Who is Liable for Accidents Caused By Poor Road Conditions?

Poor Road Conditions Account For Many Car Accidents Each Year. Question Is, Who is Liable?

Most car accidents happen because of human error. However, they sometimes occur due to poor road conditions. If you’ve ever inadvertently driven through a bad pothole and ended up with a flat tire and busted rim, you know how frustrating it can be. The question, though, is what can you do about it?

If someone runs a red light and hits you, they are clearly at fault. When poor road conditions causes damages or injuries, however, who should be held accountable? On a public road, it stands to reason that the governmental agency that’s responsible for maintaining it should be. If you get into an accident due to bad road conditions, then, you should be able to sue the responsible agency–right? Not necessarily.

Defining Poor Road Conditions

First, poor road conditions of all kinds may cause damage to a vehicle or even trigger an accident that results in bodily injury. Such conditions may include:

  • potholes
  • icy or snowy roads
  • oil and chip
  • shoulder drop-offs
  • construction zone
  • missing guardrails
  • erosion

Who is Responsible?

To hold someone accountable for an accident that was caused by poor road conditions, you must first determine which agency or agencies are responsible for maintaining that stretch of roadway. Yes, more than one agency can be responsible. For example, the city may be responsible for plowing the roads, but the county may be responsible for filling potholes.

The easiest way to determine who is responsible for a given stretch of road is by calling the local county commissioner. If they aren’t responsible, they can probably tell you who is.

Can You Sue?

Here’s the million-dollar question: Can you sue a government agency? State and federal agencies enjoy what is known as sovereign immunity, which means that they cannot be sued. Cities, counties and other smaller municipalities have what is known as governmental immunity, which is essentially the same thing.

However, most agencies make exceptions to immunity and will allow themselves to be sued under certain circumstances. For example, failing to maintain a road at a reasonable condition may create an exception to immunity. The key word here is “reasonable.” This means that the agency should have had a reasonable amount of time to discover the condition as well as a reasonable amount of time to correct it.

Even if you are technically allowed to sue the agency in question, you must do so within the constraints of the statute of limitations, which is typically very short for injury claims due to poor road conditions. You can expect to have six months to two years max. Additionally, you must usually notify the agency of your intention to sue within a certain period of time.

Proving Negligence

Proving negligence under such circumstances can be tricky. In the immediate aftermath, take plenty of photos, and take lots of notes. Otherwise, the issue could just as easily have been caused by poor driving or other issues–and you can be sure that the agency will use such arguments.

How an Experienced Car Accident Lawyer Can Help

As you can see, there are many intricacies involved in successfully suing a government agency for damages due to poor road conditions. If you are determined to hold them accountable, it’s in your best interests to hire an experienced attorney to represent you. The accident lawyers at David & Philpot, P.L. have been representing victims for over 20 years and are here to help you with your case. Contact us today at 800.360.7015.