There are over 4 million miles of roadways in the United States, including interstate highways, state roads, and city streets. Maintaining those roads is an ongoing and enormous job, costing over $185 billion per year to maintain. Given the enormity of the task, it is only natural that potholes and other issues may exist for months or even years before being repaired. Unfortunately, these road hazards are responsible for thousands of accidents each year, causing millions of dollars in property damage and often resulting in serious injuries and even death. If you are injured in an accident involving a pothole or other road hazard, how can you recover your damages? The answer depends on the type of hazard, the location of the accident, and other factors.
Potholes and Road Maintenance Issues
Drivers and other persons who are injured on city streets may be able to recover damages, but the process is not easy. A pothole, uneven pavement, or other hazard on a city street or state road is the responsibility of the governmental body responsible for the roadway. In order to pursue a claim against the governmental agency, an injured person must be able to show that the agency either knew about the hazard or that the hazard was so obvious that the agency should have known about it through routine inspection.
Some jurisdictions, like New York City, have “pothole laws” which require proof that the city received prior written notice of a hazard. There are strict procedures and time limits for claims against city and state governments, so it is important to file a claim as soon as possible after an accident, even if all of the evidence has not been gathered. The State of New York has its own “pothole law” which only allows claims for damages due to road defects that occur between May 1st and November 15th each year.
For accidents caused by debris in the road, the person responsible for the debris may be liable for injuries. For example, if items fall from a truck or car, the person who loaded the vehicle may be responsible if the load was not properly secured. The owner of a commercial trucking company may be held liable if cargo leaks or spills from the truck during transport.
Owners of private streets have a duty to exercise reasonable care to their guests and customers. This means that they must maintain thruways and keep them clear of hazards.
When construction is done on or near public roadways, the contractor may be liable for injuries caused by hazards such as holes, power lines, or construction debris.
What to Do After an Accident
It is important to take photos as soon as possible, after the accident, especially when the accident involves debris or other temporary conditions. Take photos of the pothole or other road condition. If possible, take photos of your vehicle before it is moved. Note the exact time and location of the accident and the weather conditions.
Always seek medical attention immediately if you believe you are injured and then speak with a New York personal injury attorney, especially when the accident happened on a city or state road. Claims against government agencies must be made soon after an accident to be considered, and your attorney can help identify the agency responsible and prepare necessary claim forms within the deadlines.
New York Injury Lawyers
The injury lawyers at The O’Brien Firm are available for free consultations whenever you need us. We make sure to preserve your rights and secure evidence that you need to prove your case. Call us at 716-907-7777 or visit our website to learn more.