Can You Sue the City After Hitting a Pothole?

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Potholes are a mainstay this time of year, especially as spring brings torrential rainfall to the area. Unfortunately, potholes can cause extensive damage to cars and may even cause injuries if your vehicle hits them with enough force. Who is responsible if you hit a pothole and sustain property damage or injuries? Can you file a claim against the local government? Learn the laws governing potholes and proper road maintenance, and if you might have a claim.

Was the Government Negligent?

When defective road conditions lead to a car accident, the government might be responsible for any damages that result. In order to pursue a claim against a government or municipality, you must be able to show that it was negligent.

Pothole claims fall under the realm of premises liability, which holds that property owners – including the government – must exercise reasonable care with regard to the ownership and care of the property. Proving a premises liability claim requires the following elements:

  • That the government owed you a duty of care – in this case, the government does have an obligation to keep roadways reasonably maintained and safe.
  • It violated its duty (committed negligence) – under premises liability law, we define negligence as the failure to act in a way that a reasonable party would, given the same or similar circumstances. The government might commit negligence if it did or should have known that a dangerous or defective condition (like a pothole) existed but did not fix it.
  • The negligence led to your injuries or property damage.
  • You suffered harm as a result (for example, your car needs repairs or you face medical bills).

It’s important to note that just because a pothole damaged your car, it does not mean the government committed negligence. You must be able to show that the municipality acted unreasonably with regard to the ownership and upkeep of its property. You must also be able to show that the government knew that the road was in bad shape.

Here’s an example: If a pothole has been present in the middle of a road for months and has even been the subject of a news investigation, it will likely be easier to show that the government violated its duty of care to its citizens. On the other hand, if you ran into a recently opened sinkhole after an overnight rainstorm, it might be harder to prove that the government did not properly take care of the road.

Claims Against the Government: Special Considerations

Florida law sets special rules and regulations regarding claims against municipal entities. If you have legal grounds for a premise liability claim against the government, you will have to follow special procedures to protect your right to compensation. Some of these include:

  • Observing a shorter statute of limitations – in some cases, these time limits for filing lawsuits can be as short as 30 days.
  • Filing a “notice of claim” notifying the government of your accident – you must provide this notification before filing any claim with the court system.

These rules can be very strict. In some cases, you may lose your right to compensation, even if you send the notice of claim to the wrong department. It’s essential to hire an attorney with experience in filing claims against the local government.

Filing a claim against the local government for damages incurred when you drove into a pothole is possible, but it requires the right approach. Ask an accident attorney for further guidance. A premises liability lawyer with specific experience in municipal claims will be your best shot at securing the compensation you deserve for your damages.