case, but you should contact one for advice and to discuss your case. You’re going to need to call the authorities to report the accident, and then you must call your insurance company.
Following this, you must contact the county commissioner’s office to discuss who is responsible. You must be able to provide them the location of the pothole and the other information they ask for to obtain this information. Once you know who is responsible for the maintenance of this roadway, you contact that office to file a claim. They’ll need notice that you’re filing a claim against them, and you only have a limited amount of time to do this. The timeframe is different in every county, so acting quickly is your best option.
To help prove your claim, you might need to request records from surveys of the area. This is public information, so it should not be difficult. This will tell you how long it’s been since a survey was conducted. You can use this to help prove your case and win a suit against the entity responsible for your problems.
Call an Attorney
If you have any questions about filing a claim against the local government or the state, contact an attorney to help you through this process. You should do this as soon as possible, but the first call you make should always be to the police to report the accident. An accident report goes a long way toward proving your case when you are involved in a single-car accident with a pothole. You want this documentation to prove to the government you were where you said you were and what happened did happen. Once you have an attorney at your disposal, the process is simpler and more streamlined. You have a greater chance of being able to prove you were hurt or your vehicle damaged because of poor road conditions.