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Steven M. Lee, PC

A Hole Lot of Risk: How and Why Potholes are Hazardous to Your Road Safety

You may have a valid legal claim against a government agency that fails to repair potholes and other road damage promptlyWhether you’re driving a car, riding a motorcycle, or handling a bicycle, you wish for a smooth ride. Too bad: there are no guarantees. Roads aren’t always consistently level. In fact, the majority of roads, highway and urban, are studded with debris, loose rocks, and loathsome potholes, all of which can make for a bumpy ride.

Although small bits of debris can easily be run over without much consequence, large dips and holes can cause severe damage to your car and can cause you to lose control of your vehicle. Potholes—we like to call them “catastrophic crevices”—are not only extremely common but also treacherous road hazards. Let’s take a few moments to assess the dangers.

Pothole Risks

A rough and unexpected jolt can cause severe structural damage to your vehicle. This damage in turn can lead to a cascade of mechanical problems and catastrophic human injuries, including the following:

  • Tire blowouts and wheel damage. When a tire plunges into a deep pothole, the tire may split or become punctured by the sharp edges of the hole. Any damage to the tire’s structure can cause the rapid release of air and a blowout. In addition to a ruined tire, a blowout can cause your vehicle to lose control and veer into oncoming traffic, a ditch, or the median.
  • Steering system misalignment. The force of hitting a pothole can also damage the steering assembly. The force can cause a misalignment in the steering components as well as in the engine, both of which can cause potential control problems and increase accident risks.
  • Exhaust system damage. If the pothole is deep enough, your exhaust could become damaged as it scrapes or plummets into the ground. A damaged exhaust system can cause engine damage as well as put you and your passengers at risk for carbon monoxide inhalation.
  • Internal injuries and impact pain. In addition to potential damage to your vehicle, the concussive force of the fall can cause significant impact injuries to everyone inside the vehicle. Jolt injuries can include whiplash, concussions, neck and spinal cord trauma, broken bones, internal tissue hemorrhages, and much more. Even worse, if the bump causes the vehicle to lose control, you may also face a host of collision injuries as well.

Pothole Liability

Insurance companies love to use the excuse that “acts of God” aren’t covered for personal injury claims. However, potholes are not acts of God; they’re effects of negligent road maintenance. So, that being said, who is liable for pothole accidents?

Roads are maintained by cities, counties, and states. This means that various government agencies are held responsible for ensuring public road safety. Included in this maintenance is the duty to provide proper signage and lighting, as well as repairs for hazardous holes and dips in the pavement.

Despite these agencies having a responsibility to the public to ensure safe roads, most government agencies have immunity from road accident lawsuits through the principle of sovereign immunity. These laws protect government agencies from being sued. However, if an accident occurs because of a detrimental road hazard, the government agency responsible for ensuring repairs and safety may still be held liable as long as you and your lawyer can prove negligence.

In order to sue the government agency responsible for the road condition and thus your accident, the American Bar Association states that you must be able to prove the following liability points in your claim:

  • The institution you’re suing legally owned or controlled the unsafe road that led to your accident.
  • The road in question was indeed perilous at the time of your accident (photographic evidence may be required).
  • The condition of the road was the direct cause of your accident.
  • The road condition was in such bad shape that the government institution should have reasonably anticipated that an accident could occur, and yet still failed to fix the problem.
  • The institution’s carelessness with properly fixing the safety issue, especially if it had been previously reported, was a direct factor in your accident.

If you’re able to prove these five elements of your case, you may be able to successfully file a claim against the government institution that failed to keep you and the road safe. Unfortunately, proving these matters are much more difficult than you may think. However, the experienced counsel of attorney Steve Lee can not only help you gather evidence, but also ensure that that evidence is put to good use. Call today for a no-obligation review of your claim, and see how Steve Lee can help pull you out of the personal injury hole you’re in.

 


Steven M. Lee
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