Who is liable when you have been injured in an accident that was not the fault of another driver but was due to poor road conditions? Government entities charged with maintaining the roads have the ability to sometimes assert immunity in court for governmental actions or inaction. When it comes to being held liable for failure to maintain roads, however, the government can be found legally responsible under limited circumstances. However, it is not always easy to prove the case.
What Is the Government’s Obligation?
Simply because there is a pothole on the road does not mean that the government is going to automatically be held responsible for the damage that it caused. While the government is generally responsible for maintaining the roads, its obligation is to ensure that the roads are kept reasonably safe. What is reasonable depends on the circumstances, but it does not require the government to keep the roads in 100 percent perfect condition at the risk of being liable for everything that goes wrong on the road.
When Can the Government Be Held Liable?
Generally, the government’s liability will result from the fact that it knew about the hazardous road condition and failed to take any action to fix the problem. The government does have the responsibility to keep the roads reasonably safe. Here are some of the things that the government cannot do:
- Ignore reports of dangerous road conditions and not do anything to fix it
- Fail to inspect a road with some sort of regularity when these inspections would reveal problems with the road
- Fail to repair a road defect within a reasonable period of time after learning about it
Suing the government is an extremely difficult task. There is a theory in law that extends sovereign immunity to the government for certain actions. This comes from an old legal principle that the king can do nothing wrong. The good news is that it is not impossible to sue the government for decrepit roads that cause injuries. Nevertheless, it may not always be the easiest thing to accomplish.
How to Prove Your Claim
The difficulty in suing the government for poor road conditions is that you are either going to have to show that the government knew about the problems and did nothing or show that the government delayed in repairing the roadway. Of course, proving actual knowledge is going to be difficult unless you manage to get your hands on internal communications. More likely than not, you are going to show that the government should have or must have known about the condition of the roadway.
When you file this claim, there is much legwork that needs to be done before you can go to court. You will first need to know which government agency is responsible for maintaining the road. Then, you will need to make sure that you have all of the facts necessary for your lawsuit. The single most important thing that you can do is take the pictures and document the condition of the road at the time of the accident. You must do this immediately after you have suffered the injury because the government will likely fix the road condition in short order because they fear litigation. In other words, your accident may tip the government off that something is wrong with the road and it will take quick action to protect itself.
There are a couple of things that you can do that can help strengthen your claim. First, make sure to report the road conditions right after you have documented it. This will give you a near contemporaneous record that you can use to help prove your case. Then, if you are able to track down those who either live near the road or use it regularly to get their testimony, it can help show the amount of time the condition persisted.
Who Else May Be Responsible?
Note that there may be other potential defendants that you can file lawsuits against for poor road conditions. For example, if a company or person is responsible for the damage to the road, they can be held responsible for the damage. This can be a truck that damaged the road as it drove over it or spilled something onto the roadway that caused a dangerous condition. This can be difficult to find out and prove, but at least it is an option available to you. Remember that poor road conditions can be more than just potholes that cause you to have an accident.
An Experienced Accident Attorney Can Help
If you have suffered an injury because of poor road conditions, The Eichholz Law Firm can help you determine the liable party. Filing a lawsuit against your local government for failing to protect you from a dangerous road will require a knowledgeable attorney who has successfully handled car accident lawsuits of this nature.
Call the Eichholz Law Firm today at (855)-551-1019 or fill out an online form for a free consultation.