While striking the occasional pothole is a part of life for just about every city or interstate driver, large potholes hit at high speeds or hidden holes that open up into miniature sinkholes can lead you to disaster, causing tire blowouts or even collisions with other vehicles through no fault of your own. You may be concerned that your insurance rates will go up after a pothole accident, or you may find that your potential payout is far less than the property damage and medical expenses you may have incurred as a result of improper roadway maintenance. Read on to learn more about your legal options if a pothole was the primary cause of your recent auto accident.
Who is responsible for a pothole-caused accident?
The answer to this depends on where the pothole was located. In most cases, your claim will be against the city, county, or state entity responsible for maintaining public roads; however, in subdivisions with a homeowners association (HOA) or private roads, your cause of action may be against an HOA or even a group of individual homeowners. It's important to determine the party or parties who are potentially liable before deciding how to proceed, as lawsuits against cities or state departments of transportation may need to go through a "public notice of tort" claim process before a personal injury lawsuit can be filed. Rushing to file a lawsuit that may be procedurally barred can forever prevent you from collecting against the party at fault in your accident, even if liability is crystal clear.
A quick and relatively accurate way to determine who is responsible for your accident is to call your area's public service phone extension (211, 311, or 411 in many areas) to report the pothole that caused your accident. If the response is to send out a state or city department of transportation truck to assess the pothole and make repairs, it's likely that your potential lawsuit is against this public entity; on the other hand, if you're told this is a private road and the owners will be notified of a hazard, you may need to investigate and proceed against these owners accordingly.
In other cases, your initial investigation efforts may show you that another driver was also culpable in your accident. For example, a semi truck with cargo putting it over the road's weight limit could cause premature destruction to the asphalt or even fling up a portion of pavement during especially hot or cold weather, leaving a brand-new pothole for your wheel to strike.
What are your legal options if a pothole was the cause of your accident?
If you've determined that another party was at fault in the creation of (or failure to fix) the pothole, your next step is to decide whether to file a personal injury claim. In most cases, you'll be able to find a car accident attorney to represent you on a contingency fee basis, ensuring you won't be responsible for any out-of-pocket legal fees until your case is settled or a final judgment is rendered. A trial can take some time, especially for a complex case, so you may want to investigate whether the law firm you retain is able to provide you with a stipend that will come out of your final settlement but make things easier in the meantime.
Even if you decide not to file a claim immediately, you may want to look up the statute of limitation on tort or personal injury claims in your state. In some states, you may have up to 6 years to file a claim, giving you some time to mull it over and determine whether the other party is willing to settle outside the legal process.Share
1 November 2016
Too many single people assume they don't need to plan their estate. My brother fell into this category, and his unexpected passing left our entire family struggling to deal with his home, belongings, and financial accounts. It took nearly three years for the courts to set up a deal because he left no paperwork detailing how he wanted his estate divided. The situation immediately convinced me to work on my own estate, even though I'm still in my early 30's and don't have children or a spouse to worry about. Since it's a little harder to pick beneficiaries and estate managers when you're single, I collected the resources I used for making my own decisions and decided to publish them here on my blog. Use these resources before talking to an estate planning attorney so you're prepared for making hard decisions.